Actors and Roles | Locations | Music
The Actors and their Roles
Sophia Myles as Gwenda Halliday
Aidan McArdle as Hugh Hornbeam
Dawn French as Janet Erskine
Martin Kemp as Jackie Afflick
Paul McGann as Dickie Erskine
Sarah Parish as Evie Ballantyne
Phil Davis as Dr. James Kennedy
Russ Abbott as Chief Inspector Primer
Peter Serafinowicz as Walter Fane
Sophia Myles on her role as Gwenda Halliday:
Myles has appeared previously on Mystery! and Masterpiece Theatre in Foyle's War and Oliver Twist. She has had roles in the films Art School Confidential, From Hell and Mansfield Park.
'Gwenda Halliday has lived in India, where her father was a diplomat, all her life. She is 21, engaged and is coming to Dillmouth to find a house. For reasons she doesn't at first realize, it has always been a dream of hers to live at Hillside. As far as she knows, her mother died in an accident when she was a baby and her father died of a heart attack a few years after that.
Gwenda's relationship with Hugh Hornbeam is very beautiful. They are very good friends. He is terribly earnest and nervous and wants to do everything right. Gwenda has a lot of fun with him. We play love interests but we are also a comedic duo, which is lovely.
Miss Marple and Gwenda also have a lovely relationship, because as soon as Miss Marple meets her she sees that underneath this façade, this rather hoity-toity act, Gwenda is actually quite vulnerable and lost really. So they have a nice connection. I think Miss Marple sees quite a bit of herself as a younger girl in Gwenda.
I have never done this period before and it is so lovely, because it really embraces women's curves and femininity. I think after the war women just wanted to celebrate and Gwenda wants to really celebrate!
What is so lovely about the Marple stories is that, even though they are whodunnits, there is so much comedy in them as well. That is part of the reason why I was attracted to the job. Another big pull was Ed Hall (director of Sleeping Murder) who has never directed film or television before, but is massive in theatre. It is just wonderful watching him work and watching his enjoyment -- he is so good. I think he is going to be really, really big and I hope that he doesn't forget me!
I had a lot of laughs filming. There is a scene right at the beginning of the film when Hornbeam picks Gwenda up and we drive around to try and find somewhere for her to live. Ed had an idea that it would be very funny to stop the car because this huge herd of cows has surrounded it. So I am sat there in the car and I feel this wetness... there was a cow licking slowly up my arm. Then they all started going to the toilet and cow wee was flying up into the car! So glamorous, this business! Actually I think that's the stuff that I get a real kick out of -- I am never going to forget that day, the day I was licked by a cow!'
Aidan McArdle on his role as Hugh Hornbeam:
McArdle has been seen previously in the film Ella Enchanted and, on television, in Perfect Day, Riot at the Rite and E=MC2, in which he played Einstein. He graduated from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in 1996 and has an extensive background in theater.
'Hugh Hornbeam works for Charles Vanstone, a major mogul, based over in India. Hugh is very bookish, he likes going to museums and he is into geology. He is the quiet unassuming type, but actually has a very strong sense of himself. You wouldn't cross him! His job is basically to chaperone Gwenda -- take her wherever she wants to go, buy the property, do it up and get everything set up before the big date, before she gets married to this Bill Gates of his era, Charles Vanstone.
I think, at the beginning, he is just very nervous, because it is the boss's girlfriend and he has to make sure he doesn't lose his job by stuffing up. But then, gradually, as events unfold, their friendship develops. There is a scene where Gwenda is being very hoity-toity and she is spooked in the night by a noise in the house and Hugh offers to make her a cup of cocoa. That, to me, is like the perfect encapsulation of their relationship.
I think Hugh really gets into the sleuthing nature of it. He turns into an amateur detective, as does Gwenda, and that's why it is such a great adventure. He has known Miss Marple since childhood and, as he has been told by Vanstone to get an investigator, he goes to her. Of course, Gwenda doesn't quite understand why he has enlisted the help of this elderly lady, but it soon becomes very clear how sharp she is.
I feel like Clark Kent or someone from one of those old Rock Hudson movies, going around with all the gear on. Also, of course, all the women look absolutely amazing floating around like Doris Day. We spent an amazing week in Devon and we had the most fantastic weather, so it was just like going back in time. It's exactly why you want to be an actor.
