Midsomer Murders is back for a new series of four feature length murder mysteries on ITV soon and here series star Neil Dudgeon talks about becoming a father in the new series and why seeing his face on a T-shirt freaked him out.
Neil Dudgeon gets to perform alongside the crème of the British acting fraternity in Midsomer Murders but often finds his scenes stolen by a baby or a dog. He explains: “Barnaby becoming a doting dad is a strong storyline in the new series so we now have domestic scenes with his wife, dog and baby, which actually means two babies, as we work with twins. You know exactly what you’re supposed to be doing in the scene and then on comes one baby, who starts crying, so we get the other one, and then discover that Sykes the dog has wandered off.
“So it’s always a bit complicated but because you know they are really not actors but delightful babies and a wonderful little dog you just have to go with it. You accept that it doesn’t really matter what you’ve said or done in the scene after all. After all, the best actors can be unpredictable sometimes and that’s half the fun!”
Neil admits that his favourite murders are the more exotic ones.
“In the new series, a man gets drowned in a bowl of eggs and live eels. It’s a nasty way to go but there’s a reason for it. The ingenuity is marvellous and there are some pretty rococo ways of dying in Midsomer. My favourite has to be from an episode set at a vintage car rally when unfortunately a young man is killed by a starting handle. I also liked the one when Martine McCutcheon was killed by a giant wheel of blue cheese. The more bizarre the better!
“It’s not shockingly violent like the things you see on the news. For me, gritty is more about emotional truth than graphic violence. But I don’t live in fear of a gargoyle dropping off my roof and crushing me to death in real life, and nor am I kept awake by the chance of getting impaled in bed by a medieval chandelier!”
Despite the more extravagant murders, Neil believes Midsomer Murders never strays into farce.
“It doesn’t take itself too seriously but I don’t think we go too far in being tongue in cheek. You get the squires and lords who can be eccentric in beautiful surroundings but we have to play it straighter and that’s what keeps it real. The discrepancy between the rural idyll and the seething mass of jealousies and death that runs underneath is what sets it apart.”
The popularity of the series means that Neil often encounters fans from far-flung countries.
“We met a group from Sweden who were on a Midsomer Murders tour. They turned up at the same place where we were filming and applauded us as we came out to do the scene. Then they told some fans from the Netherlands where we were and they came along too. Another day two chaps from Germany turned up with T-shirts with our faces on which was a bit alarming!”