Actors and Roles | Music
The Actors and Their Roles
James D'Arcy as Jerry Burton
Emilia Fox as Joanna Burton
John Sessions as Cardew Pye
Harry Enfield as Richard Symmington
Imogen Stubbs as Mona Symmington
Kelly Brook as Elsie Holland
Thelma Barlow as Emily Barton
Jessica Stevenson as Aimee Griffith
Frances De La Tour as Mrs. Maud Dane Calthrop
Ken Russell as Reverend Caleb Dane Calthrop
James D'Arcy on his role as Jerry Burton:
James D'Arcy, a Londoner and graduate of the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts has been seen in films Master and Commander, An American Haunting and Exorcist: The Beginning. His television credits include episodes of Poirot and Dalziel and Pascoe.
'Jerry Burton is a World War II veteran. When we meet him at the beginning of the story he is at the end of his rope, basically. He tries to commit suicide. His doctor prescribes the quiet life, so his sister takes him off to the countryside to do nothing at all. Of course, this is the world of Miss Marple, so lots and lots starts to happen! Gradually, through that process and a girl he meets, he begins to revitalize himself. I think Jerry is in a field of one in that he is, in my experience, the one person in a Marple -- who isn't Miss Marple herself -- who isn't a suspect. I suppose in a way in this story he is like 'Mr. Marple!'
In Agatha Christie's world there are lots of eccentrics and stereotypes. In this village we have two characters who are slightly more "normal" -- Elsie and Megan. As Jerry is from London, he helps them to see that there is more to life than just this small parochial parish community.
I've read the Christie books almost from when I could read. She's got such a great way of spinning a yarn. What I love about Agatha Christie is that she was fantastic in finding someone who you think is well past her prime and is fit for knitting and having cups of tea and then, book after book, she solves murders. With Miss Marple, you just can't believe it and that's what makes it interesting. And these films always attract such an incredible cast. I couldn't possibly have imagined that the producers would have got the people they have done. Also, when you are working with terrific actors then hopefully you act better too.
Geraldine McEwan is just utterly perfect. She is Miss Marple. You can't see the line between her and the character. It makes it easy to act with her -- you are truly acting alongside Miss Marple!'
Emilia Fox on her role as Joanna Burton:
Emilia Fox, daughter of actors Edward Fox and Joanna David, has an extensive background on stage, television and film. She has been seen previously on Masterpiece Theatre in The Virgin Queen, Henry VIII, David Copperfield, Shooting the Past and Rebecca.
'Joanna is the sister of Jerry Burton. He has had an accident and I have decided he should recover in the country. We arrive rather incongruously in this little village and Joanna is not the traditional village girl. But they get involved in the goings-on of the village. At first Joanna is rather amused that there is all this commotion going on as she thought that she would be rather bored. But then she becomes very involved!
I think Joanna takes over the lives of Megan and Owen. She likes Megan for being this innocent young girl who looks up to her. Joanna, I think, likes that attention. She has probably never flirted with or fancied a man like Owen before. She thinks, "Oh, I'll play with the doctor for fun," and then she ends up falling for him a bit, for his honesty and straightforwardness. I think, in spite of herself, she gets drawn into it.
Agatha Christie writes such great characters. For actors, it is an absolute joy to be asked to do it. It's so exciting when you arrive at the read-through and see the great people you will be working with. I didn't think we'd get any work done but we did -- and it was great fun!
I could be the killer... on the other hand, I could be the most amazing red herring. I think that's the beauty of a Christie -- you just don't know who did it. You are always looking one way when it happened somewhere else. Kevin Elyot has written the most brilliant script. I've always been an Agatha Christie fan. I can remember stealing the books from my sister when we were little. When you think of Christie's appeal, she is timeless. Long live Marple, Poirot and Christie!
Geraldine McEwan is the Miss Marple of our time. It's trying to find a different note to ring with the character. She is more contemporary. She is the Miss Marple who is not shocked by anything. She has a sort of naughty knowingness!'
John Sessions on his role as Cardew Pye:
The Scottish born John Sessions attended RADA in London and holds a PhD from McMaster University in Ontario, Canada. Known as a writer, comedian, improv actor and performer, Sessions' film credits include Gangs of New York and A Midsummer Night's Dream and, on television, The Lost Prince, The Inspector Lynley Mysteries and Gormenghast.
