Helen Baxendale on playing Agatha Christie in a clever Channel 5 whodunnit that sees the crime writer turn detective
Agatha Christie was one of our best-loved crime authors but in Channel 5’s Agatha and the Midnight Murders, she shows off her own skills at detection.
The film sees Noughts + Crosses and former Cold Feet star Helen Baxendale play a cash-strapped Agatha who, during the Blitz of 1940, is reluctantly selling the manuscript for her last Poirot novel to a private buyer at a London hotel. But during an air raid, as the hotel guests head for shelter in the basement, a killer strikes and the manuscript goes missing. Can Agatha crack the case?
Here, Helen Baxendale tells us what to expect in Agatha and the Midnight Murders…
Where do we find Agatha Christie?
Helen Baxendale: “She’s there to do a shifty deal because she’s in financial difficulties. Although she sells millions of books, her American royalties have dried up and she’s in trouble with the Inland Revenue. So she needs the money from the manuscript. But people start dying, as happens in Agatha Christies! And they can’t leave because of the air raid. Although Agatha Christie isn’t a detective, she writes these novels so she has an aptitude for sorting this kind of thing out and she becomes sleuth-like. Her main goal though is to get her manuscript back. But there’s a surprise…”
Agatha Christie is accompanied by a minder, wheeler-dealer Travis, played by Blake Harrison. What is their relationship like?
HB: “They met about a decade earlier. She found him a bit of a lovable rogue I think. And when she sets up this dodgy meeting trying to sell her manuscript, she wants somebody who knows that slightly criminal underworld. I really enjoyed working with Blake, he’s a delightful man.”
You filmed the drama in Malta which stood in for London, what was that like?
HB: “We didn’t see a lot of it but I’m sure Malta is nice! We were all together in this fusty old basement in an amazing Maltese mansion. We’d go in in the morning and come out and it’d be dark!”
Did you enjoy the Blitz period?
HB: “Yes, I love any sort of period but this was great because I’ve never done it on screen before. I like Agatha Christie’s prim outfit. The costume department use as much that is original as they can so my clothes and shoes were from the 1940s. And they make you wear the proper stuff underneath – even the underwear that is a bit woolly!”
It’s 17 years since your character Rachel died in Cold Feet. Are you still in touch with your co-stars?
HB: “Hermione Norris and I email each other every so often and just catch up. I watched all of the last series and it feels like a different show to me now so I enjoy it on its own. But it is weird when they mention Rachel!”
Agatha and the Midnight Murders airs on Channel 5 of Wednesday 7 October at 9pm