Neil Dudgeon says he has “no intention” of leaving Midsomer Murders and will “go on and on doing it for as long as it’s fun” – even if “sooner or later all good things come to an end.”
The actor has already spent a decade playing DCI John Barnaby in the ITV crime drama, after replacing John Nettles in the lead role. Original star Nettles had played DCI Tom Barnaby since the show’s launch in 1997.
“I’ve got no intention of stopping doing it. I don’t know what else I’d do!” Dudgeon told RadioTimes.com at the Radio Times Covers Party.
“I’m in a very fortunate position. I think it’s such a great show that, one always assumes – when you’re an actor you always think, whatever job I’m doing, it’s going to end next week and that’ll be it, I won’t work again.
“But no, I think that as long as ITV want to make it and people want to keep commissioning it, as long as people want to keep watching it, it’s a great show to do. So I can’t imagine why I would – I think if I stopped doing Midsomer, I’d kind of stop doing things entirely. It’s like Dr Johnson said about London: when a man is tired of London he’s tired of life. I think when an actor’s tired of doing Midsomer he’s tired of acting.”
Reflecting on his love of the show, explained: “I’ve been doing Midsomer Murders for… it’ll be 10 years this year. I started in 2010. I started wanting to do it because I’ve always loved Midsomer Murders, and I’ve gone on doing it because – I suppose I still love Midsomer Murders, really.
“I love the – having a two-hour show to do and having the scripts that we have, the quality of guests that we get, the locations that we film in. The thing that I always loved about watching the show is the same as I still love about making the show, is that I think it’s kind of fun and I think it was very high production values, so it looks great and it’s kind of fun and entertaining, and I get to work with a lot of brilliant people, so there’s a lot of great reasons for carrying on doing it.”
The drama is now in its 21st series, with Dudgeon joined by Fiona Dolman as his wife Sarah Barnaby and Nick Hendrix as DS Jamie Winter. Recent episodes have starred actors including Katy Brand, Jason Watkins, Annette Badland, Nigel Havers, Danny Mac, and Natalie Gumede.
“I can’t say why I would leave,” Dudgeon told us. “I can only think that, sooner or later, all good things come to an end. Somebody’s going to say, ‘it’s been great but now it’s time to stop.'”
He added: “When I started I would never, ever have thought it could go on so long. And now I’m looking at ten years, I’m thinking, well, you know, John Nettles did it for 13 years, maybe I would like to sort of catch up with John Nettles. I don’t know.
“As I say, I can’t imagine why I would choose to leave unless somebody else chooses for me to leave, and then I won’t have a choice. But no, I think I’ll go on and on doing it for as long as it’s fun and it goes on being fun. It’s a great show, you know, it’s a great show to do. Great writers, great scripts, directors, wonderful guests come in, great locations. If you’re an actor working in television, it’s got everything that you want to have in a job really.”
Dudgeon is also hopeful about the show’s future.
“As long as people love the show and watch the show, I guess that’s a good reason to keep on doing it,” he said. “The recent episodes that have gone out, I gather, have done very well in the ratings and have had lots of people watching them, so hopefully that will persuade ITV to keep investing in the show and putting money into the show and letting us come up with great, nutty scripts of murder and mayhem in the English counties, and we’ll go on doing it and entertaining people for a little while to come.”
The actor also addressed the major delay in showing Midsomer Murders on British TV – a delay which meant that many episodes aired abroad before UK fans were able to watch on ITV.
“I know that there are fans of the show, UK fans of the show aren’t very happy hearing from fans in Sweden and Germany and Australia and America saying, ‘Oh yeah we saw all that series last year!’ – and obviously British fans think it’s a British show, and we’re only just seeing it now,” Dudgeon said.
“I don’t really know why that is, other than obviously ITV, it’s up to the schedulers at ITV. We make the show and deliver the show, I gather, and then the schedulers at ITV decide when they’re going to broadcast those shows.”
Series 20 of the long-running crime drama began in March 2019 with the first two episodes, but then there was a long gap until the next pair of episodes aired in May. The final two episodes only aired in January 2020.
We’re now two episodes into series 21, but fans are still waiting for the rest.
“There was a bit of a hiatus when they weren’t showing shows on British television, and then I think foreign distributers were saying, ‘Our audiences are clamouring for Midsomer, please can we show it’,” Dudgeon explained.
“Because it used to be, I think, that it had to be shown in this country before it could be shown abroad. And then I think because of this hiatus in this country, foreign distributors and broadcasters were saying, ‘We need more Midsomer! You’ve got to let us show it!’ And then ITV said, OK, you can show it. So then it went out in various territories, I think around Europe, Australia, and I think some broadcasters in America could show it.
“So then of course lots of people around the world have seen it and British viewers haven’t seen it. So when they got wind via social media that other people were seeing it and they were waiting another year or two years to see it, the fans were not very happy.”
He added: “Why ITV held onto it for so long, I don’t know. That’s way above my pay grade, I don’t really know why that would happen.
“I think the only solution is that we film more episodes and we broadcast them more speedily to everybody in the world who wants to see them… People love it all over the world and they just want more of it. So I think that’s what we should give them.”