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Sarah Parish on her McDonald & Dodds character: 'Mariel's stylish, flamboyant and naughty!'

Sarah Parish plays surgeon Mariel in McDonald and Dodds
Sarah Parish plays surgeon Mariel in McDonald and Dodds. (Image credit: ITV)

Sarah Parish is thrilled to have landed a guest role in ITV’s popular Bath-set crime drama McDonald & Dodds, especially as it means working again with her W1A and Trollied co-star Jason Watkins. 

The third case of season three, The War of The Rose, sees Sarah (Stay Close, Bancroft) play hard-nosed cosmetic surgeon Mariel, who owns a posh clinic with her soon-to-be ex-husband, Al (Rhashan Stone). 

The pair find themselves under suspicion after lifestyle influencer Rose Boleyn (Rosie Day) checks in for a routine nose job but dies on the operating table. And as DCI Lauren McDonald (Tala Gouveia) and DS Dodds (Jason) piece together the clues to find out what happened, it’s clear Mariel’s life isn’t as perfect as the one she strives to create for her clients. 

Here, Sarah tells us more…

What appealed to you about guest-starring in this episode?

"I thought the script was really good fun, and I know Jason because we did [Sky One’s supermarket-set sitcom] Trollied and [BBC Two comedy] W1A together, so we already have a great shorthand with each other."

Sarah Parish with Jason Watkins in Sky comedy Trollied

Old pals: Sarah with co-star Jason Watkins in Sky comedy Trollied. (Image credit: Sky)

Mariel is a larger-than-life character, isn’t she?

"Yes, she’s quite out-there! Mariel’s very stylish, flamboyant, and rather naughty – and I don’t get to play characters like that often. The great thing about McDonald & Dodds is it has a lovely theatrical style but also roots its storylines very much in reality, so Mariel was a real joy to play."

What’s your take on Mariel and Al’s marriage?

"They spar off each other and constantly bicker, and yet they are a good business partnership. He has got a roving eye, and she finds that very difficult. Their relationship is on the turn, but there is a definite love there. 

"They can’t live with each other and they can’t live without each other."

Sarah Parish and Rhashan Stone in McDonald and Dodds

Getting divorced: Mariel (Sarah Parish) and Al (Rhashan Stone). (Image credit: ITV)

Did you enjoy working with Rhashan Stone in creating the relationship between Mariel and Al ?

"Rhashan was brilliant to work with. I knew him before because we met a long time ago out in Los Angeles. I went to a dance class in Pacific Palisades and, bizarrely, Rhashan was there with his wife [My Name Is Leon star Olivia Williams]! 

"He’s also very good friends with a friend of mine, so we’ve got a lot of people in common."

Can you give us any teasers about this week’s case?

"What seems to be a terrible accident, the death of this young girl on the operating table, actually turns out to be a pre-meditated murder.

"Everyone within the surgery is a suspect and has a reason why they could have done it, so we get to explore all the different characters’ backstories."

Al and victim rose mcdonald and dodds

Secrets: Businessman Al with murder victim Rose (Rosie Day). (Image credit: ITV)

How does Mariel react when she learns social-media star Rose has died in her clinic?

"Mariel’s first reaction is to save herself and make sure the clinic doesn’t go under. You will see a funny side to her, but none of the people in the clinic are hugely sympathetic at the end of the day, so you see the true side to all of them."

What does Mariel make of McDonald and Dodds?

"When they start investigating, she develops quite an interesting relationship with McDonald, who thinks Mariel is a bit of a wrong ’un, but they also have great respect for each other. It’s quite the cat-and-mouse dynamic. 

"Tala and I have a lot of scenes together that were great fun to film."

Jason Watkins and Tala Gouveia as McDonald & Dodds

Teamwork makes the dream work: DS Dodds and DCI McDonald. (Image credit: ITV)

The story is themed around influencer culture – what’s your view on that?

"It’s a funny one, that. There is a lot of good and a lot of bad that comes with all that kind of stuff. If it’s used well, social media can be a great thing, but we are not quite ready for the amount of technology that’s been thrust upon us in such a short amount of time, and we haven’t really put in place safety nets for children.

"Children are looking at things they shouldn’t and comparing themselves to people who aren’t even real; they’re pulled, stretched and airbrushed into impossible versions of themselves. It’s very unhealthy for kids, but all we can do is keep an eye on our own kids and police it as best you can."

Have you encountered women like Mariel in real life?

"No, I haven’t. She’s quite an extraordinary character — she’s really good at playing golf, she loves karaoke and she owns a plastic surgery clinic. I don’t know anyone like that and I don’t know anyone who knows anyone like that, so it really was a character plucked out of thin air. I wish I did know someone like Mariel, though, she sounds like a hoot!"

Sarah Parish as Mariel McDonald and Dodds

Sarah enjoyed playing flamboyant Mariel. (Image credit: ITV)

Are you any good at golf or karaoke?

"No! I had to look like I knew what I was doing in the golfing scenes and, luckily, my husband [actor James Murray, who played Chief Superintendent John Houseman in the first two series of the show] is a very good golfer, so he helped me out with a couple of things that I had to do on the golf course. 

"He couldn’t help me out with the karaoke, though, I just had to go for it! It was an embarrassing and painful day for everyone… especially the sound team!"

Catch Sarah in McDonald & Dodds on Sunday, July 3 at 8 pm on ITV.

Victoria Wilson
Victoria Wilson

With over 20 years’ experience writing about TV and film, Vicky currently writes features for What’s on TV, TV Times, TV & Satellite Week magazines plus news and watching guides for WhatToWatch.com, a job which involves chatting to a whole host of famous faces. Our Vicky LOVES light entertainment, with Strictly Come Dancing, Britain’s Got Talent and The Voice UK among her fave shows. Basically, if it’s got a shiny floor, she’s all over it! When she’s not watching TV, you might find Vicky in therapy… retail therapy that is!