VILLAGE THAT ROSE FROM THE DEAD
MAIN CAST INTERVIEWS
© ITV/Mark Bourdillon
NEIL DUDGEON - DCI John Barnaby
Neil Dudgeon is living proof that time flies when you are having fun and he can hardly believe he has filmed six series of Midsomer Murders.
"As an actor you're so used to changing jobs every few weeks or months and now I'm just a few months off filming my seventh series of Midsomer!
"For me it is an almost perfect job; we film in beautiful countryside, often have the best weather, our locations are stunning country houses and estates, we have fantastic catering, the best crew and the most brilliant guest stars who reenergise the show every episode. It's indecently good fun."
But one thing that comes with the territory is Neil's ability to spot the danger in a situation.
"More and more frequently during the summer I find myself on the weekend going to a village fayre or visiting a local fete on a common somewhere idyllic. I'm wandering round thinking this is nice, having half a local ale, looking at local crafts then I suddenly think OMG this is like the opening of an episode of Midsomer and somebody's going to get murdered any minute! Everyone be very careful..."
This series DCI Barnaby has a new sidekick joining him in the fight to keep Midsomer safe. Neil explains how that is going: "Barnaby starts off being a little bit grumpy about the sergeant situation after it appears that Nelson has gone off on a training course and a series of stand-in sergeants have left him unimpressed. When the latest one, Jamie Winter (Nick Hendrix) turns up he is not that enamoured at first. Barnaby doesn't like change, as he has to pay attention to things when he just wants to concentrate on solving crime and he does not like being distracted.
"However when Winter and Barnaby have their first murder to solve it throws them together and gives them something to concentrate on. Winter turns out to be rather good, even possibly saving Barnaby's life at one point with quick thinking and heroism. Winter wins him over in the first episode and is offered a permanent job and thereafter they get on very well.
"Nick is fantastic and perfect in the part, he fitted in from the off and as characters they get on very well. Mostly the relationship between Barnaby and any sergeant its about how they work together solving crime - they don't hang out together every night, it's always Mrs Barnaby who is asking about the new sergeant's love life or domestic arrangements and Barnaby has no idea and professes to be completely uninterested - although I suspect he clocks it all but just doesn't want to get too involved."
Neil admits the storylines always surprise him.
"We have some great themes this series. The first episode features a deserted village, emptied of people in war time then released by the MOD back to community. I've always been intrigued by a village in Dorset which has a similar history. The idea of a place where people once lived, that has been empty for so many years, is quite spooky. We also had some very elegant guest stars in this episode - some rather beautiful snakes. What was funny was that when one particular snake was meant to be coming towards me in a menacing fashion it really wanted to go the other way - well away from the big human!
"The third episode is all about cricket and the return of an old friend in surprising circumstances. Is there corruption afoot in the game? Our writer is brilliant, not just setting the story in the world of cricket with bizarre cricket-related murders but inventing a whole new form of cricket.
"We also have an episode (four) focussing on a small pet show which involved lots of rabbits. There was no biting but quite a lot of kicking; rabbits with big back feet turned out to be scarier than the snakes who were rather charming. All the stories this series are bold and intriguing."
Neil has also divulged a weakness for the slightly older actresses who guest star in the drama.
"We had some remarkable guest stars this series including Susan Hampshire who had such fascinating stories and was so much fun on set. Susan has such wit and delicacy; the quality of acting in Midsomer is splendid.
"We also had Caroline Blakiston filming the first episode, she had a walking stick and in one scene we went through this building with lots of small difficult steps and I was constantly about to grab her thinking she might fall. Afterwards we went outside and I turned to look and she had her ankle half way up her back doing stretches - her doddery old lady thing was all for the role. Hilarious.
"And the lovely Susan Jameson was so sparky with tremendous. I've been very spoilt with the calibre of actors."
But one star Neil will miss this year is Sykes the dog who has retired after five years on the show. Neil, who is used to being upstaged by Sykes, now has a new co-star to work with.