I think these Agatha Christie adaptations are so popular because it is really good storytelling -- the writing is superb. There are so many different weaves of narratives and all the red herrings really keep you guessing right to the end. I think everybody loves that, because it is very satisfactory when everything slots into place. Also, when you have somebody like Miss Marple who is, I suppose, externally quite 'weak' and then you see them dissecting somebody, very gently, just easing the logic along and painting them into a corner, there is something incredibly compelling about that. It is like watching somebody perform surgery and it's fantastic.'
Dawn French on her role as Janet Erskine
French is well known to television viewers as The Vicar of Dibley and for performances with her comedy partner Jennifer Saunders. She was seen previously on Masterpiece Theatre in David Copperfield. French provided the voice of Mrs. Beaver in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
'Janet Erskine is a friendly, warm person whose life hasn't turned out to be quite as glamorous as she might have hoped. She secretly harbored hopes of a career in light opera but has ended up with the Funnybones which, nevertheless, she loves. She has to put up with Dickie's depression but she loves him very much and recognizes he is a somewhat broken man since the war. She has a saucy side but has to keep this pretty much under wraps! Personally, I think she makes the outfits for the Funnybones girls!
I was attracted to the part because I'm such a Miss Marple fan and I wanted to work with Ed Hall. Also, I knew I would have a chance to do some loud and bad singing, which is one of my favorite pastimes.
Miss Marple and Agatha Christie will live forever because we are obsessed with murder mysteries and, likewise, we are obsessed with costume drama. Miss Marple combines both in the best possible way. The production value is fab and the acting and directing are a treat. Very British. Sublime!
I loved this cast and have since adopted them all into my actual family. We had a hoot both on and off-screen. The Funnybones may well tour the English seaside towns in the future, playing all the piers! I loved the mixture of actors and comedians and I adored Geraldine the most!'
Martin Kemp on his role as Jackie Afflick
A London native, Kemp played bass in the 1980s band Spandau Ballet. He has won "Best Actor," "Sexiest Male," "Most Popular Actor" and "Villain of the Year" awards for his role in the British soap opera EastEnders. He played the brutal Reggie Kray in the award-winning film The Krays (1990).
'Jackie Afflick is the pianist in the Funnybones. He's quite a hyperactive Cockney and a very charming character. He loves whatever you've got and he's full of life so he's a great character to play; he's ready to try anything and anyone! He thinks the finger of suspicion never rests on him. He thinks he is completely in the clear. The only thing he has to hide is his illegal drug addiction and how he's been selling drugs to get some money.
The Funnybones are an 'end-of-the-pier' band. They aren't actually in the original Christie novel but were added by the scriptwriter. I think it's a great idea as it gives it a lot of color, more characters and more suspects. The Funnybones are the backbone of the show in a way. There's tension between them, especially between myself and a character called Erskine, played by Paul McGann. We don't see eye-to-eye, so I give him a black eye! It's the same as any band -- all bands split up in the end, including the Beatles! The Funnybones are no different.
When I first read the script, I found it very complicated. I kept getting to the end and then going back to the beginning trying to work it out. When you watch it, everything will depend on the visuals and where your eye is taken; how you take the whole thing in. I know it's going to be a fantastic piece. Wearing the costumes starts off as fun but then, after a few weeks, it starts to turn into a bit of a chore, because you have to keep dressing up. But it's worth it in the end. We all love those moments on TV that look really classy.
As far as the cast is concerned, you couldn't ask for more -- it's fantastic! I keep looking around the room and taking in who's in the show and it's absolutely wonderful. It's a thrill to be on set and it's a real honor to be asked. Geraldine McEwan is brilliant. Absolutely fantastic. She came onto the set the other morning and went through a six-minute monologue without dropping a single word. She was clapped after the rehearsal, which kind of sums it up!'
Paul McGann on his role as Dickie Erskine
McGann, originally from Liverpool, has been seen previously on Mystery!/Masterpiece Theatre in Forgotten, Kidnapped and Our Mutual Friend. He has appeared in the films Withnail & I and Alien3.
