Midsomer Murders: The Full Story

Fiona Dolman (Sarah) and Neil Dudgeon (John) with Sykes

NEIL Dudgeon’s debut tonight as the new leading man in Midsomer Murders has been overshadowed by the race row involving producer Brian True-May.

Today it was announced that Brian will step down from the show at the end of the new – 14th – series.

Four episodes have already been filmed and the remaining four went into production this week.

Production company All3Media said: “Brian apologises if his remarks gave unintended offence to any viewers.”

With ITV adding: “We welcome his apology and understand he will step down from his role on Midsomer Murders at the end of the current production run.”

The online version of my feature on Neil – published in today’s Manchester Evening News – is further down this page, together with extra material from our recent encounters.

But first let’s deal with less happy events.

Nine days ago it became clear trouble was brewing in Midsomer.

Brian had given an interview to Radio Times and it was beginning to cause a stir.

Every Monday morning the magazine sends out an email to members of the media listing the embargoed interview highlights in the next day’s issue.

The list that week included:

The secret behind the success of Midsomer Murders? It’s very English. Producer Brian True-May: “We just don’t have ethnic minorities involved. Because it wouldn’t be the English village with them.”

That was enough to set alarm bells ringing, with journalists asking to see the full version of the interview, which is then supplied under embargo as in any other week.

By lunchtime the story had also been picked up by national news agency the Press Association and filed to newsrooms across the nation.

All under a 0001 Tuesday embargo.

Brian True-May

By late afternoon ITV had issued a statement – embargoed to tie in with the Radio Times embargo – which read:

“We are shocked and appalled at these personal comments by Brian True-May which are absolutely not shared by anyone at ITV.  We are in urgent discussions with All3Media, the producer of Midsomer Murders, who have informed us that they have launched an immediate investigation into the matter and have suspended Mr True-May pending the outcome.”

Which ensured the Radio Times would obtain the national newspaper headlines they were after.

The Daily Telegraph couldn’t contain themselves, breaking the embargo by publishing the story online at 9:30pm on Monday night.

Before the floodgates opened from midnight onwards.

Followed by the oh-so-predictable wave after wave of phone-ins, vox-pops, reaction pieces and comment.

I’ve interviewed Brian True-May several times and remain to be convinced he’s as guilty as some sections of the media would like to paint him.

Midsomer Murders is a work of fiction, set in an England that, for most of us, simply doesn’t exist any more.

A nostalgic bubble of country cottages, pubs, churches and sewing circles straight out of the 1950s.

With the odd 21st century Volvo, mobile phone and modern day kitchen unit thrown into the mix.

All infused with a sense of humour sadly missed by those who are proud to say they never watch the show.

The fact that there are no non-white faces in the series (or at least none I can remember) never crossed my mind until Brian discussed it in the Radio Times interview.

Over the course of 15 years it was never raised or discussed by myself or any of my colleagues.

Now it sticks out like a sore thumb.

Of course black actors should be cast in Midsomer. There’s no excuse for any sort of discrimination.

But let’s get a sense of proportion about this whole row.

Brian True-May has made a mistake and paid the price.

He’s also produced a TV drama that has given pleasure to hundreds of millions of people around the world.

Most of whom, I’d wager, never once gave a thought to the all-white nature of Midsomer.

In that respect, we’re all at fault.

Brian was foolish to say what he said and, via his casting policy, leave himself open to accusations of racism.

But he doesn’t deserve to be treated like one of the killers in his own show.


Jason Hughes (Ben Jones, Neil Dudgeon (John Barnaby) and Barry Jackson (Dr Bullard)

NEIL Dudgeon makes his mark in the killing fields of Midsomer with an engaging sense of humour.

“Obviously I’m hoping that the enormous popularity of Midsomer Murders was not solely down to the presence of John Nettles. Otherwise we’ve had it, frankly,” he smiles.