"Paddy has tremendous spring, he is a friendly chap and, just like Sykes, very well trained. He has a lovely temperament, he is very young but calm and 'chatty' with everyone, what's lovely is that he gets on so well with Abbie and Georgia who play Barnaby's daughter Betty. He naturally seems to seek out the small person, roll around and get his belly tickled; they'd barely met but he looked like the family dog from the off."
NICK HENDRIX - DS Winter
The newest member of Midsomer CID, Nick Hendrix admits he has been given one piece of vital advice by his co-star and Midsomer Murders veteran Neil Dudgeon who plays DCI Barnaby.
'He told me on the first day not to eat too much of the great food we have onset or else you may end up putting on a lot of weight!' laughs Nick.
'It's quite an adjustment in terms of lifestyle as I used to be a personal trainer and go to the gym every day. Ironically, while the hours are long and we work a lot, most of the time I am just standing still or sat down. Every now and then I have a chase scene or something where I am more active but it is quite an adjustment, having to find time either late at night or at 6am to go to the gym.'
So how was Nick's first day on set as DS Jamie Winter?
'The big challenge on day one was that the first scene we were filming just happened to be my character's very first scene in the show! Whilst you don't want to be thrown completely into the deep end on your first day with a big fight sequence, at the same time you are filming the first scene in which the audience will be introduced to your character when haven't completely figured out how you are going to play him! In some ways it just forces your hand and makes you go for it. It felt like the nicest introduction to what could have been an intimidating job but everyone onset makes it seamless and relaxed.'
Nick uncovers what kind of man his character, DS Jamie Winter, is.
'DS Jamie Winter has transferred from London and is a young and ambitious policeman who has come up through the ranks fairly quickly. He has that sort of fast paced energy of someone who has lived, worked or grown up in a city. Jamie comes in as this energised young man who wants to be the action hero, the super policeman and so he is a little bit cheeky. My character brings a touch of modernity to Midsomer policing through iPads and so on and he enjoys winding Barnaby up in that 'young buck versus older wise detective' sort of relationship. Jamie is cool, fun and up for everything.'
As for the relationship between DCI Barnaby (Neil Dudgeon) and his new right hand man, DS Winter, Nick explains...
'It is implied that Barnaby has had a few sergeants since Nelson left, that haven't lasted for various reasons and so he is apprehensive about this new DS. However, there are moments in the first episode where Jamie proves himself and Barnaby respects people who are good at their job, whether they're cheeky or not. So whilst Barnaby doesn't necessarily want to like Winter at first because he is young and slightly irritating, they begin to figure each other out and Jamie relaxes a little bit and understands his position and place. Soon they get on and we have some really nice scenes together.'
As for the off-screen relationship between Nick and Neil...
'It's funny because life imitates art and vice versa in a show like this as Winter is having to get to know Barnaby and figure out that relationship whilst at the same time I am having to get to know and spend time with Neil. As we are the major recurring characters, we spend a lot of time together. Whether that is sitting in the back of a car, or on chairs next to set, it is often just the two of us. There was that apprehension about what is he going to be like, will we have anything in common... it's like blind dating for friends! I guess maybe I was more nervous about whether we would get along than I was about playing the part. But Neil is brilliant. He has a great mix of not being too serious and stepping up as captain of the team when he needs to. When you play a big, important role like that there is a responsibility to lead and Neil definitely leads. I really respect Neil; he is a great actor.
'Neil sits and reads the paper on set, that's his thing. I haven't played a part where I have been on set as regularly and as much as this ever before but with this job, I am in everyday and now I get the paper as well. I can imagine from an outsider's eye there is almost something quite sweet about Neil and I on set, in our chairs, reading the papers together. Neil is a very well-read, intelligent man and so I quite enjoy as we sit there reading up on current affairs, asking 'what do you think about this Neil?"
