Juliet Aubrey with Ben Miller in a scene from ’Professor T’. Picture: Supplied
Juliet Aubrey with Ben Miller in a scene from ’Professor T’. Picture: Supplied

Juliet Aubrey unpacks her 'complicated relationship' with Ben Miller in 'Professor T'

By Debashine Thangevelo Time of article published Aug 31, 2021

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In the first week of August, BritBox launched in South Africa.

The new streaming platform offers the best in British content and, given its Midas touch when it comes to crime dramas, viewers can enjoy a plethora of content in this genre.

“Professor T” is among the current binge-watching options.

The new six-part whodunit series, which is based on the Belgian series of the same title, centres on Jasper Tempest aka Professor T (Ben Miller of “Bridgerton” and “Death in Paradise” fame), who is a brilliant criminology professor at Cambridge University, who has a few quirks.

Aside from being OCD, he lacks tact. And he has some lingering issues from his childhood and a distinct attachment to his family home despite his mother wanting to put it on the market.

Nonetheless, his insight into the criminal psyche proves invaluable to DCI Christina Brand (Juliet Aubrey) and her team: DC Lisa Donckers (Emma Naomi), DC Dan Winters (Barney White) and DI Paul Rabbit (Andy Gathergood).

That said, his assistance isn’t welcomed by the entire team.

Plot-wise, what makes things somewhat interesting is the unresolved romantic feelings between Christina and Professor T.

Aubrey, who is best remembered for her performances in “Primeval” and big-screen releases, “Still Crazy”, “The Constant Gardener” as well as “The Infiltrator”, enjoys peeling back the layers of her character.

She explained: “She’s a very driven, highly motivated detective chief inspector within the Cambridge Police Force and she’s at the top of her game.

“She had to work extremely hard to get to where she is. Christina likes to think of herself as tough but fair, and she's very nurturing.

“Her team is pretty rough and ready with Lisa and Dan being very young and sometimes naïve, but she sees them as her protégés and encourages them.”

That said, she isn’t afraid to read the riot act when necessary.

Enlisting the expertise of Professor T becomes a little tricky given their history.

A scene from Professor T. Picture: Supplied

“She needs the help! She’s short on resources and her detective inspector, Paul Rabbit, is very battle weary because he's going through severe trauma at home. She’s investigating serious crimes, so she needs more hands on deck.

“It’s a snap decision to bring him on board, inspired by Lisa, but she’s very open to the prospect of having a brain like Professor T’s at her disposal. Of course, it’s complicated because they used to be in a romantic relationship,” she explained.

“They kind of grew up together, their families knew each other and so, Christina has always known about his traumatic childhood.

“From a very young age, she was able to help him with his dissociative disorder, and she has always been one of those friends who were there for him.

“Then they were at university together and decided to get married, but it never happened.

“We discover much later that it was a lucky escape for both of them because it was the wrong place and wrong time, but it’s possible that at some point in the future they may come back together again.

“They’re a brilliant team of two sharp minds because he has the academic approach and she is very practical.”

Given her lead role, Aubrey was asked about the scope for women in television.

She shared: “Things are getting better for women generally within television, but it's still got a long way to go.

“It’s a tipping point where we're waking up to the fact that the way women are represented within our industries is not only damaging to women themselves, but to society at large because culture holds a mirror up to society.

“I’m a founding member of a movement called Women in TV, which is about trying to repair the balance of gender parity for future generations, not so much in leading roles, but with supporting artists and in crowd scenes, where men usually vastly outnumber women.

“I’m pleased to say the gender parity is really good within ’Professor T’ and I’m glad that the show celebrates diversity and people with mental health problems.”

Having worked with Miller on Primeval, it made shooting their scenes effortless and fun.

During the shoot in Belgium, she found a way to explore the city.

She recalled: “The day I arrived in Antwerp, the city went into full lockdown, which meant absolutely everything was closed.

“Wherever I go I like to run, so I was able to explore the city on my runs as well as experiencing the joys of riding electric scooters because they’re everywhere in Antwerp.

“You pick them up like you would a bike in London. I cycled a lot too because the roads in Antwerp are so well suited to it.

“The city is really constructive to the cyclist, but not so pedestrian-friendly – you might just get run over by bikes, so it’s better to cycle! It was really fun although the schedule was very tight, so there wasn’t much free time even if we had been able to socialise.”

When it comes to crime dramas, there’s a smorgasbord of offerings to choose from.

On why “Professor T” is worth watching, she offered: “It’s very well-written and beautifully shot; it looks so stylish. The first thing that struck me was that it’s a very character-driven series, so each of the main characters has a proper back story and you become heavily involved in their lives.

“And while the series deals with crime and murder, it doesn't sensationalise the cases or wallow in the gory details, so, as a viewer, you're made more aware of the consequences of the crimes on the victims and their families.

“It's quite funny in places as well, which is no bad thing in these times. I hope viewers will be interested in Professor T’s mind and how incredibly forensic it is, as well as the crossover between academia and policing. It’s not really very common for the two worlds to mix.

“I really hope the audience enjoys these characters and that they find the series both entertaining and thought-provoking.”

“Professor T” is streaming on BritBox.

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