Rebus: who plays who in the BBC’s new take on Ian Rankin's hit detective novels

 (BBC/Eleventh Hour Films/Mark Mainz)
(BBC/Eleventh Hour Films/Mark Mainz)

This Friday marks the arrival of new BBC One show Rebus: the long-awaited series based on the hit Inspector Rebus detective novels by Ian Rankin.

Starring Richard Rankin as the titular detective, the show is set to follow the Scot as he goes about his job in Edinburgh and beyond. And though there’ll be plenty of familiar characters here, the show isn’t a straight adaptation. Instead, it looks set to reimagine the hardened detective as a younger man still figuring out who he is.

According to the show’s synopsis, Rebus is a man "at odds with a job increasingly driven by corporate technocrats", embroiled in a "toxic affair he knows needs to end" and having difficulty connecting with his estranged daughter. “As a result, Rebus begins to wonder if he still has a role to play – either as a family man or a police officer.”

But who else is starring? We break down the cast.

Richard Rankin plays John Rebus

 (BBC/Viaplay /Eleventh Hour/Mark Mainz)
(BBC/Viaplay /Eleventh Hour/Mark Mainz)

John Rebus is the show’s protagonist: a troubled cop from Edinburgh who has a knack for solving crimes, but an inability to control his personal life.

“You would imagine a procedural cop show. It’s not. It’s very much a character drama,” Richard Rankin, who plays him, said in a Q&A. “A martyr to his own cause. Frequently faced with easier choices, Rebus will take the difficult path. As for the job, Rebus has the potential and aptitude to be a great detective, and in a lot of ways he is, but he gets in his own way often deliberately, often self-destructively.”

Rankin (no relation to the author) is a Scottish actor. Born in 1983 in Rutherglen, Scotland, he grew up in Glasgow and decided to become an actor after a chance meeting in a Los Angeles hotel during a holiday. A local film producer told the 22-year-old he had the look of an actor, and Rankin accordingly changed course.

Since starting his career, he’s appeared on Scottish sketch show Burnistoun, and most notably in the Starz drama Outlander as Roger Wakefield MacKenzie.

Brian Ferguson plays Michael Rebus

 (BBC/Viaplay /Eleventh Hour/Mark Mainz)
(BBC/Viaplay /Eleventh Hour/Mark Mainz)

Michael Rebus is John’s brother, and the relationship between the pair forms the heart of this new series. “This Michael is quite different from the Michael in the books,” says Ferguson, who plays him: he’s newly out of the army, has two sons, and is deeply in debt after trying to start a business.

The two also don’t get on. “The only way that brothers know how to express their love for each other is through aggression,” he says. “We sense that there's a real love there, but they have no idea how to communicate that to each other really.”

Ferguson is another Scot. Born in Glasgow in 1980, he attended the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and has appeared in shows at the National Theatre, the Royal Court and the Royal Shakespeare Company, including Cyrano de Bergerac and Hamlet. In terms of television, he has also appeared in Outlander as Lucius Gordon and ITV’s The Ipcress File as Randall.

Lucie Shorthouse plays Detective Constable Siobhan Clarke

 (BBC/Viaplay /Eleventh Hour/Mark Mainz)
(BBC/Viaplay /Eleventh Hour/Mark Mainz)

Siobhan Clarke is Rebus’s detective partner. New to her position, she’s been placed with Rebus after coming up on the accelerated pathway scheme – something he sees as the ‘easy’ way in.

But she’s not a pushover, “She's been put with Rebus who obviously takes no prisoners, so she's got her work cut out,” Shorthouse says. “But I also think she's a great match for him. She's not willing to back down from him but she's also inspired by him.”

Born in 1991 to parents from Kenya, Shorthouse grew up in Tamworth and went onto attend Cambridge University, where she was a member of the Footlights. She started her career on stage – winning a WhatsOnStage award for her work in Everybody’s Talking About Jamie – and her first major TV role as in 2020 Sky police show Bulletproof. She has also appeared as Momtaz in Channel 4 sitcom We Are Lady Parts.

Amy Manson plays Rhona Moncrieffe

 (BBC/Viaplay /Eleventh Hour/Mark Mainz)
(BBC/Viaplay /Eleventh Hour/Mark Mainz)

Rhona is Rebus’s former romantic partner, and their relationship is rocky thanks to her new marriage.

“Rhona is a very empathetic and loving woman and always puts her family first,” Manson says. “That's where she was at loggerheads with Rebus because he didn’t always put the family first. To protect herself and their daughter, she chose to step away from the relationship but that doesn't mean that she feels nothing for him.”

Manson hails from Scotland too. Brought up in Aberdeenshire (she is a member of the Scottish clan Gunn), she left for London at 17 to study at the Central School of Speech and Drama. She’s made appearances in horror films Pumpkinhead: Blood Feud and Blood Monkey, has appeared in Torchwood as Alice Guppy and appeared as the vampire Daisy in series two of Being Human.

Stuart Bowman plays Ger Cafferty

 (BBC/Viaplay /Eleventh Hour/Mark Mainz)
(BBC/Viaplay /Eleventh Hour/Mark Mainz)

Though we don’t know too much about Ger Cafferty, we do know that he’s a mobster, and his actions put him at odds with Rebus.

“On the face of it, he’s a gangster, or a baddie, or Rebus’ nemesis. But I think above all what Cafferty is, is somebody who makes the world work the way he wants it to work. He has the force of personality and the wit and intelligence to succeed,” says Bowman.

“That's why his relationship with Rebus is so fascinating. Rebus can push him.”

Bowman himself comes from Fife. He’s known for playing the head of MI5, Stephen Hunter-Dunn, in the hit BBC show Bodyguard, appearing in Scottish sitcom Gary: Tank Commander, and for playing Alexandre Bontemps in the Canal+ series Versailles.

Neshla Caplan plays Chrissie Rebus

 (BBC/Viaplay /Eleventh Hour/Mark Mainz)
(BBC/Viaplay /Eleventh Hour/Mark Mainz)

Chrissie is the wife of Michael, John’s estranged brother. In the books, she harbours a hatred of John, blaming him for her failed marriage – though we’re not sure if that applies to the series too.

Neshla Caplan, who plays her, is primarily a theatre actress. Acting since 2014, she has appeared in musical productions such as 2018’s Sunshine on Leith, the National Theatre of Scotland’s Adam in 2017, and An Oak Tree at the Royal Lyceum in 2023. She also made an appearance in the 2023 thriller series The Rig.

Noof Ousellam plays Darryl Christie

Darryl Christie is a young gangster from Edinburgh who appears in the later Rebus novels – but he crops up here as a drug dealer who becomes embroiled in Rebus’s case.

Ousellam’s story could have been similar. Of Moroccan descent, his family moved to the notorious Leith Fort estate in Edinburgh when he was 11 – a place known for its gangs and drugs. However, Ousellam made it as an actor, breaking through as series regular DC Hicham Cherradi in ITV series Vera and following that up with an appearance in Disney+’s Andor.

Rebus airs on BBC One from May 17