Channel 5 and Acorn TV’s ‘Dalgliesh’ is a British crime drama that revolves around the enigmatic Detective Chief Inspector Adam Dalgliesh of Scotland Yard. As Dalgliesh investigates bizarre murders and unusual crimes using his brilliant mind and empathetic nature, we get peeks at his own emotional trauma rooted in his wife’s death. Created by Helen Edmundson, the period drama is set in 1970s England and is a classic police procedural, with Bertie Carvel in the lead role as Dalgliesh.
What’s fascinating about Dalgliesh is his quiet demeanor and firm understanding of human nature. The policeman is a published poet as well — after all, it is not uncommon to see those who are brilliant in one field excel in another. The scenic and occasionally brooding backdrop of London and the English countryside add to the show’s aura of mystery and authenticity. The environment, both indoors and outdoors, certainly ensures that Dalgliesh’s skills, suspects, and meticulous process of crime-solving take center stage. Let’s find out where ‘Dalgliesh’ is filmed and whether it is based on a true story.
Dalgliesh Filming Locations
‘Dalgliesh’ is set in London as well as the English countryside. However, it is filmed in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Filming reportedly took place in early and mid-2021, although it was scheduled to start in late 2020. The locales and backdrops certainly matter when it comes to a police procedural since detectives have to observe every single thing pertaining to a crime scene with hawk-eyes. Let’s take a closer look at the show’s specific filming location.
Belfast, Northern Ireland
‘Dalgliesh’ is filmed in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The capital of Northern Ireland satisfactorily emulates the city of London as well as the English countryside in the crime procedural. Reportedly, Royal Avenue, Union Street, and Donegall Street within Belfast are also some of the filming sites of the show. The filming crew faced difficulties searching for filming locations during the COVID-19 lockdown. Later, when the lockdown was gradually lifted, public spaces became more accessible for filming but also crowded.
However, the production team did find some incredibly apt spots for the show’s thrilling mysteries. Thus, the London of the mid-1970s seen in ‘Dalgliesh’ is actually filmed in Belfast. An old Victoria building acts as the backdrop for the first two-parter, ‘Shroud for a Nightingale.’ The gorgeous cliff beaches alongside the coast of Belfast are the locale for the second two-parter, ‘The Black Tower.’
Belfast is no stranger to rolling cameras and hordes of film industry professionals. In fact, the UK’s attractive tax credits and diverse landscape regularly draw in production teams. Several popular shows such as ‘Game of Thrones,’ ‘Line of Duty,’ ‘Krypton,’ ‘Derry Girls,’ and ‘The Fall’ were also filmed in Belfast. Thus, it is understandable why ‘Dalgliesh’ is filmed in the historically rich city as well. Additionally, the Sixmilewater Park in Ballyclare — located approximately 35 minutes away from Belfast — also serves as the backdrop for several scenes of the crime drama.
Is Dalgliesh Based on a True Story?
No, ‘Dalgliesh’ is not based on a true story. However, through its fictional tales, it does accurately explore real-life truths. The crime drama is based on P.D. James’ bestselling mystery novels revolving around the policeman and poet Adam Dalgliesh. James published her first Dalgliesh novel, titled ‘Cover Her Face,’ in 1962. She published her last Dalgliesh novel, titled ‘The Private Patient,’ in 2008. The novels continue to be loved and heralded as icons of detective fiction of the 20th Century.
The show stays true to the source material and draws its realism from James’ phenomenal characterization of Dalgliesh. He is gritty and intelligent, as well as empathetic and perceptive. He also harbors the sorrow of his wife’s death and finds it difficult to be emotionally vulnerable. “So on the one hand he’s [Dalgliesh] taciturn, ruthless, inscrutable. But on the other hand, underneath those still waters, I think there’s quite a deep emotional hinterland,” stated Carvel.
James’ mystery novels are known for their deep understanding of human nature, portrayed not only through the character of the detective but also through the victims and criminals he encounters. ‘Dalgliesh’ intends to bring to our screens the same aspects and themes. Interestingly, Dalgliesh’s fascinating persona and experiences derive from James’ own experiences in the National Health Service (NHS) and the Home Office’s Police Department as well as the Criminal Policy Department.
Talking about it, James confessed, “I love structure in novels and am fascinated by communities of people: a publishing house, a nuclear power station, a theological college. I like studying community life.” ‘Dalgliesh’ wields realism through its harrowing crime mysteries and focuses on the contradictions that characterize humans. The reticent Dalgliesh is determined in his pursuit of truth; he channels his knowledge of philosophy, human identity, and powerful societal institutions as he works case after case.
“I like to create in books some kind of opposition between places and characters,” stated James. It is this understanding of real-life complexities that allows the novels, and their adaptation, to ring true with a lot of people around the world. The show explores the universal themes of greed, anger, jealousy, grief, and hatred, serving as a nod to the uneasy truths behind most crimes.
‘Dalgliesh’ may not be based on a true story, but it weaves its profoundly complex mysteries using the uncomfortable facts of our everyday reality. Underneath the fiction, format, and thrill of a crime procedural, the show is an exploration of how different personalities interact in different environments, driven by their diverse motives.
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