There’s a new Barnaby at the helm in Midsomer Murders (ITV1, tonight, 8pm) when Neil, 50, arrives as Manchester University graduate Det Chief Insp John Barnaby.

Nettles’ decision to retire from the role of cousin Tom after 13 series sparked a hunt for a new leading man. Neil was the unanimous choice to take over.

Some will be watching with a keener eye than usual after producer Brian True-May sparked a race row by saying Midsomer represented “the last bastion of Englishness”. He will now step down at the end of this new series.

But there is some good news for Midsomer fans across the globe, as Neil fits in perfectly while giving the show a shot in the arm.

Jason Hughes provides continuity as sidekick detective Ben Jones, given the task of showing his new boss the towns, villages and characters of his new patch. In a clever twist, Jones is the one who is unsettled as Barnaby makes himself at home.

Former Heartbeat actress Fiona Dolman, 41, makes her entrance in Neil’s second episode – Dark Secrets – as wife Sarah, the new headmistress at Causton School.

John Barnaby tracks down killers with the help of his psychology degree from the University of Manchester. “There’s some play made of that,” explains Neil.

As with Nettles, Common As Muck, Life of Riley and Mrs Bradley Mysteries actor Neil provides the “strong, still centre” around which the main story, and guest stars, revolve.

His first film – Death In The Slow Lane – includes Samantha Bond and David Warner, while the second, screened next week, features Edward Fox, Phyllida Law, Haydn Gwynne, Neil Pearson and Beth Goddard.

Samantha Bond as Kate Cameron

“To use a cricketing anaology, it’s like going in first to bat. You’re there to stay there all day and keep playing a reasonably straight bat on things. And then, of course, Edward Fox comes in and starts slogging sixes over the pavilion, because you’re taking care of the other end. I like that very much.”

Neil was first seen in the series playing a guest role as a saucy gardener. He jokes: “The gardening wasn’t working out for me. I went to police college, discovered that I was actually related to Barnaby – it’s all explained in a later episode, I’m sure.”

Is he ready for the kind of racy mail that John, 67, used to receive from female fans? “That might happen. But I’ve got a racy wife, you see. She’s a very clever, sexy woman.”

Sarah leads John up the stairs to the bedroom in her first episode. “They’re a younger couple and it’s spiced up a little,” she grins. But the drama is careful never to stray from Midsomer’s now much discussed defined boundaries.

The new Mr and Mrs Barnaby don’t have children. But they do have a dog called Sykes. The seven-year-old cross-breed terrier is already a star of Hollywood blockbusters and has over 12,000 Facebook fans.

He’s best known for playing animal shelter dog Harvey in the Thinkbox commercial, voted Advert of the Year by ITV viewers last December. Neil reveals: “Sykes is the one who is really replacing John Nettles. I’m just dragging him in and out of shot occasionally.”

Neil filmed his first four Midsomer episodes between July and November last year and is about to begin work on four more to complete the new series.

“I’ve always been a fan of the show and I like it very much,” says Neil, who has taken the lead role in his stride. “As Mel Brooks used to say, it’s good to be the king. I know that they have good writers and they prepare a long way in advance. The script has been very thoroughly worked on before it gets anywhere near the actors.”

Did John Nettles give him any advice? “John is quite self-effacing and modest and wouldn’t presume to impose his view on you about anything. He’s too lovely. And I always kept thinking, ‘Oh, this is never going to happen anyway, so there’s no point in asking him loads of questions.’”

Midsomer Murders is sold to 231 territories around the world and Neil has already met TV executives from several countries. They all said, ‘We love your English humour. It’s a very crazy country, England.’

“People outside Britain think it’s funnier than we do. They must think there’s some sort of documentary element to it, that this is really what life in the shires and provinces of England is like. We’re all quite crazy and then occasionally it spills over into mass murder.”


Neil Dudgeon


I met up with Neil, Fiona and Sykes at a pub in Richmond, Surrey, last November and then again (minus the dog) at the series press launch in central London earlier this month.