Another onscreen relationship that unfolds this series is between Winter and pathologist, Dr Kam Karimore (Manjinder Virk).
'There is history there. They met five years ago on a training course and something may or may not have happened between them.... Jamie quite enjoys the fact that they have bumped into each other and would quite like to wind her up about it but Kam doesn't feel the same. She has a soft spot for him but is very much a business minded, hard working woman and therefore this guy coming in and rocking the boat a bit in front of Barnaby shakes up things for Kam. Jamie pursues it over the first few episodes and they have a few interesting moments.'
Whilst Nick is enjoying working alongside Neil and Manjinder regularly, he has also loved having the opportunity to act alongside Midsomer's incredible calibre of guest stars.
'We are so spoiled with the actors they get in on this show. This series we have had people like Neil Morrissey, Steve Pemberton and Hugh Dennis. Steve Pemberton is amazing; I loved Happy Valley and Inside Number 9. A big part of what makes this such a nice job, is that everyone who comes onto the show not only wants to be there but is also excited about it.'
Without giving away spoilers, Nick reveals some of the more unusual moments from this series that he has enjoyed filming.
'Each episode has its own eccentricities. In the first episode we had snakes. There were loads of them and they were amazing. Hugh Dennis had to be pretty wrapped up with them. The fourth episode was great to film because there were loads of rabbits, which was mad and wonderful and felt like a proper Midsomer experience. There is nothing funnier than the first assistant director saying 'turning and... release rabbits.' There was this man lying on the floor covered in rabbits and it's just that sense that in no other world would this make sense.
FIONA DOLMAN - Sarah Barnaby
Returning to the role of Sarah Barnaby in the new series of Midsomer Murders was even more exciting than usual for Fiona Dolman.
'The producers had been saying for quite a while that they wanted to get Sarah out of the house a bit more and it's really happened this series which has been fantastic. Whilst I am very happy working with babies and dogs it has also been incredibly nice to see a different side of the character. Also, it has been great to get the opportunity to work with some of the guest stars. We get some amazing guest actors who I will meet at the read-through and then never see again so it has been super to feel a bit more at the heart of it/
And, as ever, Fiona was particularly pleased to be back filming with her onscreen husband, Neil Dudgeon.
'It just goes from strength to strength with Neil, I find it easier and easier and I love the fact that I will read a scene between us and already be laughing because I know exactly how he will say something. There is definitely a real sort of luxury in doing something long running and doing it for the length of time that we have. That husband and wife relationship becomes so much easier because you can read each other's looks. When you've known someone fora long time they only have to slightly flicker their eyes and you already start laughing because you know what they are thinking.'
'I actually really like the fact that in Midsomer they are a happily married couple. A lot of the time, particularly in detective dramas you see so much trauma and broken domestic lives so I like the fact that they have a strong marriage. It works because they are both independent, intelligent people who have their own careers and are very much in love with their child and with each other.'
Fiona has also enjoyed working with the newest addition to the Midsomer cast. Nick Hendrix who plays DS Jamie Winter.
'I was very privileged to be in Nick's first ever Midsomer scene. His first appearance on screen was also his first filming scene too. It was very nice to be involved in welcoming him to Midsomer. He is very dedicated and enthusiastic, he's taking it seriously but he is a very funny guy and a hard working actor and is pleased to be a part of it.'
With the retirement of rescue dog Sykes this series, Fiona also welcomed a new four-legged member of Midsomer to the family.
'We were incredibly sad to lose Sykes, the Barnaby's beloved pet dog, but we have got to know him incredibly well over the years as well as Gill, his trainer and we know that Sykes was ready to retire. He is now in a lovely home, being cared for by a family which is absolutely the way it should be. I know audiences will miss him and we will miss him terribly but he really deserved the rest. To have Paddy arrive and be this springy ball of energy made us remember how Sykes was at the beginning. He has done this show for a very longtime and whilst it is sad to see him go it is also delightful to be welcoming Paddy who is hilarious and a gorgeous little dog.
