A quick chat with John Nettles

TV’s most successful detective of all time John Nettles bids an emotional farwell to Midsomer after 14 years of catching killers…

Are you happy with your final scenes?

“I wanted to die in noble fashion in the service of my country and then be buried with full military honours in Westminister Abbey. In the event, Tom and long-suffering Joyce will simply retire. It’s always better to leave when people want more.”

What was the atmosphere like on set?

“On the very last day of the shoot, at the final wrap, the producer Brian True-May brought champagne to the set and gave Jane a bouquet of flowers and presented us with a specially-made clapperboard. There were quite a few tears.”

What will you miss?

“I shall miss the camaraderie of the crew, because I’ve been with these people for 15 years. I wont miss the traffic jams around Beaconsfield in Buckinghamshire, where we film! Or the endless noise from Heathrow and the motorway that made it hard to work!”

How do you feel about Neil Dudgeon taking over?

“Neil was one of the actors I suggested, because you need a good, honest actor to do this kind of show. If you try using tricks on a long-running series the public will see through it quickly.”

Have you any regrets?

“I’m very well aware of my place in the pecking order and I regret that I didn’t try myself against the best actors with the parts that I should have been playing when I was in my forties. I was in Bergerac at the time. If I’d been a proper actor I would have been doing Chekhov and the things you should do as an actor who wants to spread his wings. But that’s only fleeting regret, because we are such creatures of circumstance, actors, you can’t really regret something that wasn’t bound to happen. As an actor, you take what you’re given.”

What makes you a person who likes that stability?

“My upbringing. It is a trauma to have economic deprivation of one kind or another. As the poet Richard Murphy says, ‘You spend the rest of your life binding up the wounds that poverty makes,’ and one way of binding them up is to stay with a job that gives you money. It’s something which I despise in myself, but I can trace it in a straight line back to my childhood and the fear of going without. Unless you’ve been there, you won’t know what it means. But I’m over that now. I’ve made a lot of money, I can afford to play around a lot more.”

Will you continue to watch the show?

“I’ll watch it to see how Neil copes with it. I’m sure he’ll do very well, but I hope not too good. I don’t want him to make me look bad. I would definitely come back to Midsomer to say hello. I see my return like this: Tom is in a retirement home with a blanket and a catheter and all that. Somebody’s murdered in the home and John Barnaby comes to investigate. In fact, an even better scenario is for Mrs Barnaby to kill Inspector Barnaby and get away with it! Well, he has been a been a bit haughty and dismissive of her over the years!”

*Midsomer Murders screens on ITV1 on Wednesday, February 2