Here are some edited extras from Neil for those who want to read more:

    Richmond November 2010

How did the role come about?

“About two years ago my agent phoned and said, ‘You know this thing about Midsomer Murders?’ And I said, ‘No, what?’ She said, ‘They’re thinking if they carry on with the show – and if they did…they’re thinking of you at the moment as possibly taking over the role from John Nettles.’ And I said, ‘This is the first I’ve heard of this.’ And she said, ‘No, no, no, I told you about this this.’ And I said, ‘I’m pretty sure I would have remembered it if you had mentioned that to me.’ (laughs)

“Anyway, that was about two years ago and I thought, ‘Well that’s very flattering and very lovely that anybody would think that such a marvellous part in such a great show, that they would think of me for such a thing…it’s very flattering. And I put the phone down and I thought, ‘I will never hear another thing about that. That’s just never going to happen.’ Because through your career at various stages people say to you, ‘Oh, so and so has been on and they really like you and they’re doing this film and they’re really interested in you for the new Bond or whatever,’ one of those things.

“And for about the first 15 years of your career you sit by the phone thinking, ‘Something’s going to happen here.’ And then, of course, after a couple of decades you think, ‘Look, those things never ever happen.’

“I was convinced that nothing would happen. And then about three months later I got another phone call saying, ‘Oh, Midsomer Murders have been on again and just to say that you’re still top of this list.’ Then about another three or six months after that I got another phone call saying, ‘Oh, they’ve spoken to ITV now about the whole thing and the Network are happy with you, so long as they don’t find anybody that they’re even happier with.’

“So again I just thought, ‘This is all charming of you but this is clearly never, ever, going to happen.’ I thought, ‘I’m not going to start thinking about it otherwise I’ll get all excited and then I’ll open my presents on Christmas morning and it’ll be a terrible disappointment.’

Jason Hughes (DS Ben Jones), Barry Jackson (Dr Bullard) and Neil Dudgeon (DCI John Barnaby)

“Then there was a call last summer: ‘Oh, you’ve been offered this episode of Midsomer Murders to play John Barnaby in this episode.’ Then they explained if they made the policeman John Barnaby, it would be an opportunity to introduce you. And I thought, ‘Yeah, great, I’ll go and do that.’ And still was thinking, ‘But that will be it. It’ll be one episode and nothing will happen.’

“And then being involved doing the show, I just started to hear more things about it being a little bit more advance, a little bit more concrete than I had previously thought that it might be. So then I had a little bit of a thought that it might happen. But I thought it probably won’t, so don’t get excited.

“And then just before Christmas last year I got a call saying, ‘They’ve commissioned the first four episodes with you as John Barnaby.’ And then in January they commissioned another four. So we’re just coming to the end of filming the first four and then we start again in March to do another four next year.

‘And it is actually happening now. So I am having to acknowledge that it has actually happened. Against all my thinking, it has turned out to be true. Though I did go on thinking this still isn’t going to happen, even when I was going out shopping for the costumes and going to a read through. I was thinking, ‘Whoever the new Jeremy Beadle is going to run in and say – no, it’s all been an elaborate hoax. They’re not really going on with it.

“It’s safer to err on the side of assuming that things aren’t going to work out well. Probably in life generally, it’s better to think it’s going to be awful. And then if it’s not, it’s a nice surprise.”

Any reservations about taking the role?

“The only sort of reservation really would be just about quite what the change would constitute. Because in a way you’re going into something that’s been so successful and has gone on for so long – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I was assuming that everybody concerned would think, ‘Well, let’s keep it as it is.’ But you can’t go in and keep it exactly as it is, because I’m not John.

“But I’ve always been a fan of the show. I like the show very much. I know that they have good writers, they prepare a long way in advance, which are great things in television, which are harder to come by these days – the script has been very thoroughly worked on before it gets anywhere near the actors. So when you get it, you know that it’s a well-written script, a good story and all that. So those sort of production values are very strong. And that’s a kind of thing you look for. And the first among that is always the script. It’s the most basic thing – you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.

