Rowan Atkinson is back on Easter Sunday for another tale of murder and deceit in Maigret's Night at the Crossroads – though for those who can't wait any longer, he'll be discussing Maigret and revealing clips from the TV drama on Friday at the BFI & Radio Times Television Festival.
This time the fictional French detective Jules Maigret will be trying to get to the bottom of a tricky case involving a dead diamond merchant – with an additional complication when he finds himself drawn to the suspect's glamorous sister.
Like last year's standalone episodes Maigret Sets a Trap and Maigret's Dead Man, this is another Stewart Harcourt adaptation of a classic Georges Simenon novel. Later in 2017 it will be followed by a fourth instalment, Maigret in Montmartre.
What is Maigret's Night At The Crossroads about?
"Maigret has been interrogating a mysterious Dane, Carl Andersen, for hours without a confession," says ITV's synopsis. "Why was the body of a diamond merchant found in his car at his isolated mansion? He's either innocent or a very good liar. What does his beautiful but vulnerable sister know? And what compels everyone at the Three Widows Crossroads to be so secretive? Maigret sets out to find his killer which ultimately leads to a thrilling climax."
We also know from Atkinson himself that we'll meet the detective in a somber and self-reflective mood.
The actor reveals: "Maigret is at the funeral of an old colleague who died, forgotten by those who once loved him. It makes him think about the lot of a police officer. The officer who died was a drinker who drank himself to death. He had separated from his wife, his whole life had collapsed and he died alone."
However, "Maigret is very reassured, as he always is, by his home life. Which is rooted in tragedy. It was stated in the first film how he and his wife lost a child in infancy. So they are childless but they are very close and rely very much on each other."
But who is mysterious new character Else?
Maigret may be very close to his wife, but in Night at the Crossroads we will see what happens when he becomes attracted to someone else.
Danish actress Mia Jexen, best known for playing PC Ingrid Witry in Fortitude, plays the suspect's sister Else. Atkinson explains: “Else has influenced, not always to the good, an awful lot of men. She is clearly someone who is a damaged but attractive individual.
"Else is very glamorous and seductive, using her femininity to her own ends. There is no doubt Maigret feels himself being drawn to her. It’s an interesting dilemma for him because we haven’t seen that before. The degree to which, in the end, Maigret is human. He’s human and he’s male.”
John Simenon, son of Georges and executive producer on Maigret, adds: "There is quite an intense relationship between Maigret and Else, a very attractive woman trying to charm Maigret, who is not entirely insensitive to that.”
Who else is in the cast?
Aidan McCardle returns as Judge Comeliau, Shaun Dingwall is Inspector Janvier, Lucy Cohu is Madame Maigret, and Leo Starr is back as Inspector LaPointe.
Joining the cast of Maigret for the first time is Pirates of the Caribbean actor Kevin McNally as Inspector Louis Grandjean, while Game of Thrones star Tom Wlaschiha will play Carl Andersen. Also lined up to star in this episode are Stephen Wight, Mark Heap and Robin Weaver.
Where is it set – and where was it filmed?
This story is set between 1950s Paris and a little place 20 or 30 miles outside town. But like upcoming Maigret in Montmartre, it was filmed in Budapest – where the team reports temperatures hitting minus 20 degrees.
Atkinson says: “The location is very interesting. The crossroads in the middle of nowhere, through which fruit trucks pass going into the markets of Paris in the early morning. And they stop at this isolated crossroads on the way. At the crossroads there are just three dwellings - the garage, the Michonnet house and then the Andersen house.
“It’s quite a way out of Maigret’s patch because it’s not Paris. It’s a good 20 or 30 miles outside town. But he decides to take it on because the local cop Grandjean, played by Kevin McNally, is an old colleague and Maigret decides to take an interest. It’s a very complex web of villainy all rooted in this crossroads.”
John Simenon adds: "Night At The Crossroads is mainly set outside of Paris and allowed us to treat this isolated place as a character of its own with its very specific atmosphere of the French countryside... If you go back into the 50s, a distance of 30 kilometres away from Paris you were the middle of nowhere. Now it’s the suburbs.
"After the war I won’t say such a place was exactly a jungle but all sorts of things were taking place that city people were not very much aware of. There was less law and order than what we would think today. And that reminded the writer a bit of the Far West of the late 1800s."
What can we expect from Maigret in Montmartre?
According to Atkinson, the next episode – due on ITV later this year – also involves a fantasy woman...
“Maigret In Montmartre revolves around a woman again," he explains. "Which was very much Georges Simenon’s infatuation. I suspect he was depicting a fantasy woman of his own in this story. That’s my feeling. She has a very startling effect on a wide range of men. And it’s got her into a lot of trouble. It all feeds into the great seediness of the time and of the place. And of this nightclub in particular, Le Picratt.”