TV: New crime drama with Roger Allam brings sunshine to our screens


Roger Allam has played a wealth of characters in his time, from Prime Minister Henry Pelham in Pirates Of The Caribbean to Peter Mannion in The Thick Of It. Hollywood blockbusters sit alongside contemporary crime dramas in his resume.

The 68-year-old’s latest role is as Investigating Judge Antoine Verlaque in ITV’s three-part drama Murder In Provence. Set on the sunny shores of France’s Cote d’Azur, this is something of a whodunnit.

Allam’s character joins forces with romantic interest Marine Bonnet (Nancy Carroll) as they try to solve a murder at the local university. The series also features Miranda and Rumpole of the Bailey star Patricia Hodge, alongside The Greatest Showman’s Keala Settle.

Ahead of the first episode on July 17, we ask Allum to tell us more.

WHAT FIRST DREW YOU TO THIS SERIES?

The appeal for me, always, is doing something different to the thing I’ve just done. It’s a very different kind of character to Endeavor – even though we’re still in murder mystery-land, and a different location. And it was written by one of my oldest friends, Sheila Stevenson.

SO YOU WERE BROUGHT ON TO THE PROJECT AT AN EARLY STAGE?

She told me all about her plans for the show early on. She said she wanted to create something that was witty and amusing, as well as dealing with serious crimes. That really appealed to me – and also, of course, the idea of ​​going to Provence. Shelagh and I tend to be a good match because of the dry humor in her scripts, which I enjoy. I do have a very silly side to my sense of humor too, but you probably won’t see that in this character.

CAN YOU TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOUR CHARACTER, ANTOINE VERLAQUE?

He’s a man who is very serious about his job and he’s very proud of being an investigating judge in the French system. It’s a great passion for him… His job is being an investigating judge, which is very important in the French system of justice.

WE DON’T HAVE INVESTIGATIVE JUDGES IN THE UK, CAN YOU ELABORATE?

It’s a bit like a detective, in which you kind of gather all the information and sort of present the case. I think he was very proud to become a judge, because he comes from a very wealthy family. But he has, I think, a very difficult relationship to both the wealth and his mother, and sort of rejects that. Becoming a sort of servant of the state, the public good, I think, is of great value to him.

ANTOINE IS A CONNOISSEUR OF WINE, FOOD AND ART. DID THAT MAKE SCENES ALL THE MORE ENJOYABLE?

Well, of course, the last thing you should do as an actor is to actually eat anything while filming, because you’re stuffed a few takes in – and the wine is some sort of diluted prune juice! But I have quite a lot of food preparation to do during scenes; you’ll see me shucking the odd

oyster and chopping vegetables, things like that. Alas, I couldn’t actually cook as Antoine because the kitchen on set in his house just wasn’t practical and I might have burned something down.

DO ANTOINE’S INTERESTS REFLECT YOUR OWN?

I like art. I wouldn’t say I’m an expert on it at all. I like wine and food – and I like to cook, certainly. So, I related to him very much there.

WERE YOU EXCITED TO REUNITE WITH NANCY CARROLL?

I was very, very keen on Nancy playing that role. We did a play called The Moderate Soprano a few years ago in the West End – and a few years before that, at the Hampstead Theatre, we got on terribly well, we had a great ease around each other. We make each other laugh like the characters do. So that was all very useful, I think. And enjoyable, hugely enjoyable.

CAN YOU EXPLAIN THE DECISION BEHIND YOUR CHARACTER SPEAKING ENGLISH?

We were never going to do French accents for these characters, that wouldn’t have worked at all, it would have become annoying. But we did try to find a French quality to them… The approach to the language was that everyone in it is French, and we’re in France. I think the rule was that we tried to sort of do a slight kind of French pronunciation of names, but do it as lightly as possible, really.

CAN YOU SPEAK FRENCH?

I can just about order a meal in a restaurant, but I’m useless at languages, unfortunately.

DID YOU HAVE TIME TO EXPLORE AIX-EN-PROVENCE OF THE SURROUNDING AREA?

We did most of the interiors [in the UK], and then traveled to France for the last three weeks of the shoot. I’d have had a lot more chances to sample the local life and indeed the fantastic restaurants in Aix-en-Provence, if I’d been playing one of those parts where I had days off… It’s called the City of Fountains – everywhere you go there’s some fountain. We went down to Cassis where I’ve been before, which is so beautiful being by the sea – we had a beautiful couple of days there. But generally, it was just being around the town of Aix.

IS THERE ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD YOU STILL WISH TO FILM?

As I was indicating before, somewhere where I have a bit more time off would be pleasant. A bit more time off without the words too. I once did a film in Thailand, many years ago, and it was the most glorious experience, because I’d never been there before. It was unbelievably beautiful. And my character wasn’t in [it] all the time, so there was time off as well.

Murder In Provence, STV, tomorrow at 8pm and is available to stream now on BritBox.

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