“The only other thing, which has yet to be discovered, is whether the nation and the world sit on their sofa at some point and go, ‘Oh, with John Nettles in it we loved it. But with this bloke, no, we’re just not having it.’”

Neil Dudgeon and Jason Hughes

His early guest role in the series?

“He was a saucy gardener incarnation years ago. And again with another fantastic cast full of lovely women, I remember. It was a very happy experience. I remember it being very sunny, which it always is in Midsomer, and I spent a lot of time going round in wellingtons with soily hands and appearing out of bushes with Belinda Lang and people like that, which is always nice to do. Who wouldn’t want to do that? So I knew what a very enjoyable show it was to be in before I became the Barnaby man.”

Did he talk to John about the role?

“I did the one in Brighton, so it was being talked about then. All my stuff in it was with him, so we talked about it generally. I don’t think there was any specific advice that he gave me.

“The character is created in the first two episodes of the new series, written by Michael Aitkens, whose a very marvellous writer. He wrote the one in Brighton as well. But I think the Brighton episode wasn’t really written initially with the idea of introducing this character. So there wasn’t a lot to go on about the character in that script.”

Did John warn him about some of the more eccentric fans?

“No, he didn’t. I think there’s a lady from Norway who comes once a year to spend a few days on set. I haven’t met this lady yet but I’m looking forward to that. I’ve met people from TV companies in various countries who buy the show and speaking to them about why the show is popular everywhere – or Australia or Sweden or anywhere…it seems as though the main recurring thing that they all said was, ‘Oh we love your English humour. It’s a very crazy country, England.’ So I think that’s the thing that people like about the show more abroad, is the humour of the show. But in terms of fans, no, he hasn’t warned me about anything. Perhaps he should. Maybe I should get in touch with him.”

Any concerns?

“It concerns me that it should carry on being a hit show. I’d be less pleased to have my name associated with, ‘Oh, it’s him who took over from John Nettles and ruined that hit show.’ I wouldn’t like my name associated with that. I love the show and I’m very proud and happy to be a part of it. I hope it goes on for as long as possible. Obviously the show has lost John Nettles but it’s gained me, hopefully, and that there’s a new element, and Fiona my wife, and we have a dog Sykes.”

Dark Secrets: Julian Ovenden, Beth Goddard, Neil Pearson and Lucy Briggs-Owen

Not worried about being stopped in Sainsbury’s all the time?

“Waitrose, maybe. No. I don’t think so. You can’t not want to do well-known parts in order that you remain obscure. It’s a trade-off. You don’t want to be particularly pestered in Sainsbury’s but it depends what you’re known for or in what way you’re known. If people want to doorstep you and stake out your home and chase you down the street, I imagine that’s quite boring. But I don’t really expect that Midsomer Murders is that sort of show and has that sort of following. I suppose if I was 22…in terms of other sorts of intrusions…there’s nothing very interesting to find out about me.”

He’s played policemen before:

“There’s an awkward thing that a lot of TV policemen will tell you is that when you do interview scenes, you’re the one who’s leading the thing. You’ve got to remember the whole scene…also you have to sum up the plot quite a lot. I don’t know if I’ve learned anything other than it’s difficult. You always have to remember all the questions in an interview scene and you have to be able to articulate the entire plot, usually several times, in an entire episode.”

Midsomer v CSI and The Wire:

“Midsomer Murders is obviously nothing like those and you can’t compete with those sort of things. It’s not in our field of expertise to be very detailed and brilliant about the real intracacies of real police work. We’re more in the English whodunnit, Agatha Christie world. And also a great thing that I love about Midsomer Murders, if you took the murders out of it you would still have the beautiful countryside, the villages and the characters, the people, the relationships in small communities and the rivalries and the things in families and all that. And you bring in fantastic actors to do these beautifully written parts in this setting. And you have a rather marvellous English drama / comedy going on, even without the fact that they then start killing each other.”

