Unforgotten: Who is Sinead Keenan and why did Nicola Walker leave the ITV series?

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Unforgotten has returned to our screens with some new faces this season

Unforgotten returned to screens on Monday(February 28) with RTS award-winning actress Sinead Keenan making her debut on the ITV series following the exit of Nicola Walker. The BAFTA nominated actress was announced as Walker’s replacement in March 2022.

Keenan joined the show following the exit of Nicola Walker who played one of the show’s most central characters DCI Cassie Stuart in series one to four. Season four ended in a huge twist when Cassie was involved in a fatal car accident. She later died from the brain injuries she sustained in the crash and the series ended with close colleague and friend Sunny Khan visiting her grave.

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In the first episode of series five, DCI Jessica James (Sinéad Keenan) will be given her first case but a tough family life looked to complicate her first day on the job. The team’s positive relationship with the late DCI Stuart means DCI James will have to work a bit harder for their approval.

The cold case murder drama originally aired on ITV in 2015 and centres around the Bishop Street unsolved crimes team. Previously, detectives Cassie Stuart and Sunil ‘Sunny’ Khan worked together to tackle London’s most dismal crimes but the tragic departure of DCI Stuart means there will be a new lead stepping in to fill her shoes.

Keenan spoke to the Radio Times about her new role, admitting she was nervous to  replace Nicola Walker, saying: "I was on holiday and got a phone call from my agent: ‘The people from Unforgotten want to send out scripts to three people and you’re one of them. Would you read it?’ I was very quick to say no, thank you very much. Because what eejit is going to follow Nicola Walker? No, I don’t think so."

Luckily, her agent was persistent and told Keenan that the script was ‘very good’, asking the actress to read it before making her decision. Keenan added: “And sure enough, I read it, called back and said, ‘Er, is there another script knocking around? Because I just really want to know what happens! Then I met the team, who were lovely. They very kindly asked, ‘Would you do it?’ and I said, ‘Go on then.’ That was it. Now I’m literally the eejit who’s following Nicola Walker."

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So, when can you watch Sinead Keenan in the series? Here’s everything you need to know about the new series of ITV’s Unforgotten.

Who is Sinead Keenan?

Sinead Keenan is an Irish actress with credits ranging in television, film and theatre. Keenan is best known to Irish viewers for playing Farrah Phelan in Fair City and is best known to UK viewers for playing the role of werewolf Nina Pickering on BBC Three’s supernatural drama Being Human.

Sinead Keenan starring in Little Boy Blue (Credit: ITV)Sinead Keenan starring in Little Boy Blue (Credit: ITV)
Sinead Keenan starring in Little Boy Blue (Credit: ITV) | ITV

In March 2018, Keenan won the Royal Television Society Programme Award for Actor (Female) for her role as Melanie Jones in Little Boy Blue. In April 2018, it was announced that she had been nominated for a Leading Actress BAFTA TV Award for the same role.

Why did Nicola Walker leave?

Nicola Walker spoke about the decision to leave saying that she felt Cassie’s story had ‘come to an end’. She told Radio Times in 2021 that it was a joint decision between herself and writer Chris Lang: "I’m not on social media, but when the final episode went out, I almost wanted to join Twitter to tell everyone that I didn’t walk away from the show, nor did they ask me to leave. It was simply that Chris and I thought it was a fantastic, impactful story.

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"I love the irony of this brilliant woman dying an accidental death that wouldn’t be investigated in a show about complicated investigations ... We hoped people wouldn’t feel we were being cruel by serving up this incredibly sad story."

Unforgotten viewers bid farewell to DCI Cassie Stuart on Monday night (ITV)Unforgotten viewers bid farewell to DCI Cassie Stuart on Monday night (ITV)
Unforgotten viewers bid farewell to DCI Cassie Stuart on Monday night (ITV)

ITV said: "We would like to thank Nicola Walker for playing the brilliant role of Cassie Stuart in four series of Unforgotten which has become one of the best-loved and most critically acclaimed police dramas on TV.

"Nicola and writer Chris Lang decided that Cassie’s story would come to an end last night, but that Unforgotten would continue, in series 5, with a new case, and a new ‘Partner in Crime’ for DI Sunny Khan."

How to watch Unforgotten series five

The first episode of the fifth series of Unforgotten aired last night (Monday, February 27) on ITV1 and ITVX. The entire series is now available to watch on ITVX.

Full cast Unforgotten series five

  • DI Sunny Khan - Sanjeev Bhaskar
  • DCI Jess James - Sinéad Keenan
  • DS Murray Boulting - Jordan Long 
  • DC Kaz Willets - Pippa Nixon 
  • DC Fran Lingley - Carolina Main
  • Leanne Balcombe - Georgia Mackenzie
  • Sal - Michelle Bonnard
  • Lord Tony Hume - Ian McElhinney
  • Lady Emma Hume - Hayley Mills
  • Ebele Falade - Martina Laird
  • Dave Adams - Mark Frost
  • Jay - Rhys Yates
  • Cheryl - Hebe Beardsall
  • Steve James- Andrew Lancel
  • D. Spt Andrews - Colin R. Campbell
  • Kate - Kate Robbins
  • Debbie - Gráinne Keenan
  • Karol Wojski - Max Rinehart
  • Elise - Claire Ganaye
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