Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
Rollover Information
About MYSTERY! Schedule Program History Detectives American Mystery Specials Home Search Shop
Miss Marple, Series II
Production Notes Story Synopsis Who's Who Geraldine McEwan Interview Filling Miss Marple's Shoes Agatha Christie Links + Bibliography Discussion Miss Marple, Series II Home MYSTERY! Home The Sittaford Mystery
Production Notes [imagemap with 9 links]

Production Notes

Actors and Roles | Locations | Music

The Actors and their Roles

Timothy Dalton as Sir Clive Trevelyan

Mel Smith as John Enderby

Michael Brandon as Martin Zimmerman

Zoe Telford as Emily Trefusis

James Murray as Charles Burnaby

Paul Kaye as Ambrose Burt

James Wilby as Stanley Kirkwood

Laurence Fox as James Pearson

Carey Mulligan as Violet Willett

Timothy DaltonTimothy Dalton on his role as Sir Clive Trevelyan:

Often recognized as 'James Bond' (he played the role in The Living Daylights and License to Kill), Timothy Dalton is a classically trained Shakespearean actor with a stellar roster of roles in theater, television and film. Originally from North Wales, Dalton grew up in Manchester. He began acting at a young age. Other memorable films include The Rocketeer, Flash Gordon, and The Lion in Winter.

'I play Clive Trevelyan, who is at the top of his political party and in line for the Prime Ministership. He is an ambitious, two-faced and very political man.

I wanted to do this part because it has been ten years since I worked on TV in Britain and I just thought the time was right. Plus this is an entertaining script -- it's the kind of show I never normally get a chance to be a part of. I received a call from Paul Unwin, the director, and I just found his commitment and enthusiasm really infectious. The way he said he wanted to do it was really interesting. That was a huge draw for me.

I don't really know why we keep going back to Agatha Christie. It's an interesting question because there is nothing in Agatha's work that relates to any kind of real England we know or that there has ever been -- it's a myth, a fable. Obviously though it is a game -- everyone is fascinated by the games of Agatha Christie. It's the fun of the mystery, the red herrings and guessing who did it. She managed to tap into something people seem to really enjoy.

Earlier in my career I appeared with Dustin Hoffman in Agatha, which is the story of a period in Agatha Christie's life where she disappeared for 11 days. To this day no one knows exactly why she disappeared or where she went. In Agatha it was put down to a sort of amnesia after the trauma of discovering her husband had an affair. There were manhunts and they eventually found her in Harrogate. I don't know that it gave me any insight into Agatha Christie herself, but it certainly was an interesting project!'

back to top

Mel SmithMel Smith on his role as John Enderby:

Mel Smith is an actor, comedian, writer and director. He attended Oxford University, directed episodes of the HBO series Dream On, and has appeared in many films including The Princess Bride (as the albino).

'My character is John Enderby, who is Clive Trevelyan's closest friend. He has known him for years, since they were in the Army together. Enderby now lives with Trevelyan and is kind of his right hand man, while Trevelyan concentrates on his political aspirations. He is a fiercely loyal friend and is determined to find Trevelyan's killer.

I've liked Miss Marple since Margaret Rutherford did the films, then Joan Hickson on TV. I loved watching Geraldine McEwan in the first series of these Marples. Then, when I fancied doing some acting again, I just thought this was something to get my teeth into. Plus, I knew it was a good cast and I knew I had some mates in it -- like Paul Kaye, who I've directed and Timothy Dalton, who I know. Then there is Geraldine, who I think is quite wonderful. I don't know how anyone can learn those denouements where she explains how the entire plot fits together. Personally I think she deserves some sort of honor just for that!

I think everyone is a suspect in these things. I've read this script a few times now and I still don't understand the plot! I get who did it at the end and so on, but I have a feeling it is far more complicated in the script than it will be on the screen!