Fiona has enjoyed working alongside these new cast members but admits she was looking forward especially to the return of a very familiar face.
'My favourite episode of this series by far was when we had a special guest from the past come back. It was just delightful. He is a brilliant actor. Also this series we had Susan Jameson who played my mother in Heartbeat and I hadn't seen her for 10 or 12 years.'
Fiona reveals what makes Sarah Barnaby such an enjoyable character to keep coming back to play.
'I like Sarah's strength and positivity. I like people who can have a sense of humour about something whilst still taking it seriously. She keeps confidences and has empathy and the way she functions within her marriage means she is able to support her husband in what he does without losing her sense of self and her identity. She is a good female role model for she is able to support the people around her and to be a mum and a wife and still able to be herself and play to her own strengths. Sarah is a kind of wonder woman in the sense that she is a head mistress of a school, she has a young child, a dog, a husband who works all hours of the day and night and she does seem to be very capable and unflappable. I certainly couldn't do it all!'
MANJINDER VIRK - Dr Kam Karimore
Coming back to the role of pathologist, Dr Kam Karimore in the forthcoming series of Midsomer Murders was a new experience for Manjinder as she has never been in a returning series before.
'It's the first time I have returned to play the same character which is really nice. It has been lovely because it is a lot of the same crew who are back on board too. It is like a family; everyone is great to work with and it has been wonderful working with Neil and Fiona again. It's also great having a new energy in the form of the new sidekick, DS Jamie Winter (Nick Hendrix). '
Manjinder has enjoyed meeting and working with Midsomer's very talented guest actors this series too.
'It's always lovely seeing older actors who have worked for years with huge portfolios of work behind them; we are privileged to get them on board. It makes it really exciting to find out who is part of the cast. I get to meet the actors at read-throughs but unfortunately I usually only get to work with them if their characters die and I have them lying on a slab!'
Manjinder explains what it is about her character, Dr Kam Karimore, which still draws her in.
'I like Kam's confidence and her ability to stand equal with the detectives. I really enjoy how passionate she is about her work. I love Kam's unapologetic nature and as a female character it is nice to play someone who is very good at her job and I like that she is both confident and able.'
Whilst she remains confident and able at work, the addition of DS Winter has Kam slightly flustered.
'She is slightly back-footed by DS Winter who she actually knows from her past but from a past she has almost forgotten about. His showing up brings up some old feelings... good and bad. Kam doesn't quite know where she stands with Winter, which she is not comfortable with. She likes to be in control and he doesn't make her feel like she is in control. In her work, Kam never lets anything throw her but in her personal life it's a little different...'
Playing a pathologist on the show must be difficult for Manjinder as she describes herself as 'terribly squeamish!'
'It's all about mind over matter. If I am in character I don't think about it but if I were having to do these things and deal with all of the blood I would find it very difficult. Kam is extremely scientific and she's used to it all. When I played a brain surgeon I found it really tough but I just had to remind myself the people doing it would not find it tough at all so it's a very peculiar thing. I conquer fears through parts.
'On Midsomer it's all about how much blood we actually show. You can't be too realistic but it has to look like murder so it's a constant balance. There's a middle ground for how we present a death and these poor actors get covered in this sticky red stuff. With this show, we are not explicit which is one of the reasons for the wide audience. My daughter actually watched the show for the first time recently and it was ok for her to see because there was nothing in there that would be too traumatic.'
Manjinder believes this is one of many reasons for Midsomer Murder's popularity and longevity.
'It's cross over television. You can sit with your whole family; with parents and children and you can get away with three generations watching it without it being offensive. There is something warm about it. This whole whodunit element, I know people who watch the show because they just love to try and guess who the murderer is. The strong plots and beautiful locations are also part of its charm. The writers are also so clever with the brilliant characters they come up with.'
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