'Screaming queen is how I would describe Cardew Pye! He's a bitchy malicious, gossipy old queen. He is a suspect as he has got a nasty tongue on him. But then, the story is full of red herrings! You want to be in the dead heat -- you and the real murderer, with people thinking, "Is it him?"
Agatha Christie's are actually quite hard to do well. I've done thrillers before, but not your actual whodunit -- I think there is a real art to it. And there's a style to Marples -- they are almost comedies of manners. That's why Geraldine McEwan is so good, because she has a track record in restoration comedy. It does involve that lightness of touch. You aren't falling on the floor screaming for your mother all the time! (Well, maybe my character is screaming for Bette Midler or Judy Garland!)
It's that cold winter's night factor -- curling up with Miss Marple. It's a world of certainties in a way, although it's somewhat contradictory because you are dealing with murders. However, they aren't like the murders that inhabit so many dramas now -- violence at its sharpest end.
Joan Hickson brought a gentle air of disapproval to Miss Marple. Geraldine brings her own warm and generous open nature. She doesn't judge and she doesn't bang on about things! That's very right for Miss Marple -- she is this level playing field who doesn't make any assumptions about people. Her whole ability at investigating is based on an openness of nature and an openness of possibility. Geraldine is an incredibly experienced actress. When I did my first scene with her, it was like. 'I'm working with Geraldine McEwan, I'm going to look like an amateur!' She really knows her stuff and she knows what to do and she gets on with it.
You have to remember that devout Christie fans watch these, so you have to do them justice. Other people just like a warm bath -- they just let it flow over them. They probably sit there saying, "Oh, that 'John Slattery' -- he's a bit over the top. isn't he? Didn't he used to do Whose Line Is It Anyway?!"'
Harry Enfield on his role as Richard Symmington:
British comedian Harry Enfield has appeared in many films, television programs and comedy sketches. He received the Writers' Guild of Great Britain award for 1994's Harry Enfield and Chums. He provides the voice of the Travelocity gnome.
'Symmington is a very upright solicitor who is married to a very gossipy lady. He's not really strict with her -- he just lets her be. He is very uptight, he doesn't like to show his emotions. When his wife dies, he is obviously upset, but he doesn't like that her death makes him appear emotional. He's a bit of a dark horse -- he's a solicitor, but then so is Bob Mortimer, who is bonkers! Maybe it goes with the trade! He's quite a lonely, arrogant man so he probably views his family from afar. Elsie is just a nice girl who looks after his sons but he does have a bit of a midlife crisis and thinks he has a chance with her! His relationship with Megan is a bit weird. It's that dodgy stepdaughter thing, isn't it? She's of that age where she is a bit awkward. I'm on his side with Megan!
I suppose the finger of suspicion points to everyone, but I'm not really sure when you first begin to suspect Richard. There's a point when I snap at Miss Holland and another when I am caught ogling her cleavage by Miss Marple, so that could be it!
It's fun working with so many different actors. Ken Russell was the first in the queue for lunch and I was the second, so I introduced myself then! John Sessions I've known for years and he's as mad as a hatter! Then there's lovely Millie Fox, who is great -- I've never seen her look so ginger before though! Also Jessica Stevenson, who I've loved from Spaced and all that -- she's brilliant.
I guess we hanker for a time before we won the World Cup. We look back fondly at this period when, really, it was quite nasty at the time -- it was all quite grey and we had rationing and all. If Miss Marple came to your village you'd go on holiday though wouldn't you?! You don't want to be around when she starts prying! I think there should have been one last book where you find that this monstrous old woman had been going round murdering people and framing everyone else! I should write it in fact! Although it's probably under copyright so I'd have to call her 'Miss Murple!''
Imogen Stubbs on her role as Mona Symmington:
Imogen Stubbs graduated from RADA and has performed extensively on stage as well as in film and television. She appeared in Sense and Sensibility (as Lucy Steele) in 1995.
'Mona Symmington is quite a neurotic and lonely character, who suffers a lot from headaches. She is the mother of the gawky village child, and isn't fond of her. She wishes her daughter was glamorous, like Joanna Burton.
I think, given that it's a Marple, it is probably quite obvious that she was murdered. Saying that, she was secretly unhappy and is taking drugs because she's depressed. Maybe they really did think she overdosed by accident...
You know ,with an Agatha Christie you are in safe hands. They are so well-crafted and have good character parts, which people feel comfortable with.
