Q&A: ‘Midsomer Murders’ actors talk season 20

March 28, 2022 Alyssa Beno Leave a Comment

Britain’s fan-favorite whodunit drama series, Midsomer Murders, returns for its 20th season this April. It centers on Detective Chief Inspector John Barnaby (Neil Dudgeon) and his partner, Jamie Winter (Nick Hendrix), who are kept busy investigating murders despite the apparent idyllic nature of the county.

Ahead of its April 7 premiere on PBS Wisconsin, American Public Television spoke with Dudgeon and Hendrix about their characters, favorite memories of being on set, and more. Midsomer Murders season 20 premieres 8 p.m. Thursday, April 7 on PBS Wisconsin.

What adventures are in store for DCI Barnaby and DS Winter this season?

Hendrix: This season, there is some exciting action mixed with some very funny comedic moments. Whilst I get to do a lot of running through forests, wrestling people into rivers and lakes, Neil Dudgeon’s character, DCI John Barnaby, is always there ready to laugh at me as I emerge in my suit and tie, drenched from head to toe. 

Dudgeon: There’s a very enjoyable episode with a bit of a shock in it that is set at a local rugby. There’s also an episode that is set in a village where a famous cartoonist used to live, now deceased, and they run a yearly convention. So we actually pretty much took over a village and dressed everybody we could find in superhero costumes. There’s a lovely episode set at the circus, where a great secret is revealed about Detective Chief Inspector Barnaby. He has a bit of a problem that most people don’t know about, and it’s a bit awkward for him.

Will we meet any new cast members?

Hendrix: I am very much looking forward to people meeting Dr. Fleur Perkins, our new pathologist who is played by Annette Badland (Ted Lasso, Doctor Who). Fleur has this slightly older, wiser quality, and so she schools Barnaby and Winter constantly, which actually allows them to buddy up more as a team. So the dynamic is slightly different, in a very good way, as we have this new, hilarious headmistress who doesn’t shy away from telling Barnaby and Winter off.

In the premiere episode, “The Ghost of Causton Abbey,” Causton is abuzz when a new brewery opens on the site of a famously cursed Abbey, but excitement turns to fear when a man is found boiled to death in one of the vats. DCI Barnaby and DS Winter will need to work out the true motive. This story marks the first appearance of pathologist Dr. Fleur Perkins (Annete Badland, Ted Lasso).

How would you describe your character? What makes him a good policeman? 

Dudgeon: John Barnaby is quite a sort of self-effacing character. He loves the idea of justice. He’s very interested in people. He wants to get justice for the victims of the terrible crimes that they meet. And he’s also a very sort of domestic homebody sort of person. He’s very happy with his home and family life. I always get the idea though that if there isn’t a murder to be working on, he’s a bit antsy, as he likes to be working. I guess he likes the puzzle and likes to bring justice to the world. 

Of all the ways an unlucky Midsomer inhabitant has met their end, which one do you find the most memorable?

Dudgeon: One that I always have to mention is the man who was found tied to a tree in the woods. And his shirt was torn open, he’d been covered in truffle oil. And he’d been eaten alive by a wild boar. I mean, again, every bit of that, you just think, “That is so brilliant and so twisted.” 

Nick, what was it like for you as an actor joining the main cast of a series in its 19th season?

Hendrix: Twenty years of any series is quite an achievement, and as an actor it feels wonderful to be a part of a show that has run for that long. People love it all over the world, which is amazing; I get messages from people online and they’ll be from India or Sweden or Australia, which is awesome. It has been a very special show to be a part of. Whenever you come across anyone that either watches it, knows about it or has even been in it as an actor, the response is always very positive, and there is nothing better than being a part of something that people love.

What do you think is the lasting appeal of Midsomer Murders?

Dudgeon: I think the British countryside is a very important part of it. The pubs, the village greens, the churches, the beautiful houses, all those sorts of things. I think people like that very much. And the quiz element of the whodunit. The whodunit is perennially a popular thing where people start off thinking, “Oh, it’s the bloke in the hat did it. Oh, no, he’s dead. He’s dead. No, no, it’s the woman in the green jumper. Oh, no, she’s dead.” I think people love to play that sort of game.

Can you share a memorable experience you’ve had with a Midsomer Murders fan? 

Dudgeon: In Italy, this little lady stood in front of me shouting at me in Italian. I picked up she was saying, “Barnaby, Barnaby.” Then her friend came up and said, “Ah, she wants me to say she’s very excited because she’s a police officer and she’s also writing a PhD on fictional detectives and real life detecting. And the two detectives she’s writing about as her fictional detectives are Inspector Barnaby and Inspector Montalbano the Italian Sicilian detective.” 

Do you have any favorite experiences with guest actors on Midsomer Murders? 

Hendrix: In the first episode this series we have the musical theater legend, Elaine Paige. Elaine plays a fading movie star who is glamorous and eccentric and she played the role so well. When I was younger, I performed in part of a musical theater contest, and coincidentally Elaine was one of the judges. Whilst I didn’t win the competition, the next day my agent called me to say he had received a message from Elaine Paige who wanted me to come to her flat and perform. So I went to her flat, walked into her living room where this amazing grand piano was and sang with her. It was an amazing moment, and I had the chance to remind her on set which was wonderful. Neil and I really enjoyed chatting to her and hearing her stories from over the years; she sang at the White House for the president! 

What do you think John Barnaby would do for a living if he weren’t a policeman?

Dudgeon: I imagine that when he hangs up his handcuffs, he and Sarah will go off somewhere and open up a nice tea shop or something, and he’ll make cakes. I think in a way, the mixing together of all the ingredients and stirring it all in and putting it all together, it is a bit like the jigsaw thing of putting together a case and finding the murderer. Then he put all the pieces of the cakey jigsaw together and pops it in his oven and then out comes the solution. That’d be a nice thing for him to do, wouldn’t it? What harm can come to you in a kitchen? Lots. There’s lots of food-related deaths in Midsomer.

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