Champions actress Alexandra Bastedo dies at 67Bookmark and Share

Monday, 13 January 2014 - Reported by John Bowman
Alexandra Bastedo as Sharron MacreadyThe actress Alexandra Bastedo who played Sharron Macready in the cult '60s ITV series The Champions died yesterday of cancer at the age of 67.

Born in Hove, the keen animal-lover's original ambition was to be a vet, but showbusiness beckoned and she made her film debut in 1963 as one of the title characters in 13 Frightened Girls - aka The Candy Web.

More films followed, as did TV, which led to the multi-lingual Bastedo being cast as one of the three eponymous Champions - United Nations agents with perfected human abilities given to them by a secret civilisation following a plane crash in Tibet.

The sci-fi/action/adventure series - which also starred William Gaunt and Stuart Damon - was created by Dennis Spooner and Monty Berman and ran for 30 episodes between September 1968 and April 1969. In her biography on her website, Bastedo wrote how being in the show changed her life:
Apart from becoming a household name in England, Scotland and Wales I became an international star, particularly in Spain and South America where they called me "La Bastedo".
Over the course of her acting career, she appeared in many more films and TV series, including Batman Begins, EastEnders, and Absolutely Fabulous. Her real dream, though, was to rescue animals, and she founded the Alexandra Bastedo Champions Animal Sanctuary, which at first was based at Almodington, near Chichester, in West Sussex. She and her husband - the actor, writer, and director Patrick Garland - then moved to nearby West Chiltington, where the sanctuary was also relocated.

A passionate advocate of animal protection, Bastedo wrote a memoir entitled Beware Dobermanns, Donkeys and Ducks plus a number of books on the welfare of cats and dogs. In addition, she was patron to a number of animal welfare organisations, including Compassion in World Farming, the Wildlife Aid Foundation, the National Animal Welfare Trust, Greyhounds in Need, and Naturewatch.

Yesterday, the actor and friend Peter Egan, who along with Gaunt is a patron of the ABC Animal Sanctuary, tweeted:

Garland died last April, aged 78.

FILTER: - ITV - The Champions - Obituary

The Musketeers start date confirmed and interviews releasedBookmark and Share

Thursday, 9 January 2014 - Reported by John Bowman
The BBC's new drama The Musketeers will start on Sunday 19th January at 9pm, it has been confirmed.

The 10-part series is being billed as a fresh and contemporary take on the characters created by Alexandre Dumas for his novel, set in 17th-century Paris.

Written and created by Adrian Hodges, it was filmed in Prague and stars Luke Pasqualino as D'Artagnan, Tom Burke as Athos, Santiago Cabrera as Aramis, and Howard Charles as Porthos. It will also feature Peter Capaldi as Cardinal Richelieu, Maimie McCoy as Milady, Hugo Speer as Treville, Tamla Kari as Constance Bonacieux, Alexandra Dowling as Queen Anne, and Ryan Gage as King Louis.

It has been directed by Toby Haynes, Saul Metzstein, Farren Blackburn, Richard Clark, and Andy Hay, with music by Murray Gold.

Interviews with the cast plus an introduction penned by Hodges are given below:

Our new series of The Musketeers is based on the famous characters created by Alexandre Dumas - D'Artagnan, Athos, Porthos and Aramis, some of the most evocative names in all fiction, names synonymous with adventure, heroism, courage and self-sacrifice. This new version is not an adaptation of the book, but rather a series of new adventures sometimes inspired by the novel, sometimes by the events of the period, and sometimes by more contemporary issues given a historical spin. Why not attempt a new adaptation? Of course that was an option, but there have been many, many versions of the book's justly celebrated story - some wonderful, some not so wonderful - and I simply felt the time was right to do something different with the founding myth of the Musketeers and to do what Dumas himself did with history - respect it, use it wisely, but also have fun with it. I hope Dumas's spirit will forgive us the liberties we take in this new set of variations on the classic story he created; at all times we tried to be faithful to the spirit of his writing, though clearly not to the letter.

So why The Musketeers and why now? It seemed to me that although the adventure genre - however broadly defined - has remained evergreen in the cinema, it had been a long time since I'd seen anything of this kind on TV, at least outside of the family slots and dark hybrid fantasies like Game Of Thrones. Have we, as an audience, grown bored with the ideas of courage, selflessness, romance and heroism associated with the genre? I seriously doubt it. I suspect, and hope, there is a serious appetite for this kind of material amongst the TV audience, something different to police and hospital shows (good as those often are), something that isn't science fiction but which does take place in a world wildly different and infinitely more exotic than our own.

Perhaps the problem is that the whole notion of "swashbuckling" has become fraught with cliché and is full of traps for the unwary. Too often, swashbuckling has become a kind of code word for insubstantial characterisation, endless swordfights which have little or no consequence, and a kind of old-fashioned approach to storytelling which is dull and encrusted with period trappings and lame jokes. To put it simply, too often the adventure genre is lightweight and disposable. It just doesn't have enough weight to captivate a modern audience that is perhaps more cynical and certainly more aware of storytelling tricks than any before it.

There are a number of ways to update the genre; you can take the mickey affectionately - as in Pirates Of The Caribbean - or simply transpose everything we used to associate with the swashbuckler and put it in a different genre, as with almost any of the Marvel Superhero films or most Westerns and space-set films. But what I wanted to do was take the genre seriously, provide everything the audience expects from it - period detail, sword fights, muskets, brave and romantic heroes and heroines, enormous risks, rescues at the last minute and so on - and also come up with something that felt, dare I say, relevant.

In other words, I wanted to write something that wasn't jaded or cynical, and which felt like it mattered, but which also felt modern, exciting and involving, while always trying to respect the conventions of the genre. I didn't want to write something that was pastiche or satire, nor something that was po-faced and glum. After all, if The Musketeers isn't romantic, action-packed fun, then what is it?

There are a number of ways to tackle the concept of modernity in a television adventure drama - Sherlock's successful updating is certainly one that stands out. But that kind of outright conversion to the modern era didn't feel right for The Musketeers; I'm not sure the concept could really make sense outside of its original setting. So right from the start I decided we had to keep the framework everyone knows but then bring a certain modern attitude to it, something that acknowledges all the conventions of the genre, while also playing with them, sometimes humorously but never in such a way that we fail to show respect. I love this genre; I don't want to mock it. I just want it to seem as much fun to modern audiences as it did to me when I first saw Richard Lester's wonderful version back in the early 1970s.

My most essential job was to look at the famous characters and give them a fresh look and feeling. Of course, all the characteristics we expect from these four famous names are here but hopefully in ways that will surprise and intrigue. It was a case of looking at the characters in exactly the same way as I would any others I try to create - who are they, really? What matters to them? What secrets do they keep? What world do they live in? What is the true cost of heroism? It's about making them people a modern audience readily recognises and understands: heroes, definitely, but heroes who are not straightforward, who are very human and who recognise that every time they draw their swords, someone, perhaps even them, might die. And die for real. Above all I want these stories to matter to the audience; I want them to care passionately about the fate of our leading men and women, to feel invested. That way, the adventures our characters face really mean something, and every sword-fight, every ambush, every romance has real consequences in a world where there are enormous stakes to play for. But at the same time, humour is written into the DNA of these characters and I've tried very hard to honour that aspect of the original in ways that will please a modern, sophisticated TV audience without ever taking them out of the reality of the drama they're watching. The Musketeers is a drama - not a comedy, not a pastiche, not a pantomime. Everything about the detail of our world and our characters is as authentic as we can make it, because in the end, if an adventure doesn't feel real, what's the point of it?

When I started this introduction I promised myself I'd avoid glib or too easy summaries of what we're attempting with this show. But then again, why not? The Musketeers is a swashbuckler with teeth. And hopefully it bites hard and deep.

What attracted you to the show?

First off, it's definitely the fact that it's The Musketeers - something I used to watch when I was a kid - Dogtanian and the Muskehounds and all that kind of stuff. I knew the story and the characters so the fact I was able to go in with the feeling I understood the premise was a big attraction. Just to be involved in a BBC drama was great. In my opinion, the BBC are one of the best producers of drama in the world, and it made me incredibly happy to get the opportunity to be one of the leading men in one of their productions.