A whodunit is always irresistible -- whatever else happens in the meantime, there is something about the fact that you know you are going to get a resolution -- interesting, surprising or silly. It keeps you hanging on. Also, nowadays, I think the period element is something people really like. People like the fact that they can see a society or a way of living that they imagine was going on in those days. They are a celebration rather than something to be taken over seriously.'

back to top

Michael BrandonMichael Brandon on his role as Martin Zimmerman:

Michael Brandon was nominated for a 2004 Laurence Olivier Theatre Award for 'Best Actor in a Musical' for 2003 for his performance in Jerry Springer -- The Opera at the Royal National Theatre. A native New Yorker (Brooklyn), Brandon has been seen on many American television programs including Murder, She Wrote, The Nanny, Ally McBeal, The Practice and JAG.

'Martin Zimmerman is an American industrialist involved in all kinds of business. We find he was involved in military contracts during World War II, in which he was partnered with Trevelyan. Their company manufactured weapons systems which were not, shall we say, of the best quality and they were the cause of numerous friendly fire incidents. Our own soldiers were killed because the bombs they manufactured seemed to go off often before they left the barrel. This is now causing an inquiry where my butt is under fire!

This is a genre I've never done before. It's a different kind of acting. It's just a wonderful opportunity to do something from a period which is not that long ago, but was still quite different. Plus it's always with these wonderful English actors -- they are great eclectic casts. I remember when I saw A Taste of Honey I fell in love with Rita Tushingham a bit. It's great to be working with her now!

I'm definitely a suspect, but that's classic Marple -- if you're not a suspect then you're not at the table! There is definitely a motive and I have my reasons. It's great fun to play because what often looks like skullduggery and evil is revealed to be something quite innocent. Every line and page in these scripts changes everything. You turn the page and think it could be someone different each time. It's a formula that works and that's why we keep going back to them. We love it because people love to think they're figuring it out. It's interactive for people at home. However, I think this story is impossible to work out!

I have read a lot of the Christie books and seen a few of the films. My wife, Glynis Barber, actually did And Then There Were None in the West End when it was previously staged there. In this story, it is interesting that Miss Marple is never actually where the crime takes place. She solves this crime by using messengers and communication. All the suspects are here though, trapped by the snowstorm -- I think it makes it very claustrophobic and interesting as people are always overhearing things that perhaps they shouldn't!'

back to top

Zoe TelfordZoe Telford on her role as Emily Trefusis:

Zoe Telford has been seen in the films Match Point and Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo.

'Emily is a very modern girl for the '50s. She's a bit racy. She's very curious when the murder happens and really revels in the idea of being at the helm of this investigation. She's a lot of fun really, very feisty but charming. She's engaged to James Pearson, Trevelyan's fostered son. James is lovely, but very unreliable and drunk all the time. She is perfectly happy with him, but then along comes Charles Burnaby and she falls for him... I think because he is quite plucky and ambitious -- he won't take any of her nonsense! She also knows Miss Marple -- she was once engaged to Miss Marple's nephew -- she's been engaged six times!

I think this appealed to me simply because the Marple stories are really good fun! I've had some great costumes too. You are allowed to be slightly larger than life. I don't like the 5: 45am wake-up calls, but it's worth it in the end. I do love the dressing up and showing off, but then, that's why I'm an actress! Although I have been told that I look like Ruth Madoc in Hi Di Hi or Rizzo from Grease when I'm wearing the wig. That's wearing a bit thin now!

I think Marples still appeal to people because they like a whodunit and they like clear definitions of types of people. It means they can say "he's the baddie, she's the goodie" and so on. People like to see bad people brought to justice. I think that's why people invest in it in the way they do. I can't imagine a time when people won't be interested in storytelling like this.

I love Geraldine McEwan as Miss Marple. She is just a brilliant actress -- it is as simple as that really. I was watching her on set and she is just incredibly alive. It is slightly daunting working with her, but it is great to be able to learn from her experience.'

back to top

James MurrayJames Murray on his role as Charles Burnaby:

A native of Manchester, Jim Murray has been seen previously on Masterpiece Theatre as Dick Dewy in Under the Greenwood Tree and as Pvt. Will Needham in All the King's Men. He appeared in the films Being John Malkovich (as a student puppeteer) and in Kevin & Perry Go Large, a 'low-brow musical comedy.'