'Dickie Erskine is the leader of the Funnybones. In those amateur circles, he's the one who dares to dream and imagine that one day he will play the Palladium. In fact, he ends up going away to the war. The war ruins everything for him. He loses his eye and is a husk of a man, kind of limping around. He is still with Janet, his wife, but by this time he's a bit of a sad character, a loser. He is the kind of character, particularly English, you rarely see now -- stoical and pragmatic, rather tough and reserved.
I think for Dickie, given that it's his group to start with, he is very protective of it -- it's his baby. It's rather allegoric and quite a fond look back at what used to be the staple of the entertainment scene 60 years ago. In every town, particularly on the coast, they would have these troupes of players who would perform for the whole summer. They'd do a bit of magic, a bit of singing, a bit of dancing and it was all pretty rubbish really, but people loved it! It was stuff that probably now we actors couldn't even begin to do. I know because when we performed just one number it was hard! But we felt like we were in real 'show business' for once, which is nice.
All the characters have a little secret, which is great in a mystery. Everybody has something, as we all have, which they'd like to keep private. This one particular secret they might be withholding may just be crucial to the murder plot so they have to tell all. So, in this denial, they all have to spill the beans about themselves. Nobody is quite what they seem or what they say and everybody has a different version of the events of the night in question, often because they are trying to protect someone else. It all hangs together brilliantly.
Everywhere in the world people like good stories -- big children, small children -- we are all the same. Particularly a yarn like this which is ingenious, where the secret isn't revealed until the end. People love that. The plates are kept spinning and your ideas about characters are completely turned over so what you thought to be true turns out not to be. It's great stuff.'
Sarah Parish on her role as Evie Ballantyne
Parish trained at the Academy of Live & Recorded Arts (ALRA) in London. In 2003 she was nominated for a UK National Television Award ("Most Popular Actress") for her role in Cutting It. She appeared opposite Debra Messing and Dermot Mulroney in the 2005 film The Wedding Date.
'We first meet Evie Ballantyne in the 1930s, which is when the murder happens. She's a very young, aspiring, keen singer-dancer. But nobody takes much notice of Evie because she's not very good-looking and she's a bit lanky and gawky. Nobody really thinks she's up to much really. And she's very much in love with Martin Kemp's character, whereas he can't even look at her because she's so revolting.
Then it skips 20 years and you see that Evie is now the only one out of the Funnybones who's 'made it'. She claws her way to stardom and she is now beautiful and a fantastic singer. It's just a really fun part to play because she starts out really gawky and then you get the pay-off, with all the lovely costumes and the great wigs.
I'd just come back from LA and I was horribly jet-lagged -- I'd had about an hour's sleep. Then I suddenly woke up and realized I had a rehearsal to learn to tap dance and play the xylophone simultaneously!
You kind of get summoned to do a Marple -- you don't look for it, you just get the phone call saying "You will be doing a Marple." And it's great -- you just turn up and there's absolutely everybody there! I saw one last year and it had about four of my friends in it. The casts are incredible. It's because you know you're going in to something that will be fun and have a campness to it, as well as being classy and having a weight to it. You know you'll be working with fantastic people, the scripts are always funny and very well put together -- it's just one of those treats that you occasionally get as an actor. Every now and again you get a Marple or a Poirot and you know you'll be surrounded by great people and have a few weeks of pink spotty frocks!'
Phil Davis on his role as Dr. James Kennedy
A native of Essex, Davis has appeared in films including Casanova, Vera Drake, Nicholas Nickleby, In the Name of the Father and Alien3. His Mystery!/Masterpiece Theatre appearances have included roles in Bleak House (as Smallweed), White Teeth (as Archie) and Prime Suspect 5.
'Dr. Kennedy was a GP for a while then, after the war, he decided to re-train and become a psychiatrist. He is a single man, very kindly and very understanding. Then this blast from the past turns up -- this niece of his, which is something of a surprise. He's slightly mysterious because we don't really find much out about him until the story unfolds. People aren't ever really quite what they seem in an Agatha Christie; Miss Marple peels them like an orange and reveals them as they are. She has a kind of forensic intelligence and she can judge people very well.
