What's so great about The Brokenwood Mysteries?

Fern Sutherland and Neill Rea.

Fern Sutherland and Neill Rea.

When the TV Guide sits down with The Brokenwood Mysteries stars Fern Sutherland and Neill Rea, it is in a location that their characters would usually avoid. 

It is difficult to imagine Detective Inspector Mike Shepherd and Detective Kristin Sims sipping coffee at an inner-city Auckland cafe – they are more often out in the countryside around the small town of Brokenwood, getting their hands dirty and exposing the darkest secrets of the town's inhabitants. 

Rea and Sutherland have just wrapped filming of the crime drama's second season, which starts on Prime this week, and provides the detective duo with another four murders to solve. 

TV Guide is in stores every Thursday.

TV Guide is in stores every Thursday.

Although there are new crimes to investigate, the show's actors and writers say they are not trying to do anything wildly different for season two. "If it's not broke don't fix it," Sutherland says. "Before we started filming we got together with Mike Smith, who was directing the first episode, and we were like, 'What do we do this time?' and he was like, 'Just do the same thing'. But at the same time it was important to us as actors, as much as there is a sort of formula or recipe, to have bits or moments of humanity between the characters."

"It is a balance," Rea says. "It's very much a whodunit genre but it would be very easy to kind of go through an episode with us squinting, 'Are you guilty?' and the odd wry comment between the two of us. If there's not that investment of humanity, it will become trite and lifeless."

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While season one investigated murders at a winery and a golf course, season two finds the two detectives immersed in a few more of our national pastimes, opening with a murder at the Brokenwood rugby club. 

A highlight for Sutherland, however, was filming on a boat for an upcoming episode in which the pair investigate a murder in the fishing industry. "I got to see some beautiful parts of this country that I otherwise never would have known existed and it's not like they were very far away from Auckland either," she says. "There was one day that we were shooting and you're looking at the footage now and it literally looks fake, it's so beautiful," Rea says. "I really want a boat," Sutherland adds. "It would be good just to be able to go out to Tiritiri Matangi and look at the birds and hang out with dolphins all day and eat sandwiches. I mean, it's the meaning of life." "I've got a kayak – you could take my kayak," Rea suggests. 

Between filming the two seasons, Rea returned to his casting company, Fly Casting, and Sutherland did a theatre tour around Australia. Both actors say they experienced only positive feedback after the show screened on Prime. "The cool thing about the genre of the show, I think, is that it does have a really broad appeal age-wise," Sutherland says. "A lot of people just felt really relieved that there was something they could watch that wasn't full of nudity and swearing and gratuitous violence – just a bit of casual murder on a Sunday over a glass of wine. So I'm happy to provide that service for people." "I reckon everyone has got a murder-mystery plot in them and so is desperate to tell you," Rea says.

Recognition also came on an international level with the show picking up a bronze world medal at the New York Festival International Television and Film Awards. When Brokenwood screened in France, it averaged 3.4 million viewers an episode and it also played in Denmark, where it was bought and screened by DR, the makers of the hit murder-mystery series Forbrydelsen and Borgen. "Now I'm going to say, they know a thing or two about a thing or two," Sutherland says of the Danish network. "They know a thing or two about knitted jerseys," Rea says, a reference to Forbrydelsen star Sarah Lund's elaborate jumpers. "And," Sutherland wryly adds, "killing people."

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The Brokenwood Mysteries, Prime, Sunday

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