Neil Dudgeon was born in 1961 in Doncaster.
Article in “MailOnline” here.
Midsomer Murders star Neil Dudgeon has a hunch – like all good policemen – as to why the everyday story of country folk killing each other makes ideal festive viewing.
As villagers drop like flies in more and more inventive ways, perhaps crushed to death by a wheel of cheese or poisoned by frogs, it apparently gives fans ideas.
‘Christmas is wonderful, but it can make you want to murder your nearest and dearest,’ laughs Neil, who plays DCI John Barnaby in the long-running show. ‘Then you see it all acted out on TV and you think, “If only I’d thought of that! If only we had a gargoyle, I could get on the roof now, get them in the garden and push the gargoyle off!”
This year’s festive offering The Christmas Haunting, which launches a new series of five episodes, sees a philandering furniture-maker fatally stabbed with an antique sword during a manor house’s ghost hunt
‘But seriously, the murders in Midsomer always have that slightly hilarious quality that allows people to enjoy them. People who live in London are afraid of things like being mugged on the way home from the Tube, but it’s very rarely reported on the news that a man in London has been crushed by a falling gargoyle or beaten to death with a round of Midsomer Blue cheese. They’re sort of safe murders, if you can have such a thing.’
This year’s festive offering The Christmas Haunting, which launches a new series of five episodes, sees a philandering furniture-maker fatally stabbed with an antique sword during a manor house’s ghost hunt.
Prime suspects? Well, Les Dennis heads the list of guest stars alongside Elizabeth Berrington, Mark Heap, James Murray, Emily Joyce and Hannah Tointon. Neil’s keeping the case-file close to his chest but is prepared to reveal, ‘There’s plenty of snow and it’s very festive. Sykes the dog is quite be-Christmased, as you would expect.’
And Neil gets another present too: a new right-hand man. DS Ben Jones (Jason Hughes) has been promoted and transferred away from the area, and his replacement, DS Charlie Nelson (Gwilym Lee), arrives on the eve of the festivities. Gwilym – who’s been in Inspector Lewis, Waterloo Road and Ashes To Ashes – admits it’s ‘a bit of a dream’ to land the part of the green tea-drinking health freak from the city. Already a Midsomer fan, the 29-year-old says, ‘It’s like the British Television Repertory Company. You see all these familiar faces around. It’s fantastic!’
Neil agrees, saying that working with some of British TV’s legendary stars is one of the highlights of the show for him. ‘I have a soft spot for the older actors I remember from watching television as a boy. June Whitfield and Bernard Cribbins are in one episode that features a couple of brilliant aeroplane-related fatalities. I can say no more.
Robert Bathurst is also in it – an old friend of mine who I first worked with years ago. Every time there was a cut in one scene Robert and I started pestering June with questions like, “So June, Tony Hancock, what was he really like?” We’d do another take and then we’d say, “June, June, what was Wilfred Pickles like?” It was just hilarious. Brilliant stuff. Bernard claims to be in his mid-80s but it’s like he’s in his mid-50s. He’s extremely funny and charming with it.’
The familiar faces in the Christmas Special had to suffer for their art though. The snowy scenes were filmed during the July heatwave when temperatures reached 31°C.
‘It was hilarious,’ laughs Neil. ‘We film through the summer months, so we were all saying, “Once we start the Christmas episode, we’re going to have to wear coats and scarves and say, “Brrrrrr!” but there’ll probably be a heatwave.’
And there was. ‘Every time we came out of a building we had to say, “Oh, it’s cold!” The director would say, “Yes, that looks great, apart from the fact you’re sweating too much. Can you try not to sweat or have the sun bouncing off your face?” It was a bit tricky.’
Gwilym adds, ‘But no matter how hot and sweaty we were, at least we weren’t in a Father Christmas outfit like Les Dennis. That was a bonus!’
The banter between Neil and Gwilym bodes well for the future. Les Dennis likened their chemistry to that of Captain Mainwaring and Sergeant Wilson in Dad’s Army. Quite a compliment from a man who knows his comedy. ‘The highest praise,’ nods Neil.
Midsomer Murders is now exported to 225 territories around the world, and it’s such a massive hit in Denmark – even bigger than The Killing – that they filmed its forthcoming 100th episode there and some of the stars of The Killing – Ann Eleonora Jorgensen, Marie Askehave and Nicolaj Kopernikus – make cameos alongside Borgen’s Birgitte Hjort Sorensen.
Were they mobbed when they arrived in Denmark? ‘It was like The Beatles arriving with the Pope in the back of the car!’ laughs Neil. ‘In a population of just five and a half million, they’ve sold around four million Midsomer Murders DVDs.
Something like 80 per cent of households have at least one DVD, and it airs in a primetime Saturday-night slot. Ann Jorgensen – who played the mother in series one of The Killing – said when she told her family, “I’m doing this thing called The Killing” nobody was very interested. As soon as she said, “I’m doing an episode of Midsomer Murders” they begged her, “Can you get us pictures?”
‘Everybody was tremendously excited. We’re really cool in Scandinavia. All the Danes thought it was thrilling to be in the show.’
With the death toll now standing at more than 300, and that landmark 100th episode airing in February, Midsomer Murders really is making a killing.