INTERVIEWS WITH MAIN CAST
© ITV/Mark Bourdillon
The relationship between Barnaby and Jones goes from strength to strength according to star Neil Dudgeon.
"Jason and I knew each other before we started working together and we have now filmed together for a year and a half. As we've got to know each other better, that transcribes to the filming. The off-screen friendship is translating itself into the scene and I think and hope that it works quite well.
"Sometimes there are parts of days or whole days when it is just Jason and me working together in a scene. He is totally reliable as he knows how to bring out the humour of the piece without overdoing it. He's fantastic to work with, so honest, and great fun."
Neil is grateful for Jason's support as a 'sidekick' both on and off screen.
"When we have big denouement scenes, I look at my 10 pages of dialogue and I have to concentrate and stay on it, and often on those days Jason doesn't have that much to say. But because he is so up and positive, keeping everybody jollying along and entertained, he is fantastic. He's what you would call in theatre a good company actor.
"He also lets me go off and sit quietly if I need to and he talks to the other guests. I appreciate that so much."
Adds Neil: "Generally in police mystery dramas you have the head man and the foil. The foil often comes up with all the wrong ideas, so that the head man can then say 'that's interesting - but wrong', and explain the truth of the situation.
"The foil is the comic role, the butt of the jokes. For us this means that Jones is the one who dives into lakes, runs into burning houses and does all the physical stuff, while Barnaby uses his intelligence. I have been the foil myself with Diana Rigg and Ken Stott, so I know what it is like."
Barnaby turns his investigative eye on Jones in the latest episode.
"The chief constable is holding a fitness test to make sure all the officers are sufficiently healthy, but Barnaby doesn't really want to run with the wife so he tries to swerve that and get Jones involved, but he is being a bit mysterious. Barnaby is naturally a curious character, and he discovers that Jones is having a secret relationship."
Adds Neil: "The fitness scenes were ok because I try and keep healthy - I do go to the gym and I like swimming. But I don't get much time because there is so much to do at home. I'm a hands-on dad and love doing the school run and making the tea."
Neil recently undertook a new challenge - appearing on Celebrity Mastermind.
"When they approached me last July I thought it was a wind-up but then I got intrigued. Everyone said I was mad but I decided to do it for charity reasons in aid of the ITP Support Association, which helps people with a rare auto-immunological blood disorder," he explains.
"I chose Philip Larkin as my specialist subject and read all his poetry. I thought it might be a real slog but it was interesting and enjoyable to study something intensively after all these years.
"I got to the studio and I wasn't that nervous, even when the lights went down and the music of Mastermind came on. I thought I might freeze, but when the questions came I did rather well, and went on to win!
"It was me being me for a change, but I did enjoy it and it gave me a huge sense of achievement in a way that's very different from acting. The nicest thing was that I had watched the programme since I was 10 years old with my family so it was fantastic to go off with the prize. I have the trophy at home now!"
Neil's credits include Life of Riley, The Mrs Bradley Mysteries, The Gift, The Nativity, Common as Muck, The Street, Messiah, Roman's Empire, Out of the Blue, Resnick, Sorted and the award-winning feature film Son of Rambow. His theatre credits include Road and Blasted at the Royal Court, and Closer at the National. He will film four more episodes of MIDSOMER MURDERS this year.
Fans will finally get a glimpse into the private life of DS Ben Jones in the latest film, reveals actor Jason Hughes.
"In the last series, Jones turns up late to a crime scene and it's hinted that he was in bed, but not at his own house. In the new film, that storyline is developed a bit further.
"Jones avoids training with Barnaby for the Chief Constable's fitness test, because he thinks he's an athlete already, but Barnaby wonders if Jones is up to something. He follows him to a flat and sees that Jones has an overnight bag. He's suspicious so looks at the door and sees the name Bellingham.
"When Jones and Barnaby attend a fire and there is a rather attractive brown-eyed firefighter with the badge name Susie Bellingham, Barnaby cracks the mystery. Jones tells him he wants to keep it quiet because it's the early throes of the relationship."
