What makes you shout at the TV?
I don’t like reality TV very much. Because it’s not reality. It’s so structured and rigged that you end up with people acting something, quite badly. When I see people acting in an unbelievable, rubbish way, I shout, ‘That’s my job!’
Which show would you bring back?
World of Sport with Dickie Davies, particularly the wrestling, which I used to watch with my nan. I used to say, ‘Nan, you’re an intelligent, bright, funny woman – what the hell are you doing watching this?’ It’s a shame there’s so little sport on mainstream TV. It’s the march of neo-liberal capitalism. I used to love putting the Test match on for five days solid.
Midsomer is sold to 220 territories worldwide – do you get recognised in odd places?
Everywhere. It’s eaten up all around the world. I imagine people may view it differently depending on where they are. Are people in North Korea thinking, ‘This is what happens in terrible capitalist countries’? I don’t know. I can see why it’s popular in Scandinavia. It’s similar to those Scandi-noir programmes like Wallander or The Killing; everyone seems lovely, but underneath are these teeming emotions.
What is your favourite Midsomer murder?
I liked The Dark Rider , which opened with the wonderful Murray Melvin on the roof of Knebworth at night, in a storm, when he saw a headless knight and fell off in terror. There’s another where a man was stripped and covered in truffle oil, thinking he was about to get involved in something saucy, then he was eaten by a wild boar. I love it because if you live in London and watch a show about someone being killed by a mugger on the Tube you think, ‘This is too close to home’, but nobody is worried they will fall off a roof because of a headless horseman.
DCI John Barnaby is not your first detective role, is it?
I’ve played quite a few policemen in my time. When I think about Messiah, I always think of me and Ken Stott digging around in a sewer in east London at 3am. Now I’m doing Midsomer, I swan around lovely villages in Berkshire and Oxfordshire and it feels like my reward for all those night shoots.
What do you watch as a family?
Strictly Come Dancing. It’s brilliant and my kids love it. [The Culture Secretary] John Whittingdale said the BBC shouldn’t make popular programmes and chase viewers. But who would have known that a programme about ballroom dancing would end up being one of the most popular shows on telly? Sometimes you just try these ideas and they work out. It’s like Bake Off or The Apprentice. The idea that the BBC shouldn’t attempt these things is cretinous in the extreme.
Would you take part in Strictly?
If I was asked to, I think my daughter would make me. But it would be humiliating. I’ve fallen out with theatre directors because I get frustrated when people try to teach me something. It was the same when I learnt to drive.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
Location, Location, Location. It’s fascinating. I think Phil Spencer is very funny, and the show is perfectly structured.
What makes you turn off?
Cooking programmes. There’s too much fuss about food. You haven’t split the atom, you’ve just made dinner! I don’t like posh restaurants, either. Just give me steak and chips any day.