The Actors and their Roles
Geraldine McEwan as Miss Jane Marple
Pam Ferris as Elspeth McGillicuddy
Amanda Holden as Lucy Eyelesbarrow
John Hannah as Inspector Tom Campbell
Griff Rhys Jones as Dr. David Quimper
David Warner as Luther Crackenthorpe
Niamh Cusack as Emma Crackenthorpe
Ben Daniels as Alfred Crackenthorpe
Charlie Creed-Miles as Harold Crackenthorpe
Ciarán McMenamin as Cedric Crackenthorpe
Michael Landes as Bryan Eastley
Geraldine McEwan on her role as Miss Jane Marple:
I love her. I love Miss Marple. And when I was asked to play her I just felt it was... well, it sounds a bit dramatic, but I thought it really was right that I was asked to play this part. I felt it was my destiny really, and I've enjoyed every minute of it. She is still evolving for me, and she's still becoming more things to me as I discover more about her.
She's a very independent, self-sufficient person, who lives very much for the moment. She has an avid curiosity about people, and is very interested in their lives. She's not really nosy, just curious. And she's very entertained by people. She has a razor sharp mind, a high intelligence, and is very witty.
Her capacity to advise the police as to how they should solve these crimes is incredible and she's always one step ahead of them. I think that shows that Agatha Christie herself was a very witty woman.
Miss Marple does sometimes pretend to be not as sharp as she really is. She is a very warm hearted and compassionate person, so people open up and talk to her in a way that they might not to other people and this reveals things which are always very useful to her. I don't think she's cynical in any way but she does use this to a certain extent.
She has a kind of natural eccentricity that isn't remotely cultivated by her. She's such an individual person in the way she conducts her life. She's totally herself and doesn't care about extraneous things such as how she looks or what people's opinion of her are... they just don't come into her consciousness. She enjoys every minute of her existence and is not worried about getting old -- she absolutely lives in the present, which is what we would all love to achieve. This is what makes her so fascinating and endearing.
I think it's terrific that we see Miss Marple as a younger woman. The fact that she isn't married isn't necessarily because she's never had the opportunity. She did have a lover when she was younger, but he was married. She's probably had a number of relationships in the past, but has chosen not to marry. She has a very romantic side to her.
She's open to everything, to all experiences. She's as happy going around the village with her tin, collecting for the vicar's fete, as she is speeding along in an MG with one of her younger chums or dealing with somebody she knows has committed the most horrific murder. Even for the murderer she has a certain understanding and compassion. It might make her sound a bit smug but it's not that at all. She's a remarkable woman. I envy her capacity to live her life to the fullest.
I hope I will be seen as being true to Miss Marple and Agatha Christie. I feel very responsible to Agatha Christie; I always do if a writer has written a very special role, and one that has such a widespread appeal. I hope that I have got the essential qualities of Miss Marple but it's true, obviously, that my interpretation will be different from Joan Hickson's or Margaret Rutherford's. But as an actor, that's what's so fascinating and, I think, interesting for audiences. Nobody wants a cardboard cut-out or a replica of how other people have been. Ultimately, I hope that the Agatha Christie devotees will see a different Miss Marple, but one that they think is appropriate.
Pam Ferris on her role as Elspeth McGillicuddy:
Mrs. McGillicuddy does question whether what she saw was what she thought she saw. The great thing is Miss Marple never doubts her, even if the police do wonder if she's a dotty old woman seeing things!
It's a very exciting and traditionally brilliant scene when Elspeth witnesses the murder... I feel it is quite an honor and a real challenge to pull it off filming-wise. You wouldn't think that both trains weren't side by side! The set designers are very clever.
From my point of view, Elspeth's role is rather like that of a bookend. She starts the story off and then disappears for very interesting romantic reasons, and then she comes back towards the end for the dŽnouement.
I'm such a huge admirer of Geraldine's. It's great collaborating with her. I've seen her a few times on stage and she has just blown me away. I worked with her in Oranges are not the only Fruit, but I didn't have many scenes with her then. I also feel honored to be in the same drama as David Warner!'
One forgets that in the 1950s they didn't have central heating so a thick hacking jacket with a cape would have been fairly standard in a wardrobe at that time. As Elspeth I'm virtually white-haired, and I really love the way Geraldine and I look -- very eye-catching. The hats Elspeth wears are huge and fabulous!
Amanda Holden on her role as Lucy Eyelesbarrow:
As Lucy I'm like a young Miss Marple, but with more lipstick! Lucy is a very forthright woman who's very ahead of her times. She's single and an adventurer. She travels the world and is terribly fashionable and wears loads of make-up. Miss Marple asks her to infiltrate Rutherford Hall as a housekeeper to find a body, which she finds totally thrilling and isn't fazed by. It's not particularly pleasant when she does find the body, but the very next time you see her she's calmly washing-up in the kitchen! She takes it all in her stride.
The attention she gets from the male houseguests doesn't faze her either... It's all terribly innocent with a few coquettish looks. The nearest I get to physical contact is wiping some coal dust off John Hannah's nose, which is very sweet -- my mother's going to love it!
I don't often get the chance to do a lot of period drama -- I think everyone just sees me as a modern girl. So the chance to wear gorgeous frocks and wonderful hairstyles really appealed. It's a brilliant chance for me to be worlds away from the kind of role that I normally get offered. I never tire of going in a make-up van because you arrive looking absolutely dreadful and leave looking like a million dollars. And doing a period piece, you can really see the difference. As Lucy my look completely changes. I wear what's called a 'waspie' -- it's like a thick elasticized belt which really yanks you in. Wearing it I reckon I've got the waist of a thirteen-year-old! The whole thing lifts you and helps you carry yourself in a completely different way, which really helps.
Lucy slots in at Rutherford Hall and is treated as a member of the family. They realize very early on that she's quite an educated person, so they don't treat her like staff. She's very much their equal, which helps her win their confidence and enables her to gain their trust.
John Hannah on his role as Inspector Tom Campbell:
Inspector Campbell and Miss Marple go back a long way. She knew his father and was around when he was growing up. It's a close relationship, kind of maternal. Tom watches her in awe, at the leaps that she makes. He questions everybody and they sit and talk about it and she whams him with an insight that hasn't occurred to him.
I seemed to have played cops endlessly on television but it's nice to be a bit more off center with it. It's very low key and casual. Campbell sees things very black and white -- 'well, she's dead, I think he's responsible' -- but then Miss Marple'll come in with something else. Being a typical guy he tries to pass it off as his own. But she catches him out on a couple of occasions.
The hat Campbell wears was one of the reasons I wanted to do the part! I started off trying to be a bit like Humphrey Bogart and then I think on the first day I discovered they wanted me to have a pipe and I thought, 'That's cool!' But then I thought, 'Props --knifes, tobacco, ashes -- I can't stay clean for more than two minutes!' But that's the point isn't it? I bet those guys got dirty on the job. He's a cop; he's at the big house with a 1950s post-war attitude.
So with that all in mind I decided to dirty myself up. I think the costume department was very frustrated with me, especially when I'd crease all my shirts on purpose. I just don't see Campbell as a neatly ironed type of guy!
It's just a guy and a girl thing with Lucy. All the single men seem to be buzzing round her but she's that kind of character -- she's a real literary creation very much of that time and period of somebody who is a real can-do person. And in sleepy old fish paste England, it's thrilling.
It has a real innocent quality to it, and for me I find that refreshing. I've done a lot of contemporary work so it's a challenge to hold back and be restrained in that way.
Griff Rhys Jones on his role as Dr David Quimper:
Quimper is the local doctor who is a regular caller at Rutherford Hall, but not necessarily just tending would-be patients. Really he's got his eye on Emma, Luther Crackenthorpe's daughter, who looks after her father. Luther is permanently bed bound, and so Quimper uses this as an excuse to see Emma. He first came into contact with the family when Luther's wife Agnes was ill. As Quimper puts it, he 'sees her out of the world.'
However Agnes' death had a profound impact on Quimper. She apparently said to him, 'Love is all that matters,' and he's held on to this belief ever since. He's very much in love with Emma, but their relationship seems a non-starter. Apart from her, the family is a pretty revolting bunch.
From Quimper's perspective, they are rich spoilt kids, and they don't approve of Emma marrying this doctor. They think she could do better for herself. Agatha Christie is so observant and rather accurate in her characterization. Rather like a number of families that we may know who think of themselves as being rather important and posh, they take on airs for themselves. The Crackenthorpes are quite snobbish about Quimper and they don't want to have the doctor joining their set.
He's actually somebody who is much liked in the village. He and Tom Campbell, the inspector, are friends, both personally and professionally -- they're two bachelor boys who occasionally have a drink together. Despite his relationship with Emma and the high regard he has in the village, he does feel a bit of an outsider but it's not something that appears to faze him very much.
David Warner on his role as Luther Crackenthorpe:
Despite being head of the family, Luther Crackenthorpe is a troubled soul. Having fallen out with his own father, the inheritance he would have been entitled to skips a generation. When his wife Agnes passes away, his whole outlook on life spirals downwards and sets up the circumstances surrounding the relationships the family members have with each other. He's an angry and resentful man, and even with his wife he was very temperamental.
Despite this, he is particularly close to his daughter Emma. She looks after Luther and I think he rather plays on his dependence on her, which is pretty selfish of him. However when Lucy arrives, like the other men in the household, he is aware of her fresh outlook on life and his spirits lift a little. He's also extremely fond of his youngest son Cedric --he's really the apple of his eye, living a life Luther could only dream of.
The Miss Marple stories are the most extraordinarily good reads -- and I've been most impressed that this interpretation has really captured the time and essence Christie focused on. Watching a Miss Marple film is to me such a wonderful way to spend two hours. There's nothing better than to come home from work and get involved in a whodunit. I love them! I guess we all like to play our game at detective work too... and to see if we can spot who the murderer is.
Niamh Cusack on on her role as Emma Crackenthorpe:
Emma Crackenthorpe lives at Rutherford Hall caring for her sick father, but it is her single status that leaves her a very sad figure. She is very much a spinster-like individual, but she has a quiet hope that one day she may marry Dr Quimper, who has loved her for the past 12 years.
The family all know there is something between them, but nobody takes it terribly seriously because everyone assumes Emma will stay with Luther until he dies. Even though Emma herself has decided she will do that, she hopes Quimper will wait for her. I don't think their relationship is necessary a secret, it's just that no one in the family is particularly interested in Emma. Quimper is absolutely looked down upon by the family simply because they don't think he's good enough for her. They definitely think of him as common in relation to them.
I think she is self-sacrificing. Her father is a difficult old man, but she can't see a way out and, unlike her brothers, she has a real sense of honor. She wouldn't turn her back on him but I think she does resent him at times.
The Crackenthorpe family does seem capable of murdering each other! Alfred is a ne'er do well and black sheep. He's up to no good and bribing people who fall in love with his mistress. Harold has never really achieved very much and is in a very unhappy marriage to a woman who doesn't like any of the Crackenthorpes. Cedric is the one hopeful member of the family; Emma is very fond of him.
When the body of a woman is discovered on their land they seem more concerned with the scandal it will create, than for the dead woman herself. There doesn't seem to be much compassion, that's for sure. Emma is completely guiltless, but she knows the rest of them have every reason to be worried.
Ben Daniels on his role as Alfred Crackenthorpe:
Alfred is the eldest of the Crackenthorpe brothers, due to inherit the house and the money. Luther Crackenthorpe, Alfred's father, was left out of his father's will and has nothing; when he dies everything is to be left to Alfred, who is financially bankrupt, an alcoholic and morally a blackmailer. So, not a particularly nice chap.
He has lots of scams going, but we only get to hear about one of them -- a blackmailing scam which has recently fallen through. He's not a man to be trusted. He can't wait for his father to die. It's that black and white... The family disintegrated when their mother died. It all turned sour and the fact that Luther had no money and it's all going to be passed to the eldest son set up great tension. There's no love lost between them, and the father favors the youngest son, so that sets up wrangling amongst the brothers. It's an unhappy house.
When a body is discovered, suspicion falls immediately on Alfred. He could be capable of it. Despite his bullish tendencies, Lucy manages to get him to open up and find a softer side to him. Suddenly this gorgeous woman appears in the household and all the brothers and the father make a play for her -- in fact every man who comes into contact with her. Alfred is particularly drunk one night and he opens up and talks about his ex-girlfriend. For one moment you begin to feel sorry for him, but unfortunately it's very short lived!
But playing the bad guy definitely has its upside. It's true; the devil always plays the best tunes!
Charlie Creed-Miles on his role as Harold Crackenthorpe:
Harold is the second eldest in the Crackenthorpe family, and he has a chip on his shoulder. He married for money and he has a temper -- so all in all, he's not a particularly pleasant character. Harold is stiff upper lip, and quite upper class. I didn't have any voice coaching, as I just wanted to give it a go and have fun with it. It's part of the job I really enjoy working on.
Harold likes to think he's a ladies man and the day before Lucy's arrival, Harold and his wife have a row, so Lucy is like a breath of fresh air in the stuffy atmosphere.
The siblings all want to have a slice of the cake and with Luther having his particular favorites, it makes the atmosphere tense. As second son, Harold does feel that he's sidelined at times, and therefore is bitter. He's not a very nice guy, so I doubt many people will like him that much. But that's why playing a character like Harold is such fun! The Miss Marple stories are really entertaining. It's like working on a game of Clue, trying to guess who's done it! I've really enjoyed it.
Ciarán McMenamin on his role as Cedric Crackenthorpe:
As the youngest of a rather dysfunctional family, Cedric Crackenthorpe carries a burden on his shoulders. Cedric is essentially living a life his father could only dream of -- bohemian and rebellious, not hampered by the bounds of class and money. While Cedric had the same education as his brothers, he decided to follow his artistic talents and now lives in Ibiza, selling paintings and living off the land.
As the apple of his father's eye, he feels a certain constraint to live up to his father's expectations. The rest of them are still locked into a close, bitchy world and Cedric is completely free of that. When he returns home Luther is so happy -- I think it's the only time in the whole story where you see some genuine happiness and delight from a Crackenthorpe! But this is Cedric's burden -- the very fact that he's actually escaped the family is a great achievement in itself and one his father would be proud of, but Cedric can't face telling his father how life in Ibiza really is for him.
Cedric has no time for Lady Alice (Harold's wife) at all and he makes a point of ribbing her. Harold is very pompous and irritated by Cedric, and completely indifferent towards him. Meanwhile Alfred flirts between finding him mildly amusing and probably being jealous of the relationship Cedric has with their father -- Alfred's relationship with Luther has become more than bitter.
Cedric and Emma's relationship is the closest to what we could imagine as a genuine, nice sibling relationship. They're very affectionate and one gets the impression Emma has always been there for him as a mother figure.
Despite being an Irishman, I'm used to acting the part of a posh Englishman and I enjoy doing accents -- it's one of the reasons I wanted this job. It's good to be cast completely against type. The kind of life the Crackenthorpes live is in one sense completely alien to me. Perhaps more so for an Irishman jumping into this upper class world. It was great to film in so many beautiful country houses and be able to soak up the atmosphere.
Michael Landes on his role as Bryan Eastley:
Bryan is an ex World War Two pilot who has married into the Crackenthorpe family. His wife died giving birth to their child, so he is left to bring up his son, now eight years old. The family is extremely dysfunctional, but Bryan is close to Emma and Cedric. He finds Alfred and Harold obnoxious, but as the foreigner in the family, he's very much the outsider.
I think this guy is very empty. As a pilot during the war he's at the height of his career in his early twenties, then he loses his wife. Apart from his son, his life is now very lonely. He's a sad character. Then, when Lucy arrives on the scene, he's smitten with her and she fills his life up instantly. There's a bit of a love triangle that ensues between the Inspector, Bryan and Lucy, but from his point of view she comes in and fills a void.
Working with Kurtis (O'Brien, who plays Alexander) was great. There are some playful scenes. For example, father and son play baseball and they make a joke of Inspector Campbell. Bryan has a big secret and what's so good about these stories is that you end up getting suspicious of everybody. Unfortunately, having this secret has an impact on his relationship with Lucy. Once she starts to get suspicious, her guard comes up a bit.
I was in a play in London during the summer and this came my way -- it doesn't often happen like that but it was a great opportunity to stay. I don't think we have the equivalent of this in America where a television drama attracts so many great actors. I really wanted to be part of it; it was an easy decision. Originally I don't think Bryan was written as an American, but I think it's perfectly legitimate that he is -- it makes sense because a lot of soldiers came over with nylon and chocolates!
As an Italian-American, I'm totally at home with a mixture of different backgrounds. I've done a film set in this period before so I have some understanding of this era. It's been fun. The crew was great and the actors have all been such a laugh. They joke around a lot and I love it. I think also, when you're doing something serious, you always end up chuckling! As for driving, the cars were manual, which was tricky. They felt so small to drive -- but terribly flash. I loved it.
The appeal of Agatha Christie doesn't seem to wane. She's very appealing. It's been a while since these stories have been done so I think it's great to give them a fresh angle. I'm sure it will reach not just your typical audience of the past.
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