Did you have to do any preparation in the lead up to the role?

Not really - the only bit of prep I did was watching some of the previous films, for example the Dick Lester one, the one with Charlie Sheen and Kiefer Sutherland, the 2011 one with Logan Lerman. I did that TV research just to see what other people had done and how the Musketeers had been portrayed.

Tell us a bit more about the boot camp

Well, we stayed in a castle for a week outside of Prague, and it was literally a boot camp! There were fitness tests, getting up at stupid o'clock in the morning, horse-riding for two hours, coming back to do two hours of sword-fighting and then a short lunch, then repeating the horse-riding and sword-fighting after lunch - it was non-stop! It was the most valuable week of the shoot really - it put us in great stead for the rest of the show and kind of gave us a head start really.

Tell us a bit about D'Artagnan

Well Tom, who plays Athos, said a great thing to me the other day which was that each of the Musketeers has their own compulsion, and D'Artganan's is definitely that he has a very impulsive nature. One of the notes I was given before filming was that they really wanted to play on the fact that he had a very hot head - so I tried to put that out there. He is a desperate romantic at heart as well, so it's trying to balance those characteristics. I really enjoyed that.

Were there any specific storylines you particularly empathised with?

The relationship he had with his father is a huge thing for me - me and my dad get on like a house on fire - we are like best friends. I drew on that - so when D'Artagnan's father dies I was just thinking about what it would be like if my own father passed away - it would be hugely difficult for me. But really it was the friendship and loyalty - I'm from an Italian background so those ideals are written in stone. I tried to push that out as much as possible.

How did your relationship with the other Musketeers evolve through the shoot?

It went from strength to strength. I met Howard before we even started filming in a costume fitting, so we knew each other. When we got to Prague for boot camp we all went out for dinner together and then went out to a few bars. The boot camp was great for us to go and get all the technical aspects right, but also for us to bond and become friends. You take that energy on set - it really works - and that's evident in every episode really.

What did filming in Prague add to the show?

It was absolutely vital. To do something like this in England would never have worked. I was completely over the moon when I got told I was going back to Prague - I know how beautiful it is after filming there last year. I loved it to bits!

What do you hope the audience is going to get out of the show?

I hope the audience takes it for what it is - I don't want them to think this is anything like the way The Musketeers has been portrayed before. I think we have a very different vibe to it - the fact that we are actually using muskets for example. It's not a fairy tale, that's not what we are making, it's very true to life. The Musketeers on one side are trying to fight with their loyalties and their passion about being a musketeer balanced with their own personal compulsions, be that women or gambling. They have to balance that whilst still having a duty to protect the king no matter what's going on in their own lives. They have to do what is right no matter what, and I think that is a really cool story and message to tell the audience.

If you could sum your character up in one word, what would it be?

Impulsive . . . passionate - there are so many, I could give you a list!

What attracted you to the show in the first place?

I thought the writing was brilliant, that was one of the main things. It was the best thing that I personally had read in some time. The character Porthos was amazing. I spoke to Adrian and he mentioned that he wanted to pay homage to Alexandre Dumas senior, the father of the novelist of the original, by using strong elements of the book, but also from Alexandre Dumas senior's history. He was a general, when I guess there weren't many brown people around in uniform, so I was really attracted to that element.

Instead of the fat, drunk gambler, he wanted to make Porthos the warrior in the group, paying homage to Alexandre Dumas senior. So that was hugely attractive to me. But Porthos is someone who enjoys life and knows the value it, so therefore enjoys it because he knows it's not going to last forever.

I always read the source material and I love what Adrian added to that, and actually the way that he made it his own.

Apart from reading the source material, what preparation did you do for the part?

Well, another thing that I read was a book called The Black Count, which was all about Alexandre Dumas senior's life, which really helped because it was a chance for me to grab hold of a few things that could help me deepen the character.

As far as the boot camp went, I didn't realise how essential it was until we started shooting, because from day one myself, Santiago, Tom and Luke were sweating and panting together. So straight away, there was a level of respect because you were standing next to other guys that were also finding it difficult. There's nothing better to kind of bring everyone down to the same level than doing 100 press-ups. So straightaway we were a unit and we had to be a unit and we had to work together with the sword-fighting and the horse-riding. As well as it was an individual challenge, it was also a collective challenge. We just built this camaraderie within probably about 25 minutes and we took that on set. Whoever's decision it was, I think it was Colin [Wratten] the producer, it was time well spent.

Tell us a bit about Porthos and maybe just a little bit about his back story and how we meet him in the series

My character basically grew up in the Court of Miracles, which is the 17th-century version of the ghetto. There were 12 in Paris and the one I grew up in was the biggest one. I don't know who my father is, my mother dies when I was five, so then I basically had to fend for myself. Got into trouble here and there, I guess I was a kind of a street thief, you know, a hustler. But also a romantic, someone who was in desperate need of a family and love and the reason why The Musketeers is such an important unit for Porthos is that it is the only family he's ever known.

So there's an amazing amount of pride for Porthos that he has become a Musketeer. The Fleur De Lis that he wears on the shoulder guard means the world to him. Brotherhood, fraternity, loyalty, equality - those things are very important to Porthos.

Does Porthos have some special skills that set him apart?

It's interesting you say that because something that was described in the novel is that he can use basically anything as a weapon. Porthos has a warrior's mind - a kind of sixth sense. In my introduction to the series, someone actually pulls a sword on me and wants to have a duel and I actually use a fork to defeat him and he's got a sword. It's that warrior's mind. I mean I guess it's the equivalent of being a footballer. All footballers are technically very good, but some footballers they just have a footballer's brain.

How important was it being in the Czech Republic? What did it add to the show?

Well, the Czech Republic is a beautiful country that still has an immense amount of history which you can still see because during the Second World War it wasn’t all lost being bombed and stuff. They were occupied and so a lot of their old architecture and infrastructure still remain. Just being in Prague alone, we walked over bridges that were 600 years old, and filmed in places that were 300, 400 years old and then some. So you get a lot for free, you get a hell of a lot for free because you're in it. You're wearing your armour, you're wearing your uniform/costume. You've got your swords which are real, you've got the guns . . . Everything is real, apart from the fact that it fires blanks, so the weight is the same. You've got hats, you've got horses and you look around and you've got these buildings which are real, which are hundreds of years old and it's very easy to suspend your own disbelief, if you had it anyway, which is exactly what an audience must feel when they're watching it.

What do you hope the audience get out of the show when they're watching it?

I hope they're entertained - I'm sure they will be. I hope the audience gain an insight into the wars we've tried to create for them and take a lot from that. There are a lot of core values and huge themes that we use. The themes of betrayal and honour, heroism and love.

Can you tell us a little about your character?

I play Aramis, who is one of the king's Musketeers, whom D'Artagnan meets in the first episode. He has got that joie de vivre, he is someone who relishes life, loves what he does and lives life to the full. He is a daredevil but also, like the other Musketeers, he can be a very lonely character.

The Musketeers are sacrificing a normal life to do what they do - fight for the cause, the king and France. He is definitely a lover of women - he has a lot of romances - and with that has some really interesting storylines in the first two episodes. He is introduced to Adele, the cardinal's mistress, so he likes going into dangerous territory.

Can you tell us how we are first introduced to him as a character?

D'Artagnan is out to get revenge for the death of his father and he thinks one of the Musketeers is responsible so confronts Athos at the garrison, but we are all there. We meet this young man and can tell he has skills, because we see Athos who is an amazing swordsman and this young country boy who can hold his own against him, so immediately we can see something in him.

What's great about this script and what I loved about it the first time I read it is that even though the Musketeers are such a group, and known as a unit, they are introduced as individuals really well, so we really get to meet them as separate people before they come together - that's really clever. It's all related to the story and it's really quick-paced - it was a real page-turner - I read the script really quickly, which I think is always a good sign.

So is the script what attracted you to the show?

