U.S. remake of "Prime Suspect" gets British blessing

LOS ANGELES Mon Aug 1, 2011 10:19pm EDT

British actress Helen Mirren poses for a photograph with the Nepenthes 'Helen', a carnivorous plant named after her, on press day at the Chelsea Flower Show 2011 in London May 23, 2011. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor

British actress Helen Mirren poses for a photograph with the Nepenthes 'Helen', a carnivorous plant named after her, on press day at the Chelsea Flower Show 2011 in London May 23, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Luke MacGregor

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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Producers of the U.S. remake of award-winning British crime drama "Prime Suspect" said on Monday the new series was lighter and with more humor than the original, but that it had won the blessing of both its creator and star Helen Mirren.

Maria Bello stars as the tough homicide detective who fights crime on the streets of New York, as well as sexism in the police force in the series, which gets its debut on NBC in September.

The admired British miniseries, starring Mirren, was first made in the 1990s, and broke new ground in television with its grim portrayal of ambitious, smart, female detective Jane Tennison, whose private life is a wreck.

Executive producer and writer Alexandra Cunningham said the U.S. version would focus less on outright sexism and would have less of the dark edge that marked the original version.

"There is so much great stuff there that we want to use as touchstones to make our own show great. But we also want fans of original to be able to tune in and enjoy it on its own level," Cunningham told television reporters.

Bello said she had not studied Mirren's performance while preparing for her role as the rude, abrupt and occasionally reckless Jane Timoney.

"I had seen it some years ago and remembered it a bit (as) being really dark. But when I read the script it was such a different show...because of the humor and because of it being modernized and set in New York city, so I haven't gone back to watch it," the actress said.

But the U.S. producers said that British writer Lynda LaPlante had written to them giving her seal of approval for the updated concept.

"She (LaPlante) couldn't be happier that Maria is shouldering the character...She is happy it is being modernized, and there's nobody better to do it than Maria. And Maria reminds people of Helen Mirren in her strength and her complete lack of vanity," Cunningham said.

Oscar-winner Mirren, asked at an industry party in March, also said she was delighted at the choice of Bello, Cunningham said.

"Prime Suspect" is one of the most anticipated new dramas on U.S. television in the new season which starts in September.

(Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)

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