After your success in Gavin & Stacey and EastEnders acting seemed to take a back seat. Was that intentional?
"Well, needs must! New Tricks is the first proper big acting TV job I’ve been offered since EastEnders and Gavin & Stacey. You hear about big TV success and awards being the kiss of death, and I’m not the first person to have a good run and then suddenly no one’s interested! But suddenly a whole, fascinating new area of TV opened to me when I started presenting and doing radio. In the course of a year or so my entire working life changed."
What does it mean to be part of the last ever series of New Tricks?
"Jobs like this are like gold dust! I’d been offered a [guest] part in New Tricks years ago, but couldn’t do it because I was in something else. Then it turned out Dennis Waterman was leaving after all those years, so I thought, this would be good! I’ve been away from acting for a while and New Tricks was an opportunity I couldn’t turn down. Once I got into the swing of it, it all came back... like riding a bike! I think it will be an emotional end to the series."
We met retired DCI Ted Case last week when he helped to clear Gerry Standing’s name. What brings him back this week?
"We were introduced to Ted last week because he had dealings with Gerry Standing years before. And now, because UCOS leader Sasha Miller (Tamzin Outhwaite) is taking time out to recover from her shooting injuries, Ted’s entrusted to look after things at the department."
What sort of acting leader does he make?
"He’s thrust into looking after things and immediately takes the reins of a case they’re looking into involving the murder of a vicar. Ted’s instrumental in discovering what went on there and is quite inventive when it comes to getting confessions out of suspects!"
How does Ted get on with Dan Griffin (Nicholas Lyndhurst) and Steve McAndrew (Denis Lawson) when he takes over?
"Ted’s quite a worldly character who doesn’t suffer fools gladly. At first he’s not altogether impressed with his new workmates, but gradually he gets to know them, understand them, and appreciate them."
What makes Ted an interesting character?
"Ted’s got quite a few quirks! Earlier in his career he suffered a near-fatal shooting. Coming close to death has made him a superstitious character. He’d certainly avoid a ladder! I’m not superstitious, but if I ever spill salt I’ll always put a bit over my left shoulder."
Have they had you in any funny situations?
"There's a lot of fun stuff in this series and Ted is probably more lighthearted than any of them. For some reason they wrote him as an amateur cricketer. Trying to make me look like a cricketer is a job for anyone - I'm more likely to be an amateur eye surgeon, frankly!"
Will we see you in the cricket whites?
"In one scene they dressed me all up. In this scene the team have tracked down an ex-professional cricketer who now trains people at a cricket school. As a keen cricketer Ted seizes the opportunity to face a professional bowler. So, with some careful filming they made me look like I could hit a ball. But I couldn't whack a ball if my life depended on it!"
What’s next for you?
"I’m back doing non-fiction TV. Maureen Lipman and I are doing a whole series of interviews for Channel 4 all over Britain about British life that’s disappearing and people are trying to keep going. It’s really enjoyable and keeps it fresh!"
New Tricks is currently showing on Tuesdays at 9pm on BBC1
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