I know Geraldine McEwan as her husband ran RADA and this Marple is full of lovely people from RADA! I love Geraldine, she's lovely and its nice to work with her. Also, I like dressing up and wearing wigs and dark glasses. People want an opportunity to dress up and Miss Marple attracts people who have that almost 'pantomime' instinct!'
Kelly Brook on her role as Elsie Holland:
A native of Kent, Kelly Brook attended the Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts in London. At age eighteen, after a brief career as a model, Brook became host of The Big Breakfast, a British morning show. She has since been seen several films and television programs including The Italian Job and in Smallville (as 'Victoria Hardwick').
'Elsie Holland is a 'too good to be true' character. She is the governess, to Mr. and Mrs. Symmington's two children, who catches Jerry Burton's eye. Throughout the film you see a different side to her -- she becomes quite suspicious and you're not quite sure if she is as good, innocent and lovely as she makes out. She's kind of a femme fatale but in a very subtle way. It is so cleverly written, you could play the part in so many different ways. That's what is so fun about playing Elsie. I get to play everything: the relationship with the children, the flirty relationship with Jerry, the relationship with Mr. Symmington. She interacts with a different range of characters and I get to play all the sides of her, which is really great for an actress.
Elsie is desperate to get out of this small town; she is young and a little bored with her job and she sees Jerry as her escape route into city life. In that respect you don't know if she genuinely likes him, if she is using him as a cover or if she just wants to get out the village.
It's a kind of double bluff -- it's always the quiet ones you have to watch. Regardless of how you play your character, everyone is always a suspect. Miss Marple has got her eye on everyone -- there is something sweet about an older lady being that sharp and not letting anything pass her by. The way it is written you don't have to make your character suspicious by acting suspicious. It's all in the writing.
I wanted to do something back in England and the cast was incredible. And I love the character I'm playing. I thought the script was beautifully written so there was no reason not to do it; it was the perfect thing to do right now. I love the '50's, I love the style of it and the costumes are just brilliant. Of course I wanted to be in a Marple -- who doesn't? It is great British TV!
I think everyone loves a whodunit, a murder mystery. They are classics and should be retold time and time again. I like that they keep reinventing them with different casts. They are, at the end of the day, great books.'
Thelma Barlow on her role as Emily Barton:
Thelma Barlow was born in 1929 in Yorkshire, England. A regular on the television series Coronation Street, Barlow has also appeared in the Academy Award-nominated film Mrs. Henderson Presents and on Masterpiece Theatre in David Copperfield (as Uriah Heep's mother).
'Emily Barton is a lady who has never married, who lost her mother a few years earlier and has lived in the village all her life. She has led a quiet, industrious life and tried to be very much a part of the village. The Bartons must have been very well established and very well to do as they had servants and were hugely respected by the rest of village. I think Emily is deeply shocked by the poison-pen letters and can't believe that it's happening in this dear little village which normally has nothing more exciting than the harvest festival or the Women's Institute! It's something she has only read about in fiction or seen in a newspaper. I'm sure that she takes part in some of the gossip, but she's very kind and sweet. And everyone becomes a suspect. Who knows what's going on behind this quiet faŤade -- I could be a lunatic!
I wanted to do this because the production values are so high and it does attract very good actors. It was lovely to be asked and lovely to be a part of it. That's part of the excitement of being in this business -- you do constantly mix with people from different backgrounds and different talents, and it's wonderful that everyone wants to be in a Marple.
Agatha Christie's plots are so cleverly constructed. I think that people like their minds to be stimulated. People like to be as clever as she is and look for those subtle clues to suss out who did it. It's an adventure each time. Every character is well drawn and they are cleverly intermingled. It must have been very difficult to adapt because of the different lines of suspicions.
Geraldine McEwan has her own special quality which is fairly inscrutable. She is very warm but gives very little away as to what Miss Marple is thinking, which is exactly how Agatha Christie wrote it. She is as mysterious as the events happening around her.'
Jessica Stevenson on her role as Aimee Griffith:
Jessica Stevenson, from Sussex, has worked extensively in television, film and theater as both a writer and actor. She joined the National Youth Theatre at the age of 15 and was nominated for a Laurence Olivier award for Best Performance in a Supporting Role for The Night Heron performed at the Royal Court Theatre Downstairs (2002).