Cousin John is / was again seen at what turns out to be Tom Barnaby’s retirement party and then takes over in full in the first episode of the new series:

“We’ve not been told why he’s left Brighton and why he’s moved to Causton. But if feels like a man with some shackles taken off. He loves it in the country with his dog and his wife and his nice house in a rural setting. But I imagine he’s quite surprised. He’s gone off to this quiet little backwater and then finds its the murder capital of Europe. It probably takes him a bit by surprise.”

Fiona Dolman as Sarah Barnaby with Sykes

Mrs Barnaby is the headmistress of the Causton school:

“And, of course, he’s there about five minutes and mysterious things start going on and people start dropping like flies, as you would expect. I think it’s something about the Barnabys, they just attract an awful lot of murderers. I think there’s something in the Barnaby karma.

“We do find out that he’s done a psychology degree. I think he’s pretty clever and he loves being a policeman, meeting all the various interesting and strange people in Midsomer and figuring out the puzzle of the murder. All the things that we all like about whodunnits. I think he’s rather fascinated by it. As I imagine real life policemen must be.

“I did a cop show a number of years ago for the BBC called Out Of The Blue, set in Sheffield, and I went out one night with some plain clothes CID, driving around Sheffield in the middle of the night. It was like the hidden city that only they knew about and that your normal law-abiding Sheffield citizens would never have known about.

“I said to this Detective Sergeant, ‘What’s the best thing about being a policeman?’ And he gave me a brilliant answer. He said, ‘The best thing about being a policeman is, it’s the closest you can get to being a villain without actually being a villain.’ And I thought that was fantastic. Because actually you’re living the life of a villain and being a good guy who’s not afraid of the police coming after you. So you’re living in that world but on the side of the angels, as it were.”

John Barnaby has a dark sense of humour?

“It’s very dry and very dark. I haven’t thought, ‘I want to do it differently to what John Nettles did.’ It’s just, this is the script and I can only do that as I read it. He’s pretty clever. I think he likes to have a bit of a laugh while he’s doing this. There are several bits where he winds up Jones, the Sergeant.

“And whoever he’s with, he can act like he’s rather ignorant and a bit stupid and you can walk all over him – I’m just a thick copper. Or he can come on quite hard and quite tough with somebody. A policeman has to be able to play all these different roles.”

Working with cross-breed terrier Sykes the dog:

“He’s the one who is really replacing John Nettles. I’m just dragging him in and out of shot occasionally. He’s great. He’s lovely and charming, funny and marvellous. But obviously he is a dog. It takes a while to film. It really takes a handful of sausage or biscuit to get him to come to me.”

Does he have a wish list of actors to work with?

“I worked with Frank Finlay in Common As Muck and it would be great to have him guest in this. I feel as though Midsomer Murders is a good place to see older actors. Just about everybody I know has said to me, ‘Oh, I’ve never done a Midsomer Murders.’ Everybody wants to do it.”

His thoughts on John Nettles?

“I first met him doing Midsomer Murders over 10 years ago. It was very nice just being there with him. Seeing the man doing it, shadowing him. To see him doing it was an education. He is a very modest and a very lovely man, John. I always loved his acting. And I think it’s a kind of acting that’s often very underrated. It’s not flashy and flamboyant and eye-catching look at me. He’s always deflecting everyting towards the other actor, which is a very lovely thing. And carrying a show like this for as long as he did, apart from the other things that he’s already done, is something he’s done with great skill, grace and charm. And a lovelier man you couldn’t meet.”

David Warner as Peter Fossett and Jason Hughes as DS Ben Jones

    London March 2011

The new Mr and Mrs Barnaby?

