Emmys Flashback: 'Prime Suspect's' Helen Mirren Led a New Kind of British Invasion in 1992

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The actress won two statuettes for playing no-nonsense, gum-chewing detective Jane Tennison.

The no-nonsense, gum-chewing British detective Jane Tennison now has a quarter-century history with the TV Academy. This year, Stefanie Martini is eligible for an Emmy playing what she has called a "much softer" — and younger — version of the character in the Tennison-focused prequel, Prime Suspect 1973. Tennison originally was seen in the U.S. as a character played by Helen Mirren in the British-made series Prime Suspect, a two-part mystery that aired stateside on PBS on Jan. 23, 1992.

"Mirren gives a subtle and balanced portrayal of a woman who sometimes must outdo the men at their own worst traits in order to gain a minimum of respect," The Hollywood Reporter said in its review. Mirren, 71, has been nominated for six Emmys for playing the character (out of seven separate Suspect series she has done), winning in 1996 and 2007. (The show itself won outstanding limited series three times.)

When she won in 1996, she told the press room she was leaving the character behind. "I think you have to quit while you're ahead, and I'm definitely ahead now," said Mirren. "Jane Tennison's time is past." However, Mirren came back to play the character again in 2003 and 2006. Her agent, Fred Specktor, offers a straightforward explanation for the actress' reversal: "To quote a famous movie line," he tells THR, "the producers made her an offer she couldn't refuse."

This story first appeared in a June standalone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.