As Midsomer Murders returns to our screens, Radio Times talks to Neil Dudgeon (DCI John Barnaby) about TV’s most murderous county…
After playing DCI John Barnaby for seven years, you must have a palatial home.
Palatial? I have a small house in London with a tiny, tiny garden! When we visit the lovely big houses in Midsomer, I mooch around very jealously, thinking, “Ooh, how much would this be?”
Do you watch Midsomer Murders in your small house?
I accidentally came across the beginning of an episode recently and thought, “I’ll just watch the first two minutes.” An hour later my wife [radio producer and director Mary Peate] found me still there. She said, “What are you doing? You spend your whole life making it, why are you watching it?”
Away from Midsomer, do you live a bohemian lifestyle?
I’ve just been cleaning out the guinea pigs in shorts and a T-shirt, so it’s not that bohemian, more like drudgery! I manage to get to the gym and do some shopping, but my life is mostly doing chores. I hate to disappoint you, but I don’t even own a smoking jacket.
Do you allow your kids to eat in front of the TV?
Yes, we do! When Strictly is on, we can’t pause that, so we have tea on our knees. But mostly in the week I insist the family eats together, it’s important. I’ve just made a jambalaya.
That’s very adventurous.
My version is made with rice, tomatoes, onions, celery, lamb, chicken, prawns and chorizo. If I did it properly, it might be tremendously difficult.
You’re 57 now – has TV crime drama changed much?
Today you’ve got to have several murders and serial killers. When I was a boy, watching Z Cars and Softly, Softly, they might have a bit of burglary, or shoplifting. Now, if there were aliens who wanted to find out about our civilisation by watching television, they’d think half the planet spends all its time trying to figure out how to kill the other half.
Scandi noir and its dark British equivalents seem to mainly murder women.
We’ll bump off anybody on Midsomer Murders, we’re not at all choosy. We wouldn’t do anything bad to an animal, and certainly not to children, but otherwise, we’re very equal ops murderers.
Do you fear society is scarred by all that killing?
Nobody is watching Midsomer Murders and thinking, “Oh, that guy was on the roof of his castle when he saw a headless horseman and fell to his death from the roof… My God, that could have been me!” Or seeing people who are supposed to have been kidnapped by aliens and entombed in plastic shells with goo inside. No one thinks, “That could happen to me when I’m walking the dog!”
I imagine you have a fan club?
Surprisingly, I’m not that popular. My fans are more of a select group, but I’m sure they more than make up with enthusiasm for what they lack in numbers.
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Is there one episode of Midsomer Murders that stays with you?
The Incident at Cooper Hill, in 2016, where Midsomer went a bit X-Files. There’s a scene at the site of a UFO crash with forensics picking over the wreckage. When I read the script I thought, “We’ve gone completely mad. We can’t do this!”
The first of two new episodes of Midsomer Murders is on Sunday 13th May at 8pm on ITV