Douglas Henshall: From Primeval to Shetland, here's everything you need to know about the Scottish actor

Glasgow-born actor Douglas Henshall may have devastated fans by departing Shetland, but his career certainly hasn't slowed down.

Douglas Henshall spent almost a decade entertaining audiences as DI Jimmy Perez on Shetland, with his departure from the role causing shockwaves.

However, fans of the Scottish actor have had nothing to fear as he has continued to appear on our TV screens from Netflix original series to the BBC's latest Agatha Christie adaptation.

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Here's what you need to know about what Douglas Henshall has been in since Shetland. Image: GettyHere's what you need to know about what Douglas Henshall has been in since Shetland. Image: Getty
Here's what you need to know about what Douglas Henshall has been in since Shetland. Image: Getty | Getty Images

With his career stretching back to the early nineties, there is plenty to keep viewers entertained. From why he left Shetland to what he's starring in next, here is everything you need to know about Douglas Henshall.

Who is Douglas Henshall?

Douglas James Henshall was born in Glasgow on November 19, 1965. His father was a salesman who worked for companies such as the Daily Record, DC Thomson and National Chemset, while his mother was a housewife who raised Henshall alongside his two sisters before deciding to train as a nurse.

Speaking about his mother, he said: "She wanted to be out in the world doing something, and she had a good imagination, a good mind and a sharp, independent will."

Douglas Henshall in 2000. Image: GettyDouglas Henshall in 2000. Image: Getty
Douglas Henshall in 2000. Image: Getty | Getty Images

He grew up in Barrhead and as a child enjoyed tennis, even taking up acting as a child with the Glasgow Youth Theatre. He described himself in a 2010 interview with The Scotsman as a "shy child", who used acting as a way to explore his emotions.

He said: "In the theatre there's this whole working-class thing about, 'Theatre is not for the likes of us…' I don't like that."

His family were supportive of his ambitions and encouraged him to pursue acting. As a young man, he studied at Mountview Theatre School in London before returning to Glasgow and working with several theatre groups including 7:84, the Citizens' Theatre and the Royal Shakespeare Company.

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What TV shows and movies has Douglas Henshall been in?

Henshall's career started out on stage, though the actor was actively seeking roles on television. His earliest appearances on TV were small roles in shows such as The Bill, Taggart and Boon. One of his first big on-screen roles came in 1993 series, Lipstick on Your Collar which he starred in alongside Ewan McGregor. Around the same time Henshall also had a recurring role in American drama, Young Indiana Jones, with small appearances in several British shows.

Henshall's first successful film role came in 1995 drama Angels and Insects, which he followed with 1997 television film Sharpe's Justice which he starred in alongside Sean Bean and Philip Glenister.

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In 1998 Henshall starred in black comedy Orphans which was directed by Peter Mullan. The film focused on a family who just lost their mother - something which ended up being deeply personal for the actor, who had just lost his own mother.

Film director Peter Mullan (centre) jokingly gives leading actor Douglas Henshall (L) a kiss, as model Sophie Dahl looks on at the UK premiere of his film 'Orphans' in Glasgow. (1999) Film director Peter Mullan (centre) jokingly gives leading actor Douglas Henshall (L) a kiss, as model Sophie Dahl looks on at the UK premiere of his film 'Orphans' in Glasgow. (1999)
Film director Peter Mullan (centre) jokingly gives leading actor Douglas Henshall (L) a kiss, as model Sophie Dahl looks on at the UK premiere of his film 'Orphans' in Glasgow. (1999) | PA

Discussing the experience he said: "In some ways, I shouldn't have done it. I remember Peter saying, 'Are you sure you want to do this? I am not sure I should let you.' And I said, 'Don't you f***ing dare make the decision for me. I am more than capable of doing this. If you decide I'm not right for it, then fine, but don't make an emotional decision for me.' But in hindsight, I think he was probably right. I was exploring my own grief and it wasn't really about me."

It was a defining period in Henshall's life. "When I look back at that film, and at pictures, there is something I will never be able to replicate from that time. That's just the way I was. I think I went to a pretty dark place for a number of years after that."

In the late nineties, Henshall appeared in films including The Man With the Rain in His Shoes and This Year's Love and TV shows such as Psychos, with his early 2000s roles including films such as Lawless Heart and It's All About Love, as well as shows such as the limited TV adaptation of Anna Karenina.

By 2005, Henshall had appeared on TV shows such as Dalziel and Pascoe and made his West End debut as Biff Loman in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman.

Douglas Henshall speaking during a 2008 event promoting "Primeval". Image: GettyDouglas Henshall speaking during a 2008 event promoting "Primeval". Image: Getty
Douglas Henshall speaking during a 2008 event promoting "Primeval". Image: Getty | Getty Images

However, it was in 2007 that he landed one of his most prominent roles. Henshall was cast as Nick Cutter in sci-fi show, Primeval and for three seasons he starred as the Professor.

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Henshall left Primeval at the start of series three because he thought it lost what had made it special. He explained: "I thought it had become a little simplified in its ambitions. It was becoming a slightly different show, more of a monster-of-the-week type thing. The first season, I thought was very exciting, but it became more standard by the end of the second season, and I thought they'd probably be better served with someone else.”

