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Lewis's new sidekick makes historic debut
IT HAS taken 14 series and more than 25 years, but Oxford’s top TV cop has recruited his first black sidekick.
TV detective drama Lewis returned to our screens last night, heralding the beginning of the seventh series. But you won’t get to see Gambian-born actor Babou Ceesay, who has been cast in the role of Dc Alex Gray, until next Monday night.
He will appear in the episode The Ramblin’ Boy alongside Lewis’ usual foil, DS James Hathaway ITV says the 34-year-old’s casting is not related to the race controversy over Midsomer Murders – another of its Oxfordshire-based detective shows – which did not feature any ethnic minorities.
Its spokeswoman Kate Bain said: “His casting has nothing to do with that. His character will be acting as cover while Laurence Fox’s (Hathaway) goes on sabbatical.”
Mr Ceesay’s casting has been welcomed by Graham Smith, the joint branch chairman of the Thames Valley Police Federation. With Oxford having 14 black or ethnic minority police officers and PCSOs – around five per cent of the 280 of officers in the city – he believed the character reflected the force well.
He said: “I think it is a great move. In the 25 years I have been in the force it has changed unbelievably. People join from all sorts of backgrounds.”
Midsomer Murders producer Brian True-May was suspended in March 2011 after claiming the programme – which is largely filmed in and around Wallingford – would not work if there was any racial diversity. He stepped down a few weeks later.
Wallingford town councillor Bernard Stone, who was mayor at the time of the Midsomer Murders row, said: “It depends a little bit on the time and place the series is set in but these programmes should reflect the culture and diversity of the time.
“ Certainly with Lewis it is particularly appropriate casting someone like that because it is set in Oxford, which is quite a diverse place.”
Mr Ceesay will appear alongside Mr Fox over the course of the ITV series and takes a more prominent role when Hathaway goes away on sabbatical for a couple of episodes.
“As long as the new assistant is a good actor I am all for it.”
Mr Ceesay has also appeared in the BBC’s Getting On, Casualty and Silent Witness. He turned to acting after working as a risk consultant at accounting firm Deloitte.