I think so, yes - I loved Aramis's spirit and the fact he was a fun-loving character - I knew I could have fun with it. And also it's potentially something you could be doing for a really long time, so when you have a way in and something about the character to grab on to, it makes it really enjoyable - there was definitely that with the script. And all the Musketeers are a bit mad – that's definitely in the book - but they are also noble characters. They have to always stay between two lines in a way because even though they are our heroes they are flawed, but each one makes up for the others' flaws. Together, they would make up the perfect hero, but for each Musketeer their own personality gets in the way, which is what gives it a fun side as well. There is a lot of fun and humour in it, which is brilliant.

So who is the biggest daredevil?

I think they are all daredevils in their own way, but Aramis is definitely someone who doesn't have a filter in many ways, he sometimes just sticks his foot in it - for example Constance (Tamla Kari) slaps him in the first episode. He doesn't really have a sense of danger.

Today I think Aramis would be doing parachutes and bungee jumps and extreme sports. That's part of being a Musketeer, living life to the full - confronting death. When I spoke with Adrian Hodges, the writer and creator, when he pitched the show and I was auditioning he said something I really loved - that it was the time where things were about to change in France and the Musketeers lived a life where they had authority. They were like policemen or top-end security, they could do whatever they want and have a boss in Treville who lets them do what they want. It was a time in France where they knew it was a lifestyle that was about to end, so they are living life to the full. That's definitely one of the elements of Aramis. He is enjoying it for as long as he can because he knows this lifestyle can't go on for ever.

You said earlier Aramis is a bit of a lover - what can you tell us about his relationships in the series?

Aramis is a very spiritual person, in the book he is very Catholic and is a man of God - he was brought up to be a priest. A lot of people were. He realised early on he loves women too much, he loves to fight, loves the flesh and things that don't go hand in hand with being a priest. He still has a strong belief, but he isn't a hypocrite and he would hate people that are. He has a lot of respect for people who live what they preach, but in those days to see people like Cardinal Richelieu, it was very easy to be two-faced in religion.

How do you prepare for a role like this?

The first thing I did was read the book and then just underline what I thought I liked and could be relevant and ignored the rest because we are doing a completely new take on it. I think the spirit of the book is something we have really captured and you can't get away from that really.

Then it's the training - we had boot camp which was very helpful. That was a whole week which was very full on. We did horse-riding, sword-fighting, and combat. It was also keeping fit all the way through - you had to do a lot of stretching, because with the kind of stuff you were doing like getting on and off horses then going straight into sword-fighting, you can get really tight so you have to stay in the zone.

You said he likes a fight. Have you done all your own stunts?

Yeah, we have actually. We have great stunt guys - they come up with really fun choreographies and cater to the character. Something I found out early on with Aramis is that he really relishes everything he does. Even if that is just chopping wood, he is loving the idea of just swinging the machete and chopping it - they really picked up on that.

What helps you get into character?

Putting on the gear definitely helps. I think every job is different, you know? I've done jobs where I'm literally in my trailer, then I go from the trailer to the set in the zone, but here the way we relate to each other helps, we have a lot of fun between takes, the four of us. Certain scenes require quite a bit more concentration so you make sure you have five minutes to think, but in general it's really about the banter between us. The more you do it, the more the character gets engrained in you and it's finding those variations. It's a long story over 10 episodes, and what's great is that you get new material, so you get to bring different colours to every story, because in a way they are very complex characters, they have got so many different facets to them, so hopefully it just keeps surprising and you see new sides of the characters - that's what will keep it fresh.

What's been your most challenging scene to film?

Probably fighting in the heat. We have had some days of 35 or 36 degrees fighting in the leather costumes - running up and down and doing these pretty elaborate 45-second to one-and-a-half-minute fights, which require really intense bursts of energy, like a sprint. Doing that over and over again in the heat - we had to have ice packs and fans. In a way, you are in this zone where you can't really think too much, which is kind of helpful. We rehearse those fights a lot - we get a couple of hours a week before and try and fit a couple more hours in as we lead up to the fight, so by the time you get to do it on set you can really do them on autopilot and can really bring the characters into it, bring the story in and bring them to life.

How have the four of you got on together?

We got on great from the get go - even when we met in Prague. Colin the producer took us out to dinner with Toby the director and there has been a lot of that because we were all in the same building. We get together a lot, cook for each other - well, Luke is more the cook so we were always all over at his place, or I had people over and we would then go out for dinner. We really related to the guest stars too and had a great time with them when they came out.

What attracted you to the show initially?

I think, unlike other superheroes, what one gleans about the Musketeers, certainly from the source material, is that the good that they do happens in quite a spasmodic manner, in short bursts. I identified with that - if I was ever to be someone who was involved with protecting mankind from peril, I'm not sure if I would be able to do it in a particularly strong and sustained manner. I loved that about the characters in the book - they are extremely eccentric and do what they can, when they can. When I came on board there were only two episodes written, so I was saying yes to what was there, but also to the whole idea of the show. It was more than just a script, there was a history and a heritage to it. The scripts Adrian has written are snappy, fast-paced and full of wit.

Did you re-read the novel before embarking on the project?

I did yes, and I dipped in and out of it whilst we were shooting the project. I also read quite a lot of other Dumas stories. I think The Musketeers is probably the Dumas novel people are most familiar with, or if not that it's The Count Of Monte Cristo. I've always been a big fan of Dumas because, on the one hand, he writes a lot about revenge, but he also writes about the cost of it to the revenger - I'd always had an interest in that.

How did you approach playing Athos?

Initially, there was a certain amount of editing going on in terms of how much of myself I brought to it, because the character seems above all else to have such great economy of expression, so I wanted to get that in all the different ways I could - physically and vocally. To a degree, he is also a father figure to the others and has quite a painful history. He relies on the structure of the Musketeers hugely - he is almost institutionalised by it. He would be lost without it.

Like all of the Musketeers, he is a maverick - they all like to do things their own way. He drinks, and that helps him function, and also to make him feel more sane. I think he is a very romantic character - although virtually celibate - because of everything that has happened to him. He is deeply weary of women, and one of the interesting things about the series is that, because new stories have been brought in, it was a chance to see him confronted by a very different femininity when he meets Milady.

There is a line in the book that says he smiles but never laughs, and that really helped me to shape the character. When he does smile it's almost to do with the other three - the enjoyment of their particular eccentricities.

Does that sense of brotherhood shape the show?

Yes, absolutely - they are deeply reliant on each other on all sorts of levels, not least of all emotional - that's part of the comedy of it. Although you could argue that Athos is the most solitary of them, each one of them is prone to the odd outburst of "Well, damn everyone else, I'll sort this out myself." None of them is the lone ranger. As human beings, we are essentially reliant on each other and any notions we have of a life of autonomy is an illusion really. I think that's one of the most important parts of the whole story.

How did that translate to being on set with the other cast members?

I would say I'm so aware of that now - because I really miss the other three guys and Hugo and all the other cast, but particularly the boys because I got so used to being with them. I just remember laughing so much when we were doing it, but I'm sure that was the parts feeding into us and us feeding back into them.

What was the biggest challenge whilst you were out there?

It was the first time I have played a lead in a series and been in it all the way through in a very consistent way, and I would say the biggest challenge is hanging on to your through-line but trying to make it fresh and trying to not repeat yourself. It's the difference between spontaneous and random. Having different directors for each block helps that because there is a negotiation there - they have things that they want to see but you can help to guide them by telling them how it slots in to what has happened before and after in the series.

What do you hope the audience gets out of the show?

I just hope they enjoy it. I don't know if it's necessarily the sort of thing where you expect people to be watching the credits roll and thinking about their own life. It's romantic, it's an adventure and it does nod its head to something earlier, something Arthurian, not the series but the era when chivalry and honour were important things. It's about four heroes who, despite being heroic, are eccentric, occasionally getting it wrong and needing each other.

What attracted you to the role?

Milady! I read it from her perspective, and as a female presence she is so incredibly powerful and has such a driving force of hatred and vengeance mixed with vulnerability, I thought that was particularly exciting. I also just loved the wit of the show and depth of the characters - I feel like you sort of hadn't seen that before with other adaptations of The Musketeers. It was a whole new world, which seemed to leap off the page. The depiction of Paris in that time was very well penned, it had a real earthiness and a realness, which is what I like watching and look for in scripts.

What was it like getting to Prague and seeing that world imagined?

Some of the locations were absolutely spectacular. We don't have those kind of buildings here in the UK, they just have such grandeur to them. The hallways and ceilings were just breathtaking, and they really add to that authenticity of the show - there are no wobbly sets! The set that was built at Doksany, which was half-real and half-set, was amazing - you could walk around the streets of it and you felt like you were in Paris. There was an extraordinary amount of detail that went into it. I shot one scene on top of a hill, and they had searched for miles to find this one particular tree and this one branch which was perfect for that scene. At first you think, surely we could have just used any tree - but it did exactly what it needed to do. That's a testament to the level of detail that came in from every angle.

Was there good camaraderie on set?

A huge amount - it's what you always want to have but you never quite know if that's what you are going to get. It's such a long time, and we are all there together - particularly the four Musketeers and the crew who were living there solidly for seven months. You have to have fun and get to know each other very well. You are thrown into this sort of little bubble which you exist in for that length of time, so it's a very shared experience. It's what I love about the job - I love that little team and family you create in whatever time period you have on set - it's really vital. It really comes out in the show too.

Tell us a bit about Milady

She's quite ferocious as a character - fearless and incredibly feisty. She's very complex and deeply flawed but I like that complication playing her. She's quite a damaged creature. What I loved in the original novel is that there were a lot of animalistic references about her being a panther and a tigress when enraged. She is a survivor in the truest sense, she has nobody to rely on. She didn't come from a family that was at all wealthy, she came from a completely poverty-stricken background, so is very damaged by the experiences of her childhood and being mistreated. It was a really tough world to live in, particularly as a woman if you weren't married off and didn't have a husband with money. She's really clawed her way up into a very powerful but still vulnerable position working for the cardinal. He is still in control, but she has a great amount of influence over him, and is a great asset of his. She can never really relax because she knows that he can dispense of her - she's constantly one foot forward and has to have eyes in the back of her head - there's a sharpness to her that she can't let drop, which makes her fascinating and formidable.

What do you think the Musketeers think of her?

A terrible and vile woman who is a murderer and contract killer! They see her actions as opposed to her background, so whereas I have to understand her to play her they can't understand why she does what she does. They see she has murdered somebody or double-crossed somebody, but don't see any reasoning or any motives behind it - she's certainly not liked by them.

What do you hope the audiences get out of the show?

A great sense of fun - there is a whole world full of wit and playfulness. Mainly I want them to see that that world has a danger to it - the reality of existing there is hard - but also to get that sense of adventure. I think people are going to feel very strongly for characters - that's going to be quite interesting - who they will love, who they want to get together. There is so many dark undertones that make it such a rollercoaster - a really three-dimensional show that has a lot of levels.

What attracted you to the show initially?

I was very excited just reading the title really - The Musketeers is a wonderful story. Knowing it was written by Adrian helped an awful lot because he is a high-calibre writer and then just reading it, I thought it was brilliant. It's the same old thing: any actor basically loves a good script and that attracts anyone really. Treville's a great part, you know if you read the books then you'll know that it's a fantastic part and so all of those ingredients really.

What kind of research did you do once you'd got the script?

Just reading the novel again. It's been many, many years since I'd read it last. I was always a big fan, having been brought up with the 1973 and '74 film versions, you know, with Oliver Reed, Michael York, Christopher Lee and Sophia Loren and all that sort of lot, so I knew that they were amazing films and I was only like five or six years old when I first saw those. But, they have kind of stuck with me and stayed with me all my life. So, as far as research goes, just re-reading the novel.

What do you think makes this version of The Musketeers fresh?

It has all the right ingredients. The young directors that they've brought on were always full of enthusiasm. I think the art department are incredible and the actors that they've brought on. I think it's literally just everything about it that kind of gives it a real exciting fresh feel. I don't think anything that has been done recently has been wide of the mark, this just feels more honest to the real sort of ethos of how Dumas wrote the novel. It's seems like a good time to revisit it, but to revisit it honestly. I think certainly having seen the way it's being produced and directed it feels very pacey and I think that's very exciting. You know it's an exciting story but I think if told well then it just feels modern again.

Can you tell us a bit about your character, Treville?

He was effectively the first Musketeer. He was in King Louis's court when they were kids. My father was a king's soldier and he was his favourite soldier, so when we were growing up as kids Treville had access to the court and was able to play in the court with the young prince. So when the prince became older and when he became king it seemed natural for him, when it came to creating an elite band of troops to act as his security and bodyguards and the like, it seemed a very natural thing to task Treville with that job - to be his number one left-hand man or right-hand or whatever it is, and also bring together the band of troops that became the Musketeers. Treville's motto is loyalty and strength - that's how he lives his life and that's how he is in regard to the king as well.

What is Treville's relationship like with the other Musketeers?

He is like an older brother figure. I feel that there's certainly a real love, respect and, in some cases, fear of Treville. Again, in the novel it mentions these three elements - love, respect and fear - and it says that to be these things is like the paragon of male virtue. There's no higher accolade that one could have bestowed upon you. So that's basically how the Musketeers see him. It's fear, it's love, it's respect. It's all those things. But I'd say in a more sort of fraternal way than anything paternal.

Does Treville still get his hands dirty when he needs to?

Certainly more towards the end of the series - his hands get dirtier and dirtier actually.

What is Treville's relationship like with the king and the cardinal?

With the king it's undying loyalty. Occasionally frustrating because the king is an arse an awful lot of the time, but he does amuse me an awful lot. I think Treville gets a little exasperated with him sometimes because the loyalty he shows him I think he would like it fully reciprocated. He does make foolish decisions, but I do find him amusing and there is that sort of love and loyalty there even though, like I said, I do find him occasionally exasperating.

What irks me I think is the fact that the king has so much respect for the cardinal, who I know to be a low-down snake in the grass. That I find very, very irksome - that the king holds him in such esteem and really makes an awful lot of decisions based on the advice of the cardinal. If anything, that makes my job an awful lot harder as well, because I know the cardinal is always plotting and always planning all this skulduggery that invariably makes my job an awful lot harder. Plus, he's got his red guards who are effectively our enemy. They shouldn't be, but they're our rival. We're always duelling and scrapping with the red guards in the streets and in the bars and always brawling. My relationship with the cardinal is one of profound distrust, but occasionally I also have to work with him. We're forced to work together, which makes things awkward. But my professionalism is something that has to overlook what I know about him. Sometimes I'll lose my temper with him because I know exactly what he is and what he does.

What was it like filming in Prague?

It's such a beautiful country. It's great to be away from everything to know that you can just focus on the work. There's a real romance to Prague itself, which I think kind of helps. The Czech Republic itself has all these incredible castles and gardens that the sort of government protected and maintained, which meant creating this world, or made it a lot easier to create the world of 17th-century Paris. The world of the Musketeers. The people themselves were very welcoming and very friendly, so it kind of made the whole experience a very happy and positive one. If you're feeling that way, then obviously it's a lot easier to do the work. If you're enjoying your time there, it makes the job so much more pleasurable.

What do you hope the audience get out of the show week by week?

I hope they genuinely enjoy this fresh retelling of a story that I think most people are familiar with in the first place and also, for younger viewers, that they learn about these characters and love them and love the whole world and the whole history: just genuinely get caught up in this action adventure romance, which is kind of what the whole thing is. This is like story-telling at its best and that's why we make these things - to give audiences a right rollicking piece of entertainment. I hope they just watch it and love it and keeping watching it in their droves.

What attracted you to the Musketeers?

I thought the script was fantastic. Something really different to what was currently on the TV and also a character that was completely different to what I'd previously played. A big thing was that the female parts were so strong, which is rare in this industry.

What preparation did you do for the part?

Well, I'd already seen the film version starring Oliver Reed, but after finding out I'd got the part I purposely didn't watch any other versions of the story. I didn't want other people's performances to affect my interpretation of the part. I read the Dumas novel to gain an insight into the Musketeers' world and researched the era in which the story is set.

Tell us a bit about your character

Constance Bonacieux is the young wife of the town's cloth merchant. Her life is comfortable but void of excitement and happiness. She becomes involved with the Musketeers and this all changes. You see the true Constance. She's feisty, intelligent and passionate. She really holds her own against the boys and you wouldn't mess with her. Despite all this, underneath there's a massive vulnerability. She has a beautiful soul and is completely selfless.

What is Constance's view of the Musketeers?

She keeps them in check. She knows they can cause a bit of trouble but ultimately she knows they are good guys and trusts them 100 per cent. She has a particular soft spot for D'Artagnan . . .

Do you think you would have enjoyed life in 17th-century Paris?

Absolutely not. Wearing a corset everyday? No ta. Also everyone would have stunk!

What was your favourite scene to film?

I think it was probably the first scenes I filmed. It was from episode one, where Constance has to pretend to be a prostitute. It was night and minus 10 with snow on the ground. I've never been so cold in my life, but it was so exciting. The surroundings were stunning and I got to fire a gun!

What do you hope the audience get from the show?

I hope it appeals to everybody. It's a drama that everyone can enjoy and it's something very different to what is being shown on other channels. It's dark, gritty and edgy but is also funny as well.

What attracted you to The Musketeers?

The script was so action-packed and obviously the story is quite well known, the original. It was still the original characters, but the story was fun and the script was up to date and had a kind of modern feel to it. I just could tell that it was going to be a great family show and it would look great.

Can you tell us a bit about your character and who you're playing?

My character is Queen Anne and she is married to Louis the king. She's still quite young, and even though they've been married for 10 years they got married when they were basically children, and so she's still feeling her way in court. Although she's got all the trappings of power, she has quite little power in real terms because the cardinal is there controlling everything and he's also quite wary of her because she's originally from Spain, whom France are on the verge of war with. She has a bit of a hard time as well because she's in this relationship with Louis, who's quite a difficult sort of character, and they don't really have a romantic relationship at all. They're more like brother and sister and she has a lot of pressure on her to be expected to have a child, an heir to the throne, and she's not yet been able to do that, so at the start of the show she's in a difficult position. But she handles everything with a lot of grace, whilst still remaining quite strong-willed.

What do you think is so appealing about the genre?

I think this is different from the other period stuff out there, because it's got this kind of chivalric romantic feel about it, but also a sense of fun. It's a bit wittier in a way than some of the drier, heavy period dramas that you see on TV.

I think what's attractive about period drama is the different worlds and the characters there who are sticking up for what you believe in.

You did quite a lot of scenes with Peter Capaldi. What does he bring to that role of the cardinal, which is such an infamous role in history and in the films of the past?

It's just such brilliant casting I think. I couldn't imagine anyone else doing it now. He is the ultimate cardinal in my view. When he is acting as the cardinal, he oozes this kind of sinister quality and it's brilliant. He was just fascinating to watch and a lovely man to work with. I couldn't say enough good things about him really.

What's Anne's relationship like with the Musketeers? How does she first meet them and how does that progress throughout the series?

Well Captain Treville is in and around quite a lot in court - he is one of Louis's right-hand men, so she's quite familiar with him. I think symbolically for her, they represent a kind of adventure, a kind of romantic adventure that she isn't able to experience living in court and being stifled by kind of all the obligations of being queen. The values that they stand up for, like bravery, honour and social justice, are all things that she supports and I think she trusts Treville in a way that she doesn't trust the cardinal. When the cardinal and the Musketeers come to blows she'll always be on Treville's side.

What did filming in the Czech Republic and being there bring to the story?

Yes, I can't imagine where else we could have done it now. There were amazing locations, I was wowed every single day I went on set basically, and it was nearly always different. There were obviously a few rooms that were used again and again, but I was so surprised by how many different locations there were. They just seemed to be endless. It looks epic and completely of the time and it transports you to that world. You've got the gritty kind of tavern scenes and fighting scenes with the boys. Then when you come to court you're really in court and you feel that I think from the location.

It's fair to say you got some of the most elaborate costumes. How did that help you get into character?

Yes, hugely. Because you just wouldn't have a clue what that feels like to be wearing that sort of thing every day, which is what it would have been like. There are corsets and huge, heavy dresses with masses of layers. So in terms of how it makes you feel when you're in it, you do automatically feel different. You have to hold yourself differently. But also, the sheer elegance of the material and all the details is a constant reminder that you were the highest class. You were one down from God essentially, as ruling the country.

And just finally, what do you hope the audience gets out of the show?

I hope they have a really good time. I hope they really grow to love the characters because I think they're all hugely loveable, villains as much as the heroes. I think, well, I hope that they engage with the through-line of the characters, and obviously each story, each week has got a really great story and they have fun watching it and they laugh. But I hope they also engage with the roots for the through-line of the characters, you know, the romantic backgrounds of all the characters where they've come from. I think that's been well crafted into the script in a quite detailed way. I hope the audience pick up on those things and it makes it more enjoyable for them.

What attracted you to the show in the first place?

Well, I thought that the writing was very, very good. I loved the script. That was definitely what first attracted me. The character of Louis was the character I auditioned for as well and I thought he seemed like he would be great fun to be. I've never played somebody of such high status on television, but I have done it in theatre. He seemed like a character full of contradictions who was able to go from being emotional to being humorous to everything in between. I found that very appealing and challenging and exciting.

What sort of research did you have to do when you knew you were going to be playing King Louis?

I read The Three Musketeers, the Dumas book. The historical Louis is rather different to our Louis though, but I still do sort of dip into biographies of Louis XIII and have found some to be helpful. I've watched a lot of drama around the period. I watched all the previous Three Musketeers films, which were all very good, and that sort of thing really. I've played kings before and so started to remember what was useful about playing them. It's nice when you play characters where you can draw on previous research.

What do you think were the big differences between the real King Louis and the fictional one in The Musketeers?

He's certainly perceived in history to be a weak king and that is sort of Dumas's doing really. There's a suggestion in one biography that he actually wasn't weak at all and that he was on the front line of a horse fighting his own battles. The historical Louis is sort of up for grabs as well really, so we haven't worried too much about it, we're sort of creating our own Louis. We're taking many sort of fictional liberties, but hopefully creating a fun series, a playful Louis XIII rather than an historically accurate one.

Could you tell us about Louis and just a little about his back story in this reimagining of The Musketeers?

Louis has basically had his own mother attempt to steal his throne, so psychologically he is very damaged and his father was assassinated. There was this very competitive court life, where people like Cardinal Richelieu and his own mother and many of the courtiers are ruthless and brilliant politicians. So psychologically, he's had to deal with a lot of trauma and responsibility. I think Louis has sort of dealt with that by not dealing with it really, and has to rely on a lot people.

What is his relationship with the Musketeers?

It's well explored in the series. I think in the beginning he doesn't really know them individually. He sort of recognises a familiar face, but knows Hugo's character because he is the chief guard essentially. Different adventures happen, basically every one of them saves Louis's life or the queen's life at some point, so that's how the personal relationships develop. By the end of the series, he is on first-name terms with all of them, and you can see the beginnings of the relationship.

Very few people get to see the cardinal up close like Louis does. How would you describe their relationship, the king and the cardinal?

I would describe it as complicated. I think the cardinal has Louis's best interests at heart - or rather he has France's best interests at heart and he thinks that Louis is probably the safest option to keep France as stable as it can be when there is so much political friction and so much discontent and so many outside pressures in terms of competing empires. I also think Louis is very useful to the cardinal because the cardinal is so brilliant and Louis is not as brilliant. But he is easily manipulated by someone and wants the cardinal's brilliance, so he is a useful pawn. I think Louis is pretty safe in the cardinal's hands, but who knows? You couldn't really completely trust him, but I think Louis has to and sort of does.

What was it like acting so closely with Peter Capaldi?

It was a joy. He became a very, very close friend. We were in practically every scene together, so we spent a great deal of time together. He is a very funny and extremely wise and sensitive, interesting person. We still occasionally send each other humorous text messages. Working with Peter Capaldi will be treasured and I hope to do it again soon.

Just finally, what do you hope the audience gets out of the show week by week?

I hope the audience will primarily enjoy themselves. I think it's a fun show. I hope they're gripped by stories and charmed by the characters or repelled. I hope they come along for the ride. I think it's a good show, we're all very proud of it.

How would you describe your character in The Musketeers?

Cardinal Richelieu is protector and confidant of the king as well as being essentially the first minister of France. He runs the country. He is a military figure as well as a religious and political one. He has a network of spies and operates like an illegal secret service to pursue his ends. He is by nature Machiavellian.

Did you do any research for the role?

I read the book.

How does the drama series differ from the book?

There is an expansion of the world and characters beyond that of the book.

Do you have any anecdotes from set?

The production suffered from a lot of injuries: dislocated shoulders, bruised shins, the odd concussion. It's one of the occupational hazards of being a swashbuckler. I myself suffered a nasty dislocated thumb, but embarrassingly not from swinging a sword around. Instead, my injury came from a domestic the cardinal was having with Milady, Maimie McCoy. I threw her against the wall not realising I'd caught my thumb in her large frock. I felt a jab of pain. And when the director said "Cut" I looked down and saw my thumb was on the wrong way round. Nasty! Instinct took over and I shoved it back. Which made my eyes water and my knees weak. The lesson clearly was, never get into a fight with Maimie McCoy!

How would you have coped living in the 17th century?

I don't think I would have been great in the 17th century. I would have enjoyed the frocks, and certainly some of the food would have been appealing, but the disease and hygiene would have worried me. I certainly would have missed the NHS.

FILTER: - The Musketeers

BBC to mark 30th anniversary of Spitting ImageBookmark and Share

Tuesday, 7 January 2014 - Reported by John Bowman
The 30th anniversary of ITV's satirical puppet show Spitting Image is to be marked with a special documentary on BBC Four.

In Whatever Happened To Spitting Image? the arts strand Arena will reunite the founding creative team and tell the vexed and frequently hilarious story of the genesis of the satirical puppet show, with exclusive contributions from caricaturists Peter Fluck, Roger Law, and TV producer John Lloyd.

Spanning 131 episodes over 18 series from February 1984 to February 1996, the show was made for Central Independent Television and broadcast across the ITV network.

The puppets became almost as famous as the politicians they lampooned, and in 2000 were auctioned off at Sotheby's. In the course of the documentary, the team sets out to discover where they now reside and who is taking care of them in their old age.

Revealing the extraordinary technical achievement of the series, Arena meets the caricaturists, puppet-mould-makers, designers, puppeteers, impressionists, writers, and directors who worked tirelessly to ensure the show landed its weekly jibes and punches at the politicians, royals, and celebrities of the day. And, tracing its journey to our TV screens, through 12 years of huge audience figures and weekly controversy to its eventual demise, Arena will ask what Spitting Image got right, where it went wrong, and whether its absence for the past 17 years has left a hole in the schedules that has yet to be filled by modern broadcasting.

The documentary has been directed by Arena series editor Anthony Wall, who said:
I made a film about Fluck and Law in 1980, some years before Spitting Image was made, so it's great to be able to revisit their distinctive contribution to Britain's television history.
Cassian Harrison, the channel editor for BBC Four, commented:
It's a testament to Arena's success and eclectic tastes that they've secured access to the Spitting Image team. This is a timely opportunity for Arena to look back at one of television's most extraordinary satirical successes.
A date for broadcasting the one-hour programme is yet to be confirmed, with the BBC currently saying that it will air in the spring, but it will have a preview screening at the BFI Southbank on Thursday 27th February at 6.10pm.
Thirty years ago, Roger Law and Peter Fluck were happily ensconced in a converted Temperance Hall in Cambridge making cruelly funny Plasticine caricatures. These models were photographed and presented to the world in print under the anonymous byline "Luck & Flaw". Unlike a drawing, the caricatures looked like they might move and, Geppetto-style, they did. Law and Fluck, with co-conspirator TV comedy supremo John Lloyd, unleashed one of the most shocking and hilarious TV series ever. Arena tells the story of Spitting Image.
After the screening, there will be a question-and-answer session with Fluck, Law, Lloyd, and Wall.

The big-screen showing and Q&A will be followed at 8.45pm with a special two-hour celebration and Q&A featuring clips and guests including impressionist Steve Nallon plus "victims" Lord Roy Hattersley and Lord David Steel.
We're delighted to host a panel of well-known writers and performers who gave the show its satirical edge and who became household names in the process, alongside some of their victims - politicians and celebrities - who will discuss the effect their puppet personas had on their careers. Using illustrative clips, we examine the show's controversial impact at the time and its lasting legacy, and reveal behind-the-scenes secrets of the performers, puppeteers, writers, and directors. So, in the words of one famous crew member: "Puppets up, loves - wave those dollies in the air!"
Tickets to both events go on public sale at 11.30am on Tuesday 11th February - click here for the preview screening/Q&A and here for the celebration/Q&A - with a joint event ticket also being made available.

FILTER: - Arena - Spitting Image - BFI - Documentary - Comedy - BBC Four

Timeshift: How to be Sherlock HolmesBookmark and Share

Monday, 6 January 2014 - Reported by Chuck Foster
As the current series of Sherlock draws to a close, BBC4 is to broadcast an edition of Timeshift, focusing on the fictional detective and the people who have portrayed him on screen.

How to be Sherlock Holmes: The Many Faces of a Master Detective
Sunday 12th January, 10:00pm

For over 100 years, more than 80 actors have put a varying face to the world's greatest consulting detective - Sherlock Holmes. And many of them incorporated details - such as the curved pipe and the immortal line 'Elementary, my dear Watson' - that never featured in Conan Doyle's original stories. In charting the evolution of Sherlock on screen, from early silent movies to the latest film and television versions, Timeshift shows how our notion of Holmes today is as much a creation of these various screen portrayals as of the stories themselves.

Narrated by Peter Wyngarde, with contributions from Sherlocks past and present including Benedict Cumberbatch, Christopher Lee, Tim Pigott-Smith and Mark Gatiss.

Timeshift: How to be Sherlock Holmes: Benedict Cumberbatch (Credit: BBC/Matthew Thomas) Timeshift: How to be Sherlock Holmes: Christopher Lee (Credit: BBC/Matthew Thomas) Timeshift: How to be Sherlock Holmes: Mark Gatiss (Credit: BBC/Matthew Thomas)

FILTER: - Documentary - Timeshift - BBC Four - Sherlock

The Tomorrow People trailer releasedBookmark and Share

Sunday, 5 January 2014 - Reported by John Bowman
A trailer for the upcoming start of The Tomorrow People on E4 has been released. The American reboot of the classic '70s ITV children's series about the next evolutionary leap of mankind - a generation of humans born with paranormal abilities - begins on the British digital channel on Wednesday 8th January at 9pm.

The show - which comprises 22 one-hour episodes - stars Robbie Amell as Stephen Jameson, Luke Mitchell as John Young, Peyton List as Cara Coburn, Aaron Yoo as Russell Kwon, Madeleine Mantock as Astrid Finch, and Mark Pellegrino as Dr Jedikiah Price.

FILTER: - E4 - The Tomorrow People

Death In Paradise series 3 start date and detailsBookmark and Share

Saturday, 4 January 2014 - Reported by John Bowman
The third series of the BBC One crime drama/comedy Death In Paradise will start on Tuesday 14th January at 9pm, with the run of eight one-hour episodes seeing the departure of Ben Miller as Det Insp Richard Poole, to be replaced by Kris Marshall as Det Insp Humphrey Goodman.

Returning are Sara Martins as Det Sgt Camille Bordey, Danny John-Jules as Officer Dawyne Myers, Gary Carr as the newly-qualified Sgt Fidel Best, Don Warrington as Commissioner Selwyn Patterson, and Élizabeth Bourgine as Camille's mother Catherine.

As previously reported, guest stars will include Peter Davison, Michelle Ryan, Clarke Peters, Adrian Scarborough, and Sophie Thompson. The new series will also see Philip Jackson and Rhys Thomas appearing.

Interviews with cast members plus synopses for the first three episodes are given below. Please note that they contain what some may consider spoilers, so readers assume responsibility for clicking to reveal the contents.

What were your first thoughts when you saw the script and saw your end?
I was shocked when I first read the script, but then found the scenario very comical. I loved the fact he was dispatched with an ice pick, I thought that was really poetic and quite funny. It was very bold, imaginative and a really great end to Richard Poole.

How did it feel to film your the last scene?
It was emotional. No matter how much you imagine what it is going to be like - filming your own death - to be lying there in your character's costume in a pool of fake blood feels quite final, and you can’'t help but feel a little vulnerable! Richard entered with a bang and left with a bang.

How was it shot?
I had a fake knife in my chest - the handle was sticking out and it was on a plate under my clothes. Then, I had a tube that ran up inside the costume to the point where the ice pick would go in which fed the fake blood up through a pipe. We had a man there with a bag of blood and what looked like a bicycle pump forcing the liquid through the tube so you could get a real shot of the blood spreading. It looked great! We don't ever go too over the top on the gore though - it's not that sort of show.

What did you think of the fact that Richard met his end with an ice pick?
I thought it was great because obviously you want to kill Richard with something to do with heat, given his aversion to it, so I kind of guessed it was something to do with that. However, I never guessed an ice pick – that was a brilliant idea!

What is your lasting memory from your time on the show?

I have so many very vivid memories of Death In Paradise. Everything seems more alive in Guadeloupe, mostly because the jungle is just two steps over your shoulder. It's also because the people are so much larger than life. It's the local people I will miss most, many of them worked on the crew and were huge characters. One of my memories is being taught to dance the zouk by our props master, Jean Michelle. Whenever we were at the bar he would drag me on to the dance floor to do the zouk, which is an incredibly intimate dance, usually done with a man and a woman!

Are you happy with the way your exit was written?
I think it was the right choice. If Richard was in too much of the series, it would be odd. You really want to establish a new character as soon as possible and what I particularly liked was that Richard came to the island to investigate a murder of a detective inspector and that the new detective does exactly the same. I love the way history repeats itself.

What do you think of Kris in action?
The thing that struck me the second I saw him was that he had the air of someone who knew exactly what they were doing. He had really thought about the character and I was so impressed by his professionalism. It is a huge responsibility to bear - remembering all those lines in the heat and carrying a lot of story - but he adjusted well and was incredibly impressive.

Are you going to be watching the first show go out?
I'm going to be running my whodunit Twitter competition as ever, inviting people to guess the murderer. You have to put the correct name of the murderer, you also need to have means, motive and opportunity, followed by #whodunit. This time I have a dog in that fight so let's see if we can catch the guilty party!

What we can expect from the new series of Death In Paradise?
It's still a fish-out-of-water story, but there is a new fish in town. As it is such a popular existing show it was very important that I fitted in with the show rather than the show fitting around me. Fans can expect lots more of the same, with lots more fun and puzzling murders.

Tell us about Det Insp Humphrey Goodman.

Humphrey is in his early 40s, married and was a detective inspector with the Metropolitan Police in London before being transferred to Saint-Marie. He's kind of stuck in a rut and wants a change in his life but doesn't quite know what it is he wants. However, when he gets a call to go to Saint-Marie he seems to drop everything and gets on a plane with just a suit and two shirts! He shows up in Saint-Marie with the intention of his wife following on afterwards because she is a botanist and he thinks she'd love the rainforest on the island, but I don't think things are going to work out that way.

How does Humphrey get on with his new team?
To begin with, not very well at all - they think he is quite odd, a bit of an idiot and in the way. Of course, they are grieving over the loss of their previous boss and don't react well to some guy from London coming in and literally treading all over their investigation. However, gradually, as the series goes on, he begins to fit in as their little odd boss. They still think his methods are slightly off the wall, but as the series progresses they become a good team.

Does Humphrey feel a very different character from ones you have played in the past?
Obviously he's not as young as some of the characters I have played in the past, but then I'm not as young either! I read that Jack Nicholson once said that two-thirds of every character you play is yourself - you can never get too far away from yourself. So, Humphrey's character is partly me, just a heightened, exaggerated version! There are probably also links to other characters I have played in the past.

How was it moving out to Guadeloupe for six months?
It was amazing, but quite hard to begin with. I went out by myself first, then my wife and son followed a month later. It was hard to begin with because the pressure was on - not just starting a new job but as the lead on a big, existing, and popular series. It was tough again when my wife came out and she obviously had to find her feet with our son. When you have an eight-month-old son you are still working out how to look after him, let alone when it's 35 degree heat! However, it soon all slotted into place. We were well looked after and lived locally, with our son going to the local crèche. My wife was teaching yoga to the cast and crew, which was great. I did miss England, which is natural when you are away from home. This is, until I got home and I thought, what am I doing back here? I want my flip-flops back!

What was it like joining such an established cast?
It was daunting to begin with because I have never joined an existing show and cast before, and as it's such a popular show you don't want to mess it up. I was really honoured and humbled by the BBC entrusting me with one of their most popular shows. That really meant a lot to me. I just wanted to assimilate myself but still keep the series familiar to viewers. Of course, it's set in the same place, the other cast members are still the same, so not much has changed, but I want people to like it as much as they did before. I don't think it would have been as easy as it has been if the established cast hadn't made me feel so welcome. They were amazing.

What guest stars did you enjoy working with?
Sophie Thompson who is in the first episode - she and I have done the last four jobs together! She is clearly following me around and I can't seem to stop it! It's always lovely to work with Sophie though. I have worked with quite a few before, including Adrian Scarborough and Phil Jackson. It's lovely actually, it's like they all come out to see you. One of my favourite people to work with though was Rhys Thomas who is in episode two. We are about the same age, both have kids and one night did an awesome karaoke-off! We sang Under Pressure - he sang the Freddie Mercury bit and I sang the David Bowie bit, and it was awesome!

What can we expect from the new series of Death In Paradise?

The new series obviously has a new dynamic because we have a new lead character, Humphrey Goodman. It follows the same format that fans love and know about the show, but it has new experiences and encounters. The big thing for the group is adjusting and adapting to a new character - someone who, again, is foreign, but completely different to Richard Poole.

What effect does Richard's death and departure have on the team?
The team loved Richard, even though he was quite odd! They adored and loved him, so his death is devastating for them, but at the same time they owe it to him to solve his murder case and find out who the killer was. I think every episode they think about Richard and want to do the best they can in honour of him.

How does Humphrey fit into the team?
What's great is that Humphrey isn't trying to be Richard Poole, he's a completely different character. He brings a lot of energy - and chaos! - but it's great for the team because he's the complete opposite of Richard, who was very by-the-book and all about rules and logic. He was like a scientist in that way. Humphrey's not like that at all, he's the oddball and brings a lot of madness, but he gets the result.

How has being promoted to sergeant changed Fidel?

In this series, Fidel's trying to figure out what a sergeant does and how he slots into that role, you see him really try to figure out how it all works. It's a big learning curve for him. Dwayne is guiding him, but obviously in Dwayne's way and Dwayne's rules. Dwayne knows his stuff and is a great officer, but Fidel's a sergeant now. Dwayne may think he knows best but Fidel is his boss now!

There are some great guest stars in the new series. With whom did you enjoy working?
I loved working with all of them but Clarke Peters was particularly cool. I was so excited by him in The Wire. I also remember seeing him in a play in the West End when I was about seven and thinking "This is amazing, this is what I want to do!" The guest stars keep getting more and more exciting every series.

You've had huge success in the past 12 months. What's next for you?

I'm doing a play at the Royal Court called The Pass which is a brilliant story and really interesting subject matter. I'm also making a music album in Paris with some amazing musicians, which is very exciting. I can't wait to finally get that off the ground.

What can you tell us about the new series of Death In Paradise?
I think each series goes from strength to strength. The characters have been developed further, we've got loads more guest stars this year, some who have come from as far away as Hollywood, so I hope the audience will feel like they're getting more of what they've been craving over the last year.

What's in store for your character Dwayne this coming series?
Dwayne is becoming more accepting of the new status quo at Honoré Police Department and having these strange English detectives join the team. They're a bit too meticulous for his liking, but Dwayne has developed into a very good policeman. He now uses his "streetwise" much more to help solve the crimes.

How has the dynamic changed on set following the departure of Ben Miller and the arrival of new cast member Kris Marshall?
The dynamics on set have stayed pretty much the same. We've had two very funny guys as the lead - one whose sense of humour is slightly drier than the other, but two people who are always up for having a good time. They're both very hard-working - it is a lot of work for the lead guy in the series. Obviously once the work is done, though, they both enjoy themselves, go out to dinner, and have fun with the cast and crew. The leading man always has to be in the thick of it, and both guys were quite happy to take up that mantle and be the life and soul of the party. As far as their on-screen characters are concerned, Richard Poole and Humphrey Goodman are different, particularly in their approach to solving the crimes. What keeps them both interesting is the supporting characters around them such as Dwayne, and the way they react to the new arrivals. As long as they are not local they're going to have a certain way of working that is going to be different to the locals, and that's what brings the comedy.

What has it been like filming on the beautiful island of Guadeloupe?

Filming in Guadeloupe is a dream come true, particularly because the island that my parents live on is literally a two-hour ferry ride away! I was fairly familiar with the local surroundings for this reason, but to be out there filming a TV show is amazing! How many people in their career get to go and film in the Caribbean? I'm one of the small community of actors that have acquired that privilege. At the same time, though, if you have to do a scene running through a jungle in 100 degrees, then you might not be so happy to be on the island!

Is it difficult for you to blend comedy with drama in the show?
Not really, because I don't like going in for the gag. I have always believed that comedy comes out of real-life situations. I've been known to laugh harder at dead- straight cowboy films than comedies before. Just look at Blazing Saddles - it was inspired by real cowboy movies. Experiencing that kind of comedy was a big learning curve for me. I think that playing for the laugh has not really worked for me. I tend to play for real and if the scenario is funny then we will laugh anyway!

What is it about this show that sets it apart from other series?
What sets Death In Paradise apart is that, unlike other genres where the characters have been brought up in the same scenario, Death In Paradise takes a detective and puts them in a completely alien surrounding where people do things completely different. The cases get solved but you see the characters learning from each other, culturally and professionally.

Written by Robert Thorogood.

The team is left stunned and heart-broken when Detective Inspector Richard Poole (Ben Miller) is found murdered with an ice pick following a university reunion he was attending.

Battling their grief and determined to catch the killer of their friend, Camille (Sara Martins), Fidel (Gary Carr) and Dwayne (Danny John-Jules) are joined by new detective inspector Humphrey Goodman (Kris Marshall) to help them get to the bottom of the tragic and mysterious case. Unfortunately, Humphrey's naturally bumbling and accident-prone ways mean he doesn't make a great first impression.

With the crime scene a remote villa only accessible by car, all the attendees of the reunion are prime suspects. However, after 25 years of not seeing one another, who could possibly hold a grudge against Richard? Did trip organiser Angie (Sophie Thompson) have an ulterior motive for the reunion? Has Richard's old flame Sasha (Helen Baxendale) got something to hide? Or has Sasha's husband James (Mark Bazeley) finally let his jealous streak take over?

To make matters more complicated, the murder appears to have been committed in plain sight of all those at the party. How did someone stab Richard with no-one seeing? Humphrey is increasingly baffled and, still not feeling part of the team yet, takes solace in knowing that at least his wife will soon be joining him on the island. If only he can just solve this case first and show his new team what a brilliant detective he is . . .

Written by Daisy Coulam.

When a stand-in working on a zombie film being shot on the island suddenly dies on set, Humphrey and the team are called to investigate the murder. The victim appears to have been poisoned, but why would someone want to murder a lowly stand-in who had only been on the island a week?

Having gained all the evidence, it all seems to point towards the idea that the film's lead actress Lexi Cunningham (Michelle Ryan) was actually the intended victim in a plan gone wrong. From here, the team quickly focus their investigation on three key suspects: film director Carl Collins (Rhys Thomas), script writer Arnold Finch (Peter Davison), and on-set runner Susie Jenkins (Hannah Tointon). But why would any of them want their lead actress dead?

With the three suspects in mind, Humphrey and the team start to discover that the world of film-making is just as duplicitous and scheming as one might expect. The film set is teeming with ruthless ambition, creative jealousy, and behind-the-scenes affairs. All three suspects have a motive, but which one did it?

Written by Paul Logue.

Det Insp Goodman and the team are called to investigate the death of an old school friend of Fidel's, Carlton Parish (Steve Cole), who has been shot at his home.

Last seen at an art viewing held at a gallery owned by connoisseur Leo Pascal (Adrian Scarborough), Carlton was in attendance with wealthy, older woman, Dorothy Foster (Sharon Small). Witnesses also claim to have seen Carlton having an altercation with Marc Campese (Tristan Gemmill), the owner of private members' club The Reef Club. With only a call from Carlton claiming that a woman was going to kill him to go on, Humphrey and the team start analysing their suspects.

They soon discover that Carlton made his living as a male escort and, as a result, has sparked motives in a number of disgruntled female exes, including the "Dragon Lady" (Josette Simon) herself, Judge Ann Stone, and Marc Campese's wife Lauren (Vinette Robinson). Did any of the loved-up women have reason to kill Carlton?

With emotions running high, Fidel is finding it tough to investigate his old friend's murder, forcing him to confront some long-buried issues. Will he be able to put these aside in order to bring his friend's killer to justice?

The guest cast lists plus character names for all eight episodes are as follows:

Episode 1

Sasha Moore: Helen Baxendale
Angie Birkett: Sophie Thompson
James Moore: Mark Bazeley
Roger Sadler: Tim Dutton

Episode 2

Lexi Cunningham: Michelle Ryan
Arnold Finch: Peter Davison
Carl Collins: Rhys Thomas
Susie Jenkins: Hannah Tointon
Thea: Phoebe Thomas
Big Dave: Peter Bankole

Episode 3

Leo Pascal: Adrian Scarborough
Dorothy Foster: Sharon Small
Marc Campese: Tristan Gemmill
Lauren Campese: Vinette Robinson
Judge Stone: Josette Simon
Carlton Paris: Steve Cole

Episode 4

Adam: Raza Jaffrey
Simone Magon: Kathryn Drysdale
Helen Williams: Sophie Colquhoun
Paul Bevans: Daniel Lapaine
Max Leigh: Chris Geere
Natasha: Felicite Du Jeu

Episode 5

Marlon: Clarke Peters
Jacob: Simon Shepherd
Drew: James Musgrave
Charlotte: Haydn Gwynne
Theo: Eriq Ebouaney
Lena Bell: Nina Toussaint-White

Episode 6

Captain Jack: Paul Barber
Alec Burton: Mark Heap
Matt Webster: William Beck
Gloria: Lisa Kay
Dan Parish: Ciaran McMenamin
Marc: Richard Huw
Yasmin: Hannah John-Kamen

Episode 7

Alexander: Joseph Marcell
Terrance: Jimmy Akingbola
Joseph: Chris Obi
Anna: Nikki Amuka-Bird

Episode 8

Colin: Rupert Vansittart
Jim: Phil Davis
Emma: Kate Fahy
David: Philip Jackson
Sylvane: Sara Niles
Judith: Joanna David
Pam: Michele Dotrice
Sally: Morven Christie

The programme, which is filmed on the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, doubling for the fictional island of Saint-Marie, has gone from strength to strength over the past two series, bringing in an average consolidated figure of almost eight million viewers each episode for the second series.

Death In Paradise is a Red Planet Pictures production in association with BBC Worldwide, produced with the support of the region of Guadeloupe. It was created by Robert Thorogood. Tony Jordan and Belinda Campbell are the executive producers for Red Planet Pictures and Polly Hill is the executive producer for BBC One.

FILTER: - Death In Paradise