In 2009, he appeared in horror film Dorian Gray as well as five-part ITV drama series, Collision as DI John Tolin with his next role coming in 2010 mini-series The Silence, in which he played DCI Jim Edwards. Over the next few years, Henshall appeared shows such as South Riding, Lewis and The Secrets of Crickley Hall.

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Then in 2013, Henshall began starring in BBC One detective drama Shetland. For nine years and seven series the Scottish actor played DI Jimmy Perez, the role he is now best known for.

Mads Mikkelsen and Douglas Henshall laugh ahead of their film The Salvation being screened during the 67th edition of the Cannes Film Festival.Mads Mikkelsen and Douglas Henshall laugh ahead of their film The Salvation being screened during the 67th edition of the Cannes Film Festival.
Mads Mikkelsen and Douglas Henshall laugh ahead of their film The Salvation being screened during the 67th edition of the Cannes Film Festival. | AFP via Getty Images

While starring in Shetland, Henshall also appeared in films such as 2014 western The Salvation alongside Mads Mikkelsen, Eva Green and Eric Cantona, and Iona, a 2015 drama with Ruth Negga. On television, he can be seen in shows such as Outlander, Black Work and In Plain Sight.

Why did Douglas Henshall leave Shetland?

Douglas Henshall made the decision to leave Shetland, in part, because he wanted to pursue other acting opportunities.

However, another aspect of his choice to depart the drama was his time as DI Perez coming to a natural conclusion.

He said: "I decided to leave a few years ago because I felt that his story was coming to a natural end - it was time to find a resolution to Perez’s private life. I never wanted to ruin the things that were unique to him and our series, so it felt like the right time to wrap up his story in a way that would be satisfactory to everybody."

Soulfully as ever, Jimmy Perez ponders his final move.Soulfully as ever, Jimmy Perez ponders his final move.
Soulfully as ever, Jimmy Perez ponders his final move.

Henshall also shared that he would miss playing Perez , but admitted he no longer felt he could ever wear a pea coat as a result of the character.

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"He’s one of my favourite characters and it’s been a real privilege to play him. We got very lucky with lots of things - I even got to dress him for a while, including choosing the pea coat which is now famous. I chose not to keep the coat, though - I kind of figure I can never wear a pea coat again!"

Shetland has since resumed without DI Perez, with Scottish actress Ashley Jensen stepping in to help reinvent the show in his absence.

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What is Douglas Henshall doing now?

Since leaving Shetland, Douglas Henshall has remained busy. He appeared in the BBC's 2023 adaptation of Agatha Christie's Murder is Easy as Major Horton alongside his fellow Shetland actor, Mark Bonnar who ended up injuring himself trying to take on Henshall during a tennis match while filming.

Discussing making the show, Henshall said: "I know that my late mum would have been very, very, very happy with me doing an Agatha Christie because she was such a huge fan."

Also in 2023, Henshall starred in Netflix drama Who Is Erin Carter? as Daniel Lang, the father of one of the titular character's students. In his review of the show for The Scotsman, Aidan Smith said "it’s never a chore watching Henshall".

Douglas Henshall appears as Major Horton in Murder is Easy. Douglas Henshall appears as Major Horton in Murder is Easy.
Douglas Henshall appears as Major Horton in Murder is Easy. | Mammoth Screen/Mark Mainz

While he has mostly been playing characters on the side of the angels in recent years, Henshall has admitted: "I’d love to play a baddie again." According to the Radio Times, despite this Henshall is not actively pursuing a villainous role.

He said: “It’s very difficult to make conscious decisions about what you’re going to do when you’re a 57-year-old white man. There aren’t so many roles around for me any more.

"I think that’s just a fact of getting older. People are looking for younger actors these days. There’s a degree of, 'I’ve been offered that, I’m grateful for the job, I’ll go and do it."

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As for his upcoming roles, Henshall will star in horror film One of Us alongside Heartstopper's Kit Connor and The Darkness, a six-episode Nordic noir based on the novel of the same name.

Who is Douglas Henshall married to?

Henshall is married to famous Croatian playwright and screenwriter Tena Štivičić.

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The couple married one another in a spur of the moment ceremony while in Las Vegas, in February 2010. They share one child together.

Douglas Henshall with his wife, playwright and screenwriter, Tena Štivičić at the world premiere of Becoming Jane in London, 2007.Douglas Henshall with his wife, playwright and screenwriter, Tena Štivičić at the world premiere of Becoming Jane in London, 2007.
Douglas Henshall with his wife, playwright and screenwriter, Tena Štivičić at the world premiere of Becoming Jane in London, 2007.

At the time, Henshall said: "She's about as perfect a match as I could ever find, so if it doesn't work with her it's not going to work."

He continued: "We're both passionate, stubborn people, both strong-willed, so we clash from time to time. It's nice to have someone who challenges me. She's brighter than me and I like that, though it does drive me nuts sometimes when she reminds me of it!"

Štivičić's work includes the award-winning play Can't Escape Sundays, Fragile!, her first English play which received critical acclaim around Europe and was even adapted on BBC Radio 4, and plays such as Three Winters which won the prestigious Susan Smith Blackburn Prize for 2015.

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