'Charles Burnaby is a reporter for a local newspaper. In order to get closer to Trevelyan he bends the truth a little and claims to be a reporter for a much bigger outfit. He wants to get close to Trevelyan as he is likely to succeed Churchill as Prime Minister, so there is a huge public interest in him. Trevelyan has a very interesting past, so Charles is after the scoop of the century. Charles is very tenacious - he'll stop at nothing to get his story. He is a bit out of his depth with the people around him, but he handles himself well. He has that skill which all good reporters need of being able to tread water very well!

I think the appeal of Agatha Christie is just that the stories are so well crafted. To adapt her work you have to keep the complexity in order to make the mystery work and be interesting. The stories are so layered and every single character is so well defined, particularly with their backstory and their reason for being there. Everybody has an agenda, which makes everyone a suspect. That is what makes Agatha Christie so brilliant. You don't trust anyone on face value -- a bit like life! Everybody loves a mystery or a thriller. Look at the DaVinci Code, which is, in a sense, a modern day Agatha Christie. It's a page-turner. Everybody has their own inclination as to who did it and why. With Christie you find you are always wrong -- or at least I am when I read them! It's always good to be proven wrong, but proven wrong well is what she does.

I knew I wanted to do this film because a murder mystery is always fun. The cast in all of these films is just top notch. I think Geraldine McEwan is brilliant. She has a sense of modernity, but maintains the unique idiosyncrasies of Miss Marple. She is very, very engaging.'

back to top

Paul KayePaul Kaye on his role as Ambrose Burt:

An actor and writer, Paul Kaye has had roles in Agent Cody Banks 2 and Match Point. He was an (uncredited) zombie in Shaun of the Dead.

'Ambrose Burt is definitely a bit iffy! There are a few things happening behind the scenes that you find out about later. It's great fun to play -- even if you are innocent you can pretend to be guilty for a few hours! I said yes to this film before I even saw the script. It's a British institution really. It's something you have to experience as an actor. It's also great fun -- I don't think I've had this much fun on a job for a long time. You feel as if you are 'playing' -- you are encouraged to find as many little tics and mannerisms as you can. You can be a bit larger than you can normally. I'm trying to make my character like Peter Lorre in The Maltese Falcon, which is one of my favorite films. I'm trying to make him as reptilian as possible. Plus I get to wear a trilby! I've tried to get a hat in everything I've done for the past three years and I've always been refused -- so on a personal level it's a dream come true to be in this!

The film is just shot beautifully. It's chilling, it's funny -- it's larger than life. It's very theatrical as well. Then you can add on to that an amazing cast! They are great TV. I think we keep going back to Agatha Christie because you can always put a modern interpretation on it. For a director and a writer you can have such fun with it. You can afford to be as daring and as colorful as you want.'

back to top

James WilbyJames Wilby on his role as Stanley Kirkwood:

James Wilby has appeared frequently on Masterpiece Theatre and Mystery! in programs including Jericho/The Hollow Men, Foyle's War/They Fought in the Fields, Island at War and Bertie and Elizabeth in which he played King George VI. His film work includes roles in De-Lovely, Gosford Park, An Ideal Husband and Howard's End.

'Stanley Kirkwood is technically an innkeeper. But really he is helping his cousin who is in jail to escape, so he's bought a pub to be close to the prison. The night of the escape, all of these people arrive at the inn, so he's hugely under pressure. I'm hamming away like a good 'un!

I think I was attracted to the part because I have played a lot of middle/upper-class characters in my time, so whenever a director offers me the opposite I grab it with both hands! There is such a lack of invention when it comes to casting sometimes. Type-casting is the wrong word but sometimes actors are so strait-jacketed when decisions are made about what kind of actor you are. I love the fact there is a lot of comedy in this part. When I read it I thought there was a huge potential for comedy. Part of what is great about the Marples is that it isn't naturalistic television -- these films can allow for broader strokes.

I'm absolutely a suspect at some points. The audience is faced with so many red herrings it could literally be anyone. There are so many bizarre little moments happening. Agatha Christie has drawn in a vast array of very weird and eccentric characters so the audience, I hope, will be thinking "who the hell? Who is she? Who is he?" They will be wanting to guess all the way through.

