Rowan Atkinson as Maigret

Tea Time Tidbit for the week of April 4, 2016

Rowan Atkinson

Rowan Atkinson as Maigret

Rowan Atkinson – the man we know more commonly as Mr. Bean, or Edmund Blackadder – recently took on a new role; Jules Maigret, the unassuming, pipe-smoking, French detective.

Recently, six million viewers turned on their British tellys for the first of a two two-hour television special, Maigret, no doubt to see what the normally rubber-faced Atkinson would do with a character so different from the kind he’s played in the past. While a reviewer for the Daily Telegraph said that seeing the comedian in a straight role “took some adjusting to”, from all accounts Atkinson did pretty well.

Rowan Atkinson

As Edmund Blackadder

Despite the fact that 61-year-old Atkinson is a self-declared “devourer” of the Maigret novels, when he was first approached almost two years ago about playing the role, he reportedly had reservations. Apart from the fact he was going through a difficult personal situation owing to the break-up of his marriage of 24 years, he was also concerned that taking on a serious role be seen as an attempt to “achieve some kind of respectability”.

Eventually, Atkinson agreed to take on the role, which he admitted was somewhat of a challenge.

“Generally speaking I haven’t played many ordinary men,” he said in an interview with the Radio Times, “I tend to play people with a slightly odd, eccentric or particular attitude to life. The problem with Maigret is – he’s ordinary. He hasn’t got a limp, a lisp, a French accent, and he has no particular love of opera or all those other things that people tend to attach to fictional detectives. He’s just an ordinary guy doing an extraordinary job, in a very interesting time. I found that daunting.”

Rowan Atkinson

As Mr. Bean

The two-part special also features the talented Fiona Shaw, who plays Petunia Dursley in the Harry Potter films, along with a bevy of actors we’ve seen frequently on MPT over the years; Aiden McCardle, (Lord Loxley in Mr. Selfridge), Leo Staar, (Jenny’s boyfriend Alec Jesmond in Call the Midwife), Hugh Simon (Malcom Wynn-Jones in MI-5), Shaun Dingwall (Detective Superintendent Stuart Barlow in New Tricks), to name just a few.

The Maigret novels, which were written by Belgian Georges Simenon, are set in 1950’s Paris and the television specials have been careful to replicate the time period. The attention to detail included equipping the shows with a number of classic cars from the 1950s. The fact that Maigret never drives, but always travels by train or bus, was somewhat frustrating to Atkinson, given that he’s an avid car collector and vintage racer. Despite the actors’ attempts to "ring the changes for the 21st century and stick him in a car” though, the specials stayed true to the author’s depiction.

No word yet on if and when Atkinson’s Maigret will be offered to PBS stations, but we’ll be sure to let you know. In the meantime, you can see Rowan Atkinson in Blackadder, Fridays at 1pm, on Afternoon Tea.

To contact Heather:
E-mail: heather@mpt.org
Address: Afternoon Tea
Maryland Public Television
11767 Owings Mills Blvd.
Owings Mills, MD 21117

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