The Long Call ITV—the Ann Cleeves thriller is your next unmissable watch this autumn

The Long Call ITV adaptation sees a tight-knit community torn apart by lies and murder

The Long Call ITV adaptation starring Ben Aldridge
(Image credit: ITV)

The Long Call ITV adaptation brings Ann Cleeves’ bestselling Two Rivers series to life in dramatic style with its atmospheric seaside setting, determined detective and an ever-growing list of suspects.

Fans of Ann Cleeves’ novels will already be familiar with her flair for constructing twists and turns against an eerily picturesque backdrop. From the Northumberland setting of her acclaimed Vera series to her dramatic Shetland books, Ann’s plotlines have not only delighted readers over the years, but captured viewers’ imaginations in the equally thrilling adaptations. And with Shetland series 6 and Vera series 11 a must-watch for dedicated fans this year, it’s perhaps no surprise that Ann’s newest series has made its way onto our screens. 

Named for the seagull’s haunting cry, The Long Call ITV adaptation makes the most of the coastal setting as it tells the tale of Detective Matthew Venn’s investigation into the murder of man found with nothing but a mysterious tattoo. 

But what is The Long Call about, who’s in the cast and how many episodes are there?

*Warning: spoilers ahead!* 

The Long Call ITV starring Ben Aldridge and Pearl Mackie

(Image credit: ITV)

What is The Long Call about on ITV?

The Long Call is adapted from Ann Cleeves’ bestselling novel of the same name and thought it's not known whether the show will remain faithful to the book right to the end, it certainly begins on the same note. The Long Call introduces her latest detective, Matthew Venn, as he finds himself back in his childhood community. Raised in a strict evangelical household as part of the Barum Brethren, he later turned away from his faith after realising they would never accept his sexuality and he would never be free to be true to himself. 

The Long Call ITV adaptation starring Ben Aldridge as Matthew Venn

(Image credit: ITV)

Despite having since found love with his husband Jonathan, The Long Call shows how he can’t quite let go of the past as he watches his estranged father’s funeral in North Devon. Matthew and Jonathan are determined to start afresh in their stunning new seaside home, but it’s not long before things take a turn for the dramatic as a body is found close by, stabbed to death.

The dead man’s identity is initially unknown, though his distinctive albatross neck tattoo could hold the key. This leads the meticulous detective and his right hand officer DC Jen Rafferty to uncover a series of connections between those who knew the dead man and the Woodyard centre, where Jonathan works. 

The Long Call ITV adaptation starring Ben Aldridge as Matthew Venn

(Image credit: ITV)

The centre is home to artists, counselling services and charities and with the list of suspects growing, Matthew must ruffle more than a few feathers in the tight-knit community if he’s ever going to get to the truth. Then a young woman goes missing and the investigation starts to take an even more hard-hitting turn.

In the book, he finds himself in a race against time to find her and an appalling cover-up gradually emerges. Not prepared to let those responsible crawl back into the shadows, Matthew must now not only apprehend a murderer but confront his past and risk the wrath of the community once again in the pursuit of justice...

Who is in The Long Call cast? 

The Long Call cast:

  •  Detective Matthew Venn—Ben Aldridge 
  •  DC Jen Rafferty—Pearl Mackie 
  •  Dorothy Venn—Juliet Stevenson 
  •  Dennis Stephenson—Martin Shaw 
  •  Grace Stephenson—Anita Dobson 
  •  Jonathan Venn—Declan Bennett 

Perhaps the most prominent member of The Long Call cast is Ben Aldridge, whose recent projects include Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag and Our Girl, and who shines in the ITV show as Detective Matthew Venn. The actor also provides the narration for the audiobook of both The Long Call and the second book in the Two Rivers series, The Heron’s Cry. And his portrayal of this steadfast detective is certainly a stand-out, bringing both his inner turmoil and professional manner to life in expert style. 

The Long Call ITV adaptation starring Ben Aldridge

(Image credit: ITV)

Opening up about his role in the ITV show, Ben said, “I’m delighted to be playing Matthew Venn, a brilliantly unorthodox detective who audiences will see solving a gripping and intricate case, whilst simultaneously surmounting a deeper, more personal mystery within himself. It’s a poignant and complex journey of self-discovery and sexual and religious identity, which navigates the tension between pride and shame, and I feel privileged to be bringing it to ITV viewers in The Long Call”. 

And his casting certainly seems to have impressed Ann Cleeves, with the author reflecting upon his Devon upbringing and the “authenticity” he’s bringing to the role. 

She declared on her website (opens in new tab), “I can't think of anyone who could play Matthew Venn better than Ben Aldridge. He will bring an authenticity and commitment to the role. I always hoped that the actor chosen would come from Devon, where the books are set, and he does”. 

The Long Call ITV adaptation starring Juliet Stevenson

(Image credit: ITV)

Ben is joined in The Long Call cast by Juliet Stevenson (Truly, Madly, Deeply and Bend It Like Beckham) as his estranged mother Dorothy. Whilst Pearl Mackie (Doctor Who) plays DC Jen Rafferty, who has escaped an abusive relationship and forged a new life with her kids away from London (Liverpool in the book).

As reported by The Sun (opens in new tab), Pearl told the press that she believed this traumatic backstory has helped give Jen a different perspective as a police officer.

