Lee Ingleby, Star of Tense Mystery ‘Innocent,’ Calls TV ‘The New Cool’

Until not so long ago, television was widely considered the place for dramas that weren’t quite prestigious enough for the movies.

Lee Ingleby, star of Sundance Now’s intense new murder mystery Innocent, says he never saw it that way.

Lee Ingleby as David Collins in “Innocent.”

“I always thought television was the best genre,” says the 42-year-old British actor. “It’s personal. It’s in your living room.”

Throughout his own 20-year career Ingleby has moved easily and often between the two, with roles like Detective Sgt. John Bacchus in the hit British TV series George Gently and the memorable Stan Shunpike in the film Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

“In technical terms of what you do as an actor, the movies and television aren’t too different,” says Ingleby. “The big difference is in budget. If you’re on a film like Harry Potter, with an unlimited budget, you might do a scene 20 times. With a television series, you’re on a much tighter schedule.”

He says he just likes the impact of television.

“It’s probably from my own experience,” he says. “I was such a massive TV buff growing up. I remember sitting down watching it with my family. And now there’s so much more there, with all the channels, Netflix, Amazon and so on.

“It’s become the new cool.”

Innocent, a four-part drama that rolls out Thursdays through April 12 on Sundance’s streaming service, stars Ingleby as David Collins, who was convicted seven years earlier of murdering his wife. When he is released on what most people see as a technicality, he declares his innocence, vows to help find the real killer and mostly wants to reconnect with his two children.

The kids are Jack (Fionn O’Shea), who’s about 16, and Rosie (Eloise Webb), who’s younger. They have been living with their aunt Alice (Hermione Norris), whose testimony about David’s violent behavior toward his late wife was a key factor in his conviction.

Hermione Norris as Alice, David’s sister in law.

David maintains Alice was lying about abuse, and a new police investigation finds evidence that casts doubt on both the original police work and the verdict. At several points the story seems to point a finger at characters who turn out to have been guilty of regrettable actions that they had been trying to hide, but which fall short of murder.

“It’s interesting to lead people down blind alleys and throw in some red herrings,” says Ingleby. “It creates suspense and gives you a feeling for what the characters are going through.

“You could have cut the story back to the bare bones and told it in a two-hour movie. But you want to explain the struggles, the connections and the feelings.

“We talked a lot about what David would do when he meets the children again. He was in prison for what he thought would be life. He didn’t think he’d ever see them again. And the kids have totally believed that their father killed their mother, until suddenly he is released without any real explanation.

“What does everyone do in a situation that awkward?”

It’s those kinds of nuances, he says, “that you can’t do in two hours.”

In the broader picture, says Ingleby, he was drawn to Innocent “because I liked the idea of someone trying to integrate back into society after he’d been in prison for so long and was suddenly released.

“It’s not like someone who was found to be innocent. When he’s released, people still think he’s guilty. They don’t want to forgive and forget.

“Also, prison isn’t a fun place for anyone, but someone who did something like kill his own wife is ostracized further, even within that world.

“So he has all of that to deal with. You understand his anger and frustration.”

While all this doesn’t prevent Innocent from reaching a resolution of sorts, Ingleby says none of these characters is likely to put this drama in their rearview mirrors.

“The end of our story is really just the beginning of a long journey for these characters,” he says. “What’s happened will never leave them. The story will continue even though we don’t.”

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