Adds Jason: "I don't think Jones has commitment issues but he is absorbed by his job and lives through work, and as a result relationships don't tend to last. Perhaps this is the one and he's getting to the stage when he should settle down. But who knows?"
Jones is concerned when Susie (Georgia Mackenzie) has to attend an arson attack at a cottage.
"It's the middle of the night and the house explodes with a big bang, as Jones is watching anxiously for her'' explains Jason.
"I thought it was very effective and the pyrotechnics guys were great. Everyone made completely sure we were all safe and we had real firemen and ambulance crews there. When the explosion went off there was a huge wall of heat which was lovely because it was a freezing cold night!"
"He is a valued sidekick and he and Barnaby are much more equals than the father-son relationship of the past. Barnaby relies on Jones for information, while Barnaby is creative and thinks outside the box. I think from the moment that Neil's character arrived the part of Jones got fleshier. Neil and I give feedback on the script and it's great to be involved in that process."
Away from Midsomer Murders, Jason is busy developing a feature film made up of eight interconnecting short films, through his company Portmanteau.
"I am now into the early drafts of the complete film and just redrafting it to a stage when I will be happy to show people. It's been an incredible learning curve but very exciting."
Jason lives in Brighton with his wife Natasha, a jewellery designer, and their three children, Molly, Max and Carys. Their careers and family keep them very busy.
"Natasha has just had a sale in New York for her jewellery and she gave 15 per cent of her earnings to a foundation for underprivileged children in the city. She also designed our wedding rings."
He adds: "I was a sportsman for half my life; I was in the Welsh Boys Club for rugby and played football and cricket for Glamorgan. I also swam as a lifeguard, played badminton, squash, anything really. Now I go to the gym and try to play tennis with mates when I can but it's pretty energetic bringing up three children. I work for nine months and for the rest I do childcare!"
Jason's other credits include This Life, Plain Jane, The Flint Street Nativity, Phoenix Blue, Killing Me Softly, Mine All Mine, Waking The Dead and Coming Up.
Fiona Dolman is put through her paces in the latest film when her character Sarah Barnaby hires a personal trainer.
"Sarah is training to run a charity marathon for her school and she is also trying to help hubby John get through his police fitness test, so she wants him to go running," explains Fiona.
"She has a trainer called Gareth with a brand new gym kit and trainers. He thinks he is slick and he's also a bit flirtatious. She jokes about it at home and John gets a bit worried. He doesn't really have anything to worry about because they're so in love, but it's good for her to see her husband on the back foot and a bit insecure, especially when Gareth makes a pass at her."
Luckily the episode didn't involve too many on-screen workouts.
Says Fiona: "I am fairly healthy and I do speed walking for about five miles a day. I also have a physio routine which is like a core strength workout, and I do that six days a week.
"But I was still quite pleased that I didn't have to do too many scenes in the gym. I had to join in with a fitness session in the park and do a bit of running. But for the park scene, the extras had to do endless star jumps, leg lifts and running around while we did our lines of dialogue in front of them. It went on for about two hours, bless them, but they were very good natured."
Fiona is enjoying developing Sarah's character as the episodes progress.
"The Barnaby family have grown as a unit - Neil and I have got closer and that shows on screen. As you get more comfortable in your character, it is easier to play. The better you know someone, the more you can read their body language. And I think Sykes the dog likes us more than he did in the beginning.
"In the new episode, John has this sci-fi geekiness and he is a bit more revealing and talks through his reasoning with me. I am eating Chinese and he is trying to formulate his ideas and share them with me. That was a nice scene to do, but in the first take I went for the prawn crackers, which was a big mistake as all you could hear was my crunching!"
Adds Fiona: "This is a good episode for me because I really like having bits where I get to work with the guest artistes. There's quite a bit of interaction between Sarah and Jamie Michie who plays Gareth, which was lovely."
Fiona's credits include Heartbeat, The Royal Today, Holby City, Doctors, New Tricks, Coronation Street, Paradox, Waterloo Road and the feature film Ways to Live Forever.
BACK TO MAIN EPISODE PAGE