WRITTEN IN THE STARS
GUEST STARS - INTERVIEWS
ACE BHATTI - Harry
Ace Bhatti had a rather unusual audition for Midsomer Murders - doing a handstand!
"When I went to my audition I had been out in LA for three months where I signed up for a yoga class. I thought it was a basic one and there were people there older than me who could do the most amazing moves, so I thought if they can do it, I certainly can. The next day I could hardly move and I kept falling over in the class but by the end I had mastered a handstand. It was only much later that I realised I had gone to the advanced class by mistake!
"I knew Harry in the story was a yoga teacher so the first thing I did at my audition was a handstand. I got a laugh and a round of applause - and I got the job."
As well as teaching yoga, Harry is the local chemist in Midsomer Stanton.
Says Ace: "He has a great Morris Minor van which I really loved driving. My father had one and I thought it was an amazing car. But when I got in this particular one for filming, I realised how far we have come. It just about managed to go up the hill!
"Harry has a daughter who is very bright. She is an only child and he is a single parent who has taken care of her from a very young age. He is a spiritual person but he carries a lot of baggage. He feels the local astronomical society was responsible for his wife's death so when his daughter Gagan gets involved with them he gets very over-protective. He has a sharp temper and becomes a suspect."
Ace was delighted to win the role in Midsomer Murders.
"It has huge appeal, it's so beautifully shot and it's made with such care. It's a world known to itself - it's modern and old-fashioned at the same time."
The role reunited Ace with series star Jason Hughes. "Jason and I knew each other from drama school, we were in the same year, and we also appeared in Coming Up for Channel 4. We both came from fairly humble beginnings and we have now done relatively well. It was lovely to see him again," he says.
Ace - a nickname since his schooldays - is well known for his role as psychopathic GP Dr Khan in EastEnders. "I was in it for a year and my role was built up into a huge Christmas ending which was great. I went out for a drink on New Year's Eve and I was mobbed - I didn't realise the amount of interest there was!
"Throughout my career I have been very lucky in playing so many different characters - pimps, lawyers and psychos. I'm now back in theatre in a UK tour of John Godber's Bouncers so I can show my comedic side too. I like variety and the challenge of a new character."
Ace's other credits include The Sarah Jane Adventures, Band of Gold, Cardiac Arrest, Holding On, NCS: Manhunt, Grease Monkeys, New Street Law and The Shadow Line.
MAUREEN LIPMAN - Mags
Maureen Lipman could easily relate to Mags, the astrologist she plays in 'Written in the Stars'.
"Mags is one of those women for whom the New Age is a way of getting through life. She's stuck in a stolid relationship and her work as an astrologist and doing horoscopes on a newspaper makes her feel important. It gives her a place in the community and the status of someone on the edge of fame," she explains.
"She is not fantastically sexy or entertaining, so she has thrown herself into being the Linda Snell of the village. She wears floaty scarves, beads and bells, lots of purples and soft greens prettily arranged but with no originality. She's a little pretentious and if you are looking for truth you would have to work hard.
"I do believe in horoscopes and astrology - it's a bit like holistic medicine is to medicine, you have an interest in it. I feel there is more than we know in heaven and earth. The ancient Greeks believed in it, and wars have been fought on days predicted by the stars. But I admit that I read my horoscope and if it is a good one believe in it, but if it's a bad one I don't - I think we all do really!"
The role meant a poignant reunion for Maureen with director Renny Rye, whom she last met more than 30 years ago.
"Renny was the second assistant on The Evacuees in 1976, written by my husband Jack Rosenthal. We hadn't worked together since then, so it was wonderful to meet up and compare memories. It was a very special thing for us both.
"I also enjoyed working with Kelly Price, who plays Mags' deputy editor. We were in A Little Night Music together and all the kids on that were like my kids. Tim Wallers is also in the episode and we know each other from The Cabinet Minister."
Adds Maureen: "In this business you make six different families a year and some stick and some don't. Because Midsomer Murders is a very easy show to go into, I didn't feel like an outsider, which you can on some long-running series. Quite a lot of the time I am making bricks out of straw and that requires a lot of patience and self-belief to make it real, so Midsomer was good."
Maureen's many credits include Couples, About Face, Eskimo Day, Coronation Street, He Kills Coppers, Ladies of Letters, The Pianist, Absurd Person Singular and Re:Joyce!
"I do get recognised a lot in the street, but I started working in 1967 so it's a long time. I just directed Barefoot in the Park and that was a first for me, and I'd love to do more. I'm also doing a programme for the BBC on memory and then I'm back in theatre in a new play called Old Money. I don't seem to stop working but I get enormous pleasure from it."
Maureen also relishes her time with her family. "My son writes for the Discovery Channel and my daughter has produced lots of plays. I also have a baby granddaughter Eva - she's my first and I'm absolutely astonished by the wave of love that I get."
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