It's been great fun working with such an amazing group of actors. It's such an ensemble piece. On day one I was behind the Three Crown's reception desk greeting them all as they were introduced into the story. It was quite interesting to see all these leading actors, one by one, coming onto the set, when they may only have a handful of scenes. And I've always admired Geraldine McEwan as an actress. She's a great actress and a wonderful comedienne. I'm so upset that I'm in a Marple and I don't get to do a scene with her!'

back to top

Laurence FoxLaurence Fox on his role as James Pearson:

Trained at RADA, Laurence Fox comes from a theatrical family. He is the son of actor James Fox, the cousin of actress Emilia Fox and the nephew of actor Edward Fox and producer Robert Fox. His credits to date include roles in Masterpiece/Mystery titles Jericho/The Killing of Johnny Swan, Island at War and Foyle's War/War Games, as well as in the upcoming Inspector Lewis. He also appeared in Gosford Park and will be seen in the Columbia Pictures' Jane Austen biopic Becoming Jane.

'I play James Pearson, who is the drunk and debauched ward of Clive Trevelyan. I have the best reason to murder Trevelyan, but I don't think that anyone will really believe I did it. I'm too obvious, so I must be a red herring. When I read the script I knew straightaway I hadn't done the murder!

I wanted to do this because these films are the sort of thing that you can watch on TV in 25 years and say to your children, "That's your dad." They must stand the test of time, otherwise why would we still be showing them on TV all the time? Agatha Christie is just so good at what she does. I mean, who does it better? She's got a great mix of powerful strong characters combined with being the best whodunit writer there is.

The cast on this film is amazing. These films are always full of such fantastic people. You turn a Marple on and it's, "Oh, my god, it's him! Or her!" They are like films rather than television. It's quite sad that I only get to meet Miss Marple briefly in this. I think Geraldine McEwan is great because she gives herself a bit of distance. She is not always the center of attention. The other Marples were always right in the front line. Geraldine doesn't make it all about her -- she is quite reserved.

I've just come from playing a detective in Lewis and it is so much more fun to play a suspect. The suspects get to do all the fun acting, whereas the detectives often just get to sit and nod!'

back to top

Carey MulliganCarey Mulligan on her role as Violet Willett:

Carey Mulligan was Ada in Masterpiece Theatre's award-winning miniseries Bleak House. She also starred as Kitty Bennett in the 2005 film version of Pride and Prejudice with Keira Knightley and appeared in Forty Winks at the Royal Court Theatre in 2004.

'Violet Willett and her mother come to the hotel for a week, under the guise that mother is going birdwatching. Mother is quite a domineering character, so Violet has turned into quite a mousey, 'hide-behind-the-glasses' type of girl.

I wanted to do a Marple because it's something I've never really done before. Also there is the obvious benefit of getting to wear these beautiful clothes and the way the final product looks. The script is just stunning because there are so many back stories. Everyone has their own agenda so there are a million and one things going on in every scene. My favorite is when everything is revealed. Everyone has their own secret - and it's always fun when you get to expose all of that!

Working with this cast has been brilliant, really brilliant. Whenever I tell friends about it the reaction is always, "Wow!" The cast is all perfect for their parts -- they are exactly as they should be. I worked with Matthew Kelly on Bleak House, so I knew him already. Patricia Hodge, who plays my mother, is amazing -- she's really helped me because this is a different style of acting than what I'm used to. It's not always totally realistic and she's helped me to get into that.

I'm not sure what the lasting appeal of Agatha Christie's stories is, really. I just know that when I got this part I had so many friends who said. "Brilliant, I'll definitely be watching!" and then equally I have elderly relatives who will be watching. I think it just appeals to everyone.'

Production Notes | Story Synopsis | Who's Who

Miss Marple, Series II Home | Geraldine McEwan Interview
Filling Miss Marple's Shoes | Agatha Christie
Links + Bibliography | Discussion

Home | About MYSTERY! | American Mystery Specials | Program History
Schedule & Season | MYSTERY! Games | eNewsletter | Book Club
Discussion | Search | Shop | Feedback

WGBH Logo PBS logo


Masterpiece is sponsored by: