Midsomer Murders has become something of a British television institution.
The long-running drama, full of the small-scale rivalries of middle England, more often than not sees harmless disputes rapidly escalate into deadly encounters.
Now, following a prolonged pause in production due to Covid, the British drama is set to return to ITV on Sunday nights with four new episodes.
Starring Neil Dudgeon as veteran police officer DCI John Barnaby, alongside Nick Hendrix as DS Jamie Winter, the pair tackle all manner of crimes across the fictional county of Midsomer.
With 2021 marking 10 years in the role for Dudgeon, 60, the actor sits down to tell us more about the forthcoming episodes.
“We started filming again at the beginning of October,” he explains of how things were changed by the pandemic.
“On the first day, when I first arrived back and we started shooting The Wolf Hunter Of Little Worthy, it was all on a glamping site. It was all very Midsomer – except that everybody was distant and wearing the masks.
“I thought, ‘This is really weird and really strange and a little bit unnerving’, and within about 15 minutes I was quizzing Mark Williams and Sean Redmond about whether they’d murdered somebody. I sort of slipped back into the Midsomer world with the frightening ease.
“Midsomer is a very physically affectionate set, if I can put it that way. There’s lots of handshaking, hugging and kissing in the mornings, that sort of thing, and that’s had to stop. Sometimes you wonder, ‘What’s that point in going to work without that?’. But we’ve struggled on.
“We shot two episodes before Christmas, which are going to be broadcast shortly, I believe.
“The Wolf Hunter of Little Worthy and The Stitches Society, we did those before Christmas. And then we reconvened again in January and we shot another episode.”
One day of filming involved a spontaneous yoga session.
“We had a day when we were filming scenes in the church,” he reveals.
“And for those scenes, we had an actual yoga teacher and her yoga class. And so, we went outside and I saw that the yoga teacher had started to put the class through their paces or warm-up and I thought, ‘Ooh, I’ll have some of that!’.
“And so I went and joined in at the back and we were doing all the warrior two (poses) and all those sort of things, right there in the graveyard with all the other ladies. And it was fantastic, a fantastic way to start the day.”
Dudgeon says he is both surprised and delighted to be marking a decade in the role of DCI John Barnaby.
“I never had any idea that it will go on this long.
“They said come in and do a few episodes of Midsomer and I thought, ‘I’ll give it a try. I hope I don’t destroy the show inside one episode because that would be very embarrassing, after John Nettles has done it so marvellously for 13 years and I bury it inside one episode’.
“But we got through that first series and then they wanted to do it again and I thought ‘Hurrah!’, and sort of repaid the faith of the people who cast me in it.”
He says he has struck up a particularly good relationship with co-star Nick Hendrix.
“We’ve had a couple of times over the last couple of episodes where we’ve tried to play the scene without actually making eye contact because it made us laugh too much.
“And that is, I think, a low point for any professional artist, to be quite honest. I’m outing us both here.”
The new series of Midsomer Murders will air on ITV from March 21.
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