'Aimee is the resident spinster in the village who has unrequited passion for Dr Symmington, which has meant that she hasn't been able to get on with her own life. She is a Brownie mistress and is quite brisk. She certainly keeps up appearances -- she has a respectable persona and everything she does is very much in keeping with what would be acceptable for a woman of her stature, age and situation. But Agatha Christie is very moral about people who let their heart rule their heads, so she is judged rather harshly by the story for her foolish sort of weakness of the heart. You might wonder whether Aimee had something to do with the letters because of her seeming interest in the murder and her occasionally quite suspicious behavior.
I love Miss Marple. All our Miss Marples have been very different. Margaret Rutherford was the one I grew up watching. Joan Hickson was another great Miss Marple and I think Geraldine is equally great. I think Geraldine is very much in the tradition of 'our' Miss Marple. They don't seem to follow a mold - it's not one trying to be like the last one. I've always loved the campy kind of intrigue and the great performances that you get in a Miss Marple -- the fun of it all and the fun of the Miss Marple character, which Geraldine McEwan really captures. It's definitely a kind of treasure that we have -- Miss Marple and Agatha Christie are definitely two of the great things about British culture.
I think Agatha Christie books are wonderful. I still read them and still love them, so this is as fun as it gets in terms of acting. They are the kinds of characters who are straight but slightly larger than life, and in a period which is fascinating. I think there is an argument to have Agatha Christie taught in schools as a classic literature. It is quintessentially English and clever and funny. She draws characters so well, from young to old. She has a feel and love for them which really comes across.'
Frances De La Tour on her role as Mrs. Maud Dane Calthrop:
Frances De La Tour has won the Laurence Olivier Theatre Award twice -- in 1984 (1983 season) for Best Actress in a Revival for Moon for the Misbegotten and again in 1992 (1991 season) for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for When She Danced. She was Madame Olympe Maxime in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and plays Mrs. Lintott in the film version of Alan Bennett's The History Boys.
'Maud is a vicar's wife with a difference. She's eccentric, or rather her life is. Her husband is wonderful and totally eccentric and he completely embodies that mad 'Reverend' idea. She cares about the community, but she's over involved and just a bit mad really! I think the villagers like her very much because she likes them. That's quite genuine. Even though she's lah-di-dah and a bit posh, she does care. She likes to think of herself as a bit of a sleuth as well because she tries to work out what is happening in the village. Nothing is really explained about Maud and Miss Marple's friendship, but it's nice. It's more -- 'I'm here, I'm an old friend, so she stays with me.' They probably go back a long way and have gone different ways but stayed in touch.
You think you are going to have a lot of fun with something like this... and you do! The last time I did a Christie was Poirot: Death on the Nile and we went to Egypt which was wonderful. This isn't quite so glamorous, though you do get to meet such wonderful actors. It's wonderful to work with Geraldine McEwan as we go back a long way in terms of our professional lives. And Ken Russell! I've never worked with Ken before. It's marvelous.
I just love Geraldine's tenderness as Miss Marple. You just know there is a love story there somewhere. But with any part, it is never truly yours. It's like a house -- even if you've bought it, you haven't really, as once you move out the building is still there. You borrow it.
Agatha Christie is wonderful in the way she just draws the lives of people and it's not over explained. I think she writes a bit like her life -- we know nothing about Agatha Christie, she's a complete mystery. Who was she? What happened to her? I don't know all her books, I've just read a couple of them. I'm just intrigued by her. She is in everything she writes. It's like soap operas or Greek tragedy. It's being able to see the secret life of people. Like Big Brother, only more interesting!'
Ken Russell on his role as Reverend Caleb Dane Calthrop:
Best known as director of such films as Tommy, The Lair of the White Worm and Women in Love (for which he received an Academy Award nomination as Best Director), Ken Russell has also been seen as an actor in such programs as Colour Me Kubrick, Fall of the House of Usher, Lion's Mouth and The Russia House.
'Caleb Dane Calthrop is an eccentric vicar who probably did the murder! Or am I a red herring? I think the other villagers are quite scared of him, to be honest. I'm hoping they are going to put into the script a part where he condemns the village and the villagers as a cesspool of evil and sinners! The villagers trust him as far as they can throw him. Everyone is a suspect in Lymstock -- it is a village of very dodgy folk and he is one of the dodgiest! He is so obviously up to something dodgy that he must be innocent. It's the innocent ones who must be guilty!
I think we all like dressing up and pretending, it's like when we were children. But the other day I did slip up and shouted, 'Cut!' Everyone was most shocked!
The whole cast is wonderful. I just think Geraldine McEwan is absolutely top-notch. I've followed her work across the years. I think the other Miss Marples were a bit too straight for me.'
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