“We have a full and frank relationship. She’s a career woman, a lovely headmistress. Now we’ve moved to Causton, she’s got her own school. We’re very proud of her. And the dog likes her as well.”

I asked Neil if it had sunk in yet:

“Not really. I always thought, ‘This will never happen.’ And now here I am and I’m still thinking, ‘This isn’t really happening. They’re not actually going to broadcast it.’ I’ve been away doing other things (Life Of Riley) since probably just about since we last met, so I haven’t been thinking about it all that much to be honest. I’m just starting to think about it again, because we start filming again in a couple of weeks. Yeah, I suppose I’ve gradually got used to the idea. The next thing, obviously, is it’ll start going out in a few weeks and then see what people make of it. Hopefully people will like it and it will go on from there for who knows how long.”

How will he cope with the level of fame Midsomer brings?

“I should think it’ll go to my head, I’ll go all silly. I’ll be running around Sainsbury’s going, ‘Yes, it’s me, it’s me!’ (laughs) I don’t know. I suppose it depends whether people recognise me or bother about it. I think it depends where you go and how you behave as well – or whether they want to rush up to you and hit you.”

Racy fan mail?

“There’ll probably be a lot of stuff from dog lovers saying, ‘You shouldn’t give him biscuits,’ and that sort of thing. I don’t know. You have to wait and see whether people pay any attention.”

Being described as the new boy?

“Well, he is the new boy. I’m hoping this will really give my career a little boost, you know.” (laughs)

Was he a fan of Midsomer Murders?

“I’ve watched it since the beginning. I’ve always been a great fan of it. I think for all the reasons that I imagine most other people are fans of the show – a nice two-hour whodunnit to occupy you of an evening is a glorious thing, isn’t it? And the humour of the show that, hopefully, is still there. And the fantastic actors that they get in and the great scripts. They’re all the things that you want to settle down of an evening and watch. They’re all the things that I’ve always liked about the show.”

Dark Secrets: Edward Fox and Phyllida Law as William and Mary Bingham

Will it be different under his watch?

“I can’t really say that I am able to be objective enough, other than I did think – I’ve seen episode one and episode two so far – and with both of them, I thought the nice little teaser at the beginning…like in the second one as the car goes into the pond and then Jim Parker’s marvellous music starts and Midsomer Murders comes up on screen…you think, ‘It’s Midsomer Murders! It’s great. Who’s in the car? Why are they in the pond?’ I’m just hooked straight away.

“Most actors will say this, they don’t love looking at themselves, really, But looking at everybody else, there’s loads of fantastic actors come and do the show. They’re great. And my overriding thing about seeing these first two is that I think it looks just like it’s always looked. It doesn’t feel to me like anything very much has changed really. I obviously can’t really be the judge of that. You and everybody else watching will be the judge of it. But I think it all looks and feels like Midsomer Murders, I think, which is what we would all hope.

“There was never a question of, ‘Oh, the show’s not working anymore, we’ve got to do something radically different.’ It’s been working obviously fantastically well all these years, John has decided to leave it, retire….whatever reason Brian thought of me, I don’t know, I’ve never liked to ask. But, hopefully, it will just go on.”

Your favourite TV detective of all time?

“Who has been my favourite TV detective, apart from Tom Barnaby? My second favourite TV detective would be…as a boy, I very much liked Sexton Blake. Who? I liked Alfred Burke as Frank Marker (in Public Eye). Again, that’s many, many years ago. And Callan, of course. He was rather marvellous, wasn’t he? Going back a long way. I can’t think of who I’ve liked very much since then as the sleuth type. Because I think the sleuth sort of drama has been rather overtaken by the police drama, which is a slightly different thing in a way, isn’t it?”

Nervous following John Nettles. Speak to him?

“He didn’t offer advice or words of wisdom particularly or anything. He said, ‘Run for your life!’ (joke) I did the Sword Of Guillaume in Brighton a year or so again. But John’s far too modest, he would never presume to offer advice or anything. And I always kept thinking, ‘Oh, this is never going to happen anyway, so there’s no point asking him loads of questions – give me some tips about a job that’s never actually going to happen.’”

Neil Dudgeon with John Nettles and Jason Hughes in The Sword Of Guillaume

Difficult to come in as main lead having been a fan?

“I would hope it’s helped because I think if you’re a fan of the show and you know what you like about it and, hopefully, understand what other people like about it, I would hope that one would come to it understanding what the show is and what it requires and what it is that people like about it and what you’re fitting into tonally.

“I think it would be silly to come along and do Midsomer Murders and think, ‘Oh, I want to do it like it’s CSI or something, some sort of hard-hitting gritty, city, urban thing.’ It would be silly. So I think you have to know the tone, the style, of what you’re going into. But then that’s sort of true of anything, really. You read the script and you think, ‘This requires this.’ The fact that it’s been going for such a long time means that you know more about what you’re going into. But it’s all in the script and in the feel of the thing anyway.”

John Barnaby’s background?

“There is a reference to an uncle. That’s it. That’s as much as I know. I think with some shows you get a bible, it gives you all the background to the character, their histories, where they met and where they went to school and all those sorts of things. And there isn’t any of that here. So I can’t tell you anything. What you see is absolutely what you get and then next week there may be more news about his uncle or he may never be referred to again. Or it may not have been true in the first place.”

Did he realise how big a global hit Midsomer Murders was before joined it? Now done international promotional work:

“No. People say it sells in 231 territories (not countries – some have more than one TV station taking it) and we did talk to people from around the world. I felt slightly like an imposter because I was turning up saying, ‘I’m going to be Barnaby. So in Hong Kong you’ll be seeing me being Barnaby in three or four years. But just to say, hello now.’”

Describe his way of detecting?

“There’s some play made of the fact that he’s done a degree in psychology. The thing that I found very interesting about Michael Aitken’s lovely first two scripts is Barnaby’s ability to change himself slightly, depending on the situation and who he’s talking to. Which I imagine as a policeman you would have to do.

“You have to get over yourself, really, and think, ‘This isn’t about me, this is about finding out what I want. What is the way that I’m going to get this from you? Am I going to bully you, threaten you, seduce you, charm you? What am I going to do?’ And I think his quickness at reading a person and a situation in those terms, in terms purely of, ‘I don’t care what you think about me as a policeman or a person or anything, I need to know these things. I need to get these little bits of the jigsaw to put in place.’ And it is that sort of assembling the bits of the jigsaw. Until you come to the moment where usually Jones says something brilliant and Barnaby suddenly says, ‘That’s it, of course! Quickly, take me to the golf club or whatever it is.’ That’s the thing I find interesting about his psychology, is working with people,”

Managing to find your way around Midsomer Murders country?

“No. Hopeless. That’s why Jones drives Barnaby around all over the place because he doesn’t know where he is. He’s lost. He doesn’t know anybody. He doesn’t understand what’s going on. And then just stumbles over clues and finds out there’s lots more murderers about.

“I hoped that the new Barnaby might be rather better at clearing up the terrible murder rate in Midsomer but he’s had no more success than his predecessor, thus far. He may be doing slightly worse, if anything.”

What has been the most revealing thing about being a leading man?

“The very nice thing about being the leading man is you’re just sort of there all the time. You’re on set quite a lot and you’re close to the centre of the whole process of creating it. And also you’ve got the responsibility for it, looking after it. Especially something like this that is so loved by so many people, you think you have a responsibility to keep it good.”

Wish list of guests?

“There’s a few mates who I might mention along the way. I’ve been trying to think of exotic people, huge stars, and I’m struggling. Max Von Sydow would be good. You think of older actors who might come out and do marvellous work for a couple of weeks in the countryside and enjoy it. It’s a wonderful opportunity to meet and work with people of that ilk and that calibre.”

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