THE BLACK BOOK
SUSANNAH HARKER - Matilda Simms
Susannah Harker enjoyed playing a bohemian artist who charms DCI Barnaby.
"Matilda is a free spirit. She runs an art school and is very good hearted. There is a frisson between her and Barnaby, a sort of warmth. You can sense he is a bit smitten with her, not that Barnaby would ever embark on anything. She doesn't seem to notice it too much, but he is a bit enchanted by her and her world.
"One time, Barnaby and Jones come to the art school and the students are painting a nude. It's all very artfully filmed, but Barnaby is a bit out of his depth. It's a bit shocking for him. Matilda takes it all in her stride and in her typical bohemian demeanour assumes it's just another everyday event in her life."
Barnaby questions Matilda following the murder of Felicity Law (Ann Firbank) - an octogenarian who had just given £400,000 to the Arnold Simms School of Art, which Matilda runs.
Explains Susannah: "Matilda gets caught up in this terrible thing and murders are happening all around her.
"I hadn't worked with John before but a lot of my scenes were with him. He's such a classical actor, wonderfully focussed and the consummate professional. He keeps calm on the set and encourages new talent.
"Midsomer Murders is so universally loved and people are addicted to it because it gives them such pleasure. More people were excited about me doing the series than a lot of work I've done. It was an extraordinary reaction, but a good one."
Susannah was able to draw on her own understanding of art to play the role. "I've got lots of artists in my family as well as actors, so I had a sense of it. The director Peter Smith was also an artist so that was useful too and he helped me."
DAVID BAMBER - Anthony Prideaux
David Bamber used his experience of visiting art galleries to create the character of Anthony Prideaux in Midsomer Murders.
"I don't know much about art but I have been into galleries in London which we have bought paintings from and they are always a bit snooty. I based Anthony a bit on those characters.
"He is slightly crooked in a way that he could explain away as someone just trying to make their way in the world. I think a lot of that goes on in the art world. He obviously enjoys his status in the community; he likes being a big fish in a small pond."
Adds David: "I don't know why the art world has been linked to such fortunes, why it's out of the ken of ordinary people. It's only looking at pictures, and I sincerely believe that most people know what they like and don't like.
"I don't like the kind of paintings that Anthony Prideaux is selling - 18th century landscapes, English gentry and families standing under oak trees. To me it's vanity art."
David was delighted to return to the Midsomer Murders family, after appearing in "Dead Letters" in 2006.
"It was a lovely feeling going back. I know it sounds thespian but it's such a nice thing to do. John Nettles always makes it so easy because sometimes a guest part makes you feel a bit like an outsider. The opposite is true with John - he is always extremely accommodating, funny and professional.
"We are fans of Midsomer Murders at home and our six-year-old watches them too. It's not as dark as Waking the Dead but it's got its own repertoire of colours which are important to the viewing public.
"Our episode is about the raging of antipathies within a small community, where people kill each other rather than just go off each other as in ordinary life. It's hugely entertaining and there's a kind of comedy in there, despite the murders! It's as addictive as Sudoku in my case."
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