David Suchet on playing a media tycoon in BBC1 drama Press and what he's been up to since the end of Poirot [Written by Natasha Holt and Ian MacEwan]
David Suchet spent 25 years walking in Belgian detective Hercule Poirot’s black patent-leather shoes, but now he’s taking on a very different role: George Emmerson, media tycoon and owner of tabloid newspaper The Post in BBC1’s Press.
During a break in filming, we met up with David Suchet, 72, to talk power-dressing, the press, and life after Poirot…
Are you enjoying life post-Poirot?
David Suchet: “I’m having a ball. I’m a character actor, so all my life I’ve played very interesting roles. Poirot took up the main part of a quarter of a century, but post-Poirot, the industry has still embraced me to do really interesting characters.
“ I think the most interesting character I played this year was Salvador Dalí [opposite Bake Off’s Noel Fielding as rocker Alice Cooper for an episode in Sky Arts’ Urban Myths series].”
We saw your character in Press at the end of episode one, and George reappears in next week’s fourth instalment to have words with The Post’s editor, Duncan Allen (Ben Chaplin). Tell us more about your character…
DS: “He’s got very good values. He doesn’t want sleaze, he doesn’t want sensational news, he wants good journalism. He’s humorous – but don’t mess with him, because in the end he holds every single string.”
You played media tycoon Robert Maxwell in 2007’s BBC2 drama Maxwell. Are there similarities between the two characters?
DS: “Well, the fact that I am playing them! I think a lot of people who saw Maxwell might relate the two but that’s not who I’m playing in this. I wanted to play the character in the script, rather than Maxwell or Rupert Murdoch.”
Emmerson has a very right-wing agenda, doesn’t he?
DS: “He has a very good relationship with the Prime Minister and wants to defend him at all costs from anything that may lose him the next election. George is a power player and formidable as a person.”
Did putting on George’s trademark sharp suit help you to feel that power?
DS: “No, because I always wear them. I’ve grown up wearing suits. But if I put a waistcoat with it, I feel power. Isn’t that funny? It’s a very useful garment as you can take your jacket off and still feel reasonably smart. And it covers bad ironing!”
The newspaper industry is changing now, with everything available online. How do you consume the news?
DS: “I find it very difficult to read anything, whether it’s scripts or the news, on my small phone. Even the iPad I have problems with, so I have to ask my agent to send me a hard copy. I’m a pretty old-fashioned gent. I like to have paper and books in my hand.”
Do you worry about the power of the tabloid press in this country?
DS: “I think everybody is worried about the power of the press. It’s far more aggressive in its stance and its campaigns now. I’m fearful of it.”
What are you up to next?
DS: “I’m doing a documentary on the composer William Byrd and then I’m making an independent film in New York of a really gorgeous book called Dinner with Edward. I’m also reading a play script to potentially direct. I haven’t directed before so if it comes off it’ll be very exciting.”
Main picture: REX/Shutterstock; Murder on the Orient Express pic: ITV/REX/Shutterstock