The Long Call ITV adaptation starring Peal Mackie

(Image credit: ITV)

“I think essentially what she really wants to do is protect people and she doesn’t want anyone to experience what she has been through,” she said. “I think a lot of those emotions are bubbling away under the surface and can get triggered quite easily. But I think we need more police officers like Jen. Her experiences make her more real.”

The Long Call adaptation starring Martin Shaw and Anita Dobson

(Image credit: ITV)

Other cast members bring to life the local community, including Martin Shaw (Inspector George Gently) as the spiritual leader Dennis Stephenson, former EastEnders star Anita Dobson as his wife Grace and Declan Bennett (EastEnders) as Jonathan Venn.   

Where is The Long Call set?

The Long Call is set in North Devon, with the original book series, Two Rivers, taking its name from the way the rivers Torridge and Taw converge in this seemingly idyllic area. Meanwhile, Matthew and Jonathan have previously lived in Bristol, making the West Country city another key location for both book and show. 

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For those who love the seascapes off Shetland and Vigil, the setting of this ITV adaptation will transport you into the dark and twisted world of the fictional community just as much as the brilliant acting and chilling plot. And the setting certainly has its part to play in the story, with rising tides and lonely beaches being witness to some of the most heart-wrenching moments in The Long Call book and likely to be so again in the ITV show.

The Long Call ITV filming locations

Given the importance of setting in Ann Cleeves’ novels, it seems only right that The Long Call ITV adaptation did indeed film the show in the South West of England. As reported by the Radio Times (opens in new tab), filming for The Long Call took place in both North Devon and in Bristol, with interior scenes shot in the city and exterior scenes on the coast. Real-life locations in the area such as Crow Point were also used for maximum authenticity. 

The Long Call ITV starring Ben Aldridge and Declan Bennett

(Image credit: ITV)

Having grown up in Devon himself, Ben Aldridge revealed that the opportunity to return to the county to film the Devon-set show was a real honour. According to the publication, he explained, “It was nice to be filming somewhere that felt familiar and to know it so well. We used to go on day trips to North Devon when I was younger and I spent some summers surfing on the beaches there.”

“Once I knew I was playing Matthew, my parents and I drove up there for the day, visiting the locations in the novel – Barnstaple, Ilfracombe, Crow Point,” Ben went on to add. 

The Long Call trailer

The Long Call trailer was unveiled on social media on 16th October 2021 and introduced viewers not only to the intriguing plotline, but just as importantly, to Matthew Venn, played by Ben Aldridge. Viewers are given a glimpse into his fractured relationship with his family and his feelings of being an outsider in his own community. But when the investigation begins, he attempts to put it all to one side as he attempts to discover the murderer and track down the missing woman, praying she’s still alive. 

It’s clear Matthew’s line of questioning isn’t going down well with the locals and throughout it all, the experienced detective is shown struggling with his emotions as he faces those who once cast him out.

How many episodes in The Long Call? 

Unlike the adaptation of Ann Cleeves’ Shetland novels which sees its dark twists and turns unfold across six episodes, The Long Call will be just four episodes long. However, this is good news for fans of sinister storytelling as the decision to have four episodes dedicated to her compelling book plot certainly leaves room for significant character development, dramatic reveals and emotional scenes that might otherwise have been condensed. And that’s not all! Though The Long Call is the first in the writer’s Two Rivers series, it’s not the last. 

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The Long Call by Ann Cleeves, $6.87 (opens in new tab) (£4.99) (opens in new tab)Amazon

In North Devon Detective Matthew Venn stands outside the church whilst his father's funeral takes place, having left his strict evangelical upbringing behind many years before. Now he's back in his home area as he takes on the sinister case of a man found murdered on the beach, only to find dark secrets lurking in the idyllic community.

The Long Call ITV adaptation comes just months after the follow-up novel was released and it kept to the bird call theme with its intriguing title: The Heron’s Cry. Depending on audience reaction to The Long Call, it’s possible that ITV will go on to adapt the rest of the series and with the Shetland and Vera series featuring eight and nine books respectively, it’s likely Ann will be crafting more chilling Two Rivers books in the future, providing even more source material for ITV’s The Long Call to explore. 

The Long Call ITV adaptation starring Ben Aldridge, Martin Shaw and Anita Dobson

(Image credit: ITV)

When is The Long Call on ITV?

For The Long Call fans who just can’t wait to discover how these unfathomable puzzle pieces fit together there’s only a few days to wait until the truth comes out. The new ITV show is airing over four consecutive nights, with the first episode premiering on Monday 25th October. Subsequent episodes will be shown at the same time each day, meaning viewers can enjoy The Long Call on ITV until Thursday 28th October when the dramatic finale will see the community’s secrets brought into the light by Matthew Venn. 

So if you don’t want to miss a single second of what lies in store, remember to tune in to The Long Call on ITV at 9pm until then. The Long Call is also available to catch-up on via the ITV Hub and will be released on BritBox from 28th October. 

Emma Shacklock
Emma Shacklock

Emma is a Senior Lifestyle Writer with six years of experience working in digital publishing. Her specialist areas including literature, the British Royal Family and knowing all there is to know about the latest TV shows on the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and every streaming service out there. When she’s not writing about the next unmissable show to add to your to-watch list or delving into royal protocol, you can find Emma cooking and watching yet more crime dramas.