I like Agatha Christie -- I kind of grew up with her. I remember reading the books and doing some plays at amateur dramatics -- that thing of having 8 or 9 people in the room and knowing the murderer is amongst us: it's all very dramatic and great fun. The characters are all very big and bold and I just fancied playing a psychiatrist, not something I do very often! When I was younger I played a lot of deranged adolescents and thugs so it is nice to play someone who has a few letters after his name!
Marples are the classic whodunnits! You have a cast of characters and you have to decide who you think did it and you change your mind half a dozen times and then are still surprised at the end. I think that is the joy of it, choosing your killer! As an author, Christie very cleverly withholds certain bits of information and then lets them leak out just at the right time. So you never get the full picture until the end when the last piece of the jigsaw falls into place -- it is very satisfying.
Miss Marple has the appearance of a rather dotty and timorous lady, but she has this blazing intelligence and laser-like brain. The way she judges the characters is the key to everything. She is surrounded by not so bright policemen quite a lot of the time, so we need someone to solve all of the crimes!
The Americans love heritage Britain, don't they! This is a world that quite probably never existed at all really -- it's fictional, but it's the old-fashioned England with cream teas and drawing rooms and everybody being polite which people love to see.'
Russ Abbott on his role as Chief Inspector Primer
Abbott's acting career includes an extensive theater background as well as television. Credits include roles in tv series Doctors, My Family, TV to Go, Heartbeat and Casualty.
'Primer is a policeman from Dillmouth. He has risen to Chief Inspector and is about to retire. He is pruning his roses in the garden and going through his retirement speech in his head when Miss Marple walks past and compliments his roses. His nose starts to twitch as a policeman's would, I suppose because Miss Marple is in the area. She asks him about a case, which was an open and closed case as far as he was concerned, many years ago, but she entices him back into the plot. Thankfully I don't have to solve the case, because I am not really that bright as a policeman!
It is a bit like the Lestrade character in Sherlock Holmes -- the wonderful sleuth always takes over. Primer is not ridiculed though. Miss Marple does actually need the help of these policemen and she uses them in a sense, but also she is very courteous and polite and she doesn't want to step on anybody's toes. I think the policemen in all the Agatha Christie stories, once they realize that Marple knows what she is doing and is as clever as she is, they cannot help but go along with her investigations.
The intrigue is all down to the writing. It is very skilful. It's also down to the performing to an extent. I have noticed that when the director comes on to the floor and describes a piece and explains to you what it is about, you have to be extra careful. There are red herrings and you have to leave these lying around, but you have to be so careful that you don't give the game away too early! There is a gentleness about it, which you don't get from many other crime stories. When you listen to Miss Marple unravel all the strands, there is no other detective, apart from Sherlock Holmes in my opinion, who can actually achieve that.
It is good old-fashioned television. We always appreciate the way films were made in the past and to recreate that now is unique. This is money well spent. I do seriously believe that the next generation will appreciate these films. They may even want to go back through the archives and look at some of the older ones, who knows! Let's just hope it's an education.'
Peter Serafinowicz on his role as Walter Fane
Serafinowicz provided the voice of Darth Maul in Star Wars: I -- The Phantom Menace and he appeared in Shaun of the Dead and The Calcium Kid. His television appearances include roles in Smack the Pony, Spaced, Black Books and I'm Alan Partridge.
'Fane is a fan of the Funnybones -- he is the local big theatre and music-hall buff. He just loves that whole world. He's gay, and in the Miss Marple world that means he's very firmly in the closet -- but are there skeletons in the closet? We will have to see!
A couple of my friends have done Christie and it's just one of those jobs that you think 'I'd love to do that!' As an actor it's the best job you could possibly get. You're filming in these amazing, lush locations and you get to wear these amazing costumes. Last year I filmed Look Around You and did a day in Woolwich. That's got to be the worst place I've ever filmed -- it's like Little Britain or a Fellini film! This is like the opposite of that! It took us five days to shoot the 'You're probably wondering why I've gathered you here' scene and that was great -- everybody was there in full costume.
It was the best fun with the cast -- everyone's such a laugh. There's a funny thing that's been happening. It's supposed to be 1952 and we're sitting there watching the denouement scene. But everyone at the time of filming was watching Big Brother. So it's like [adopts Geordie accent] "2:42 pm... Miss Marple has called the suspects in to the drawing room." Even Geraldine McEwan was watching it!'
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
Masterpiece is sponsored by: