ACCLAIMED BBC murder-mystery show Shetland has announced its new lead ahead of the 2023 return – with Douglas Henshall having bowed out as DI Jimmy Perez.

Ashley Jensen, who has also starred in Extras, After Life and Ugly Betty, will lead the cast as DI Ruth Calder, a Shetland native who returns to the island after 20 years working for the Met in London.

The series, which was originally based on award-winning novels by Ann Cleeves, will return to BBC One and the iPlayer next year, where Jensen will make her debut alongside Shetland regulars Steven Robertson, as Sandy, Lewis Howden, as Billy, and Anne Kidd, as Cora.

Jensen said: “I am absolutely thrilled to be joining Shetland as DI Ruth Calder. It’s such a hugely successful show and I am aware I have very big boots to fill since the departure of DI Perez, who was very much loved by fans of the show.

“There will be a different dynamic with Ruth amongst the regular characters and a few more new interesting characters to enjoy. However, the integrity of the show and the world that has been created will remain very much in the same tone as the last seven seasons.

“It’s a real privilege to be asked to lead this show into a new chapter. I can’t wait to be working in Scotland again. I have missed it!”

The Scottish actress, who was nominated for an Emmy for her role in the series Extras, trained in drama at Edinburgh’s Queen Margaret University and has starred alongside Billy Connolly, Ricky Gervais and Steve Coogan.

The eighth season of Shetland has been confirmed to make its return next year, with Henshall, who portrayed DI Jimmy Perez, departing from the show to explore other acting opportunities.

Gaynor Holmes, Commissioning Editor for the BBC, said: “I am absolutely delighted that Ashley is joining the stellar cast of Shetland.

“Ashley is an immensely accomplished and well-loved actress who is known internationally, and we can’t wait to welcome her into the Shetland family when filming begins in the spring.”

The new season, which will be a Silverpoint Pictures production, will be shot in locations on the Shetland Isles and other areas across Scotland.

Kate Bartlett, executive producer for Silverprint Pictures, said: “We’re so thrilled that Ashley is going to be leading this new series of Shetland, alongside Alison O’Donnell as Tosh.

“They will be an exciting duo in Paul Logue’s compelling new version. It is wonderful to have the opportunity to make another series with such incredible Scottish talent.”

Further casting for series eight of Shetland is yet to be announced.