Interview with Roger Allam, Keala Settle and Nancy Carroll of “Murder in Provence” on Britbox by Suzanne 2/9/22
This is an interesting murder mystery series on Britbox, based on the Verlaque and Bonnet series of books by M.L. Longworth. Allam plays Antoine Verlaque, who’s a veteran judge (AKA chief magistrate). He and his partner, Marie (Carroll), drink a lot of wine, eat great food, and solve murders. They’re like the French “Hart to Hart.” The writing is better, though. They’re aided by deputy commissioner Hélène Paulik (Keala Settle). In France, judges do investigations. While they call this “Provence,” its actual name is Aix-en-Provence. The show takes place in the south of France. Most of the actors are British, although Settle is American. The show was shot in France, and the characters are French. I enjoyed this virtual TCA Zoom panel.
BRITBOX CTAM PRESS TOUR WINTER 2022
Murder in Provence
Roger Allam, Cast
Keala Settle, Cast
Nancy Carroll, Cast
2022 Virtual Tour
Los Angeles, CA
February 9, 2022
© 2022 BritBox. All rights reserved.
The show is from Britbox and from Alison Owen and Debra Hayward of Monumental Pictures, who were nominated for an Oscar for “Les Misérables” (2012). The series has three parts, but those of us in the press were allowed to see just the first part.
At first, we just had Nancy and Keala. Roger arrived a bit late.
They were asked if the show was shot in Provence. Kela was asked if she was disappointed having to either move to Provence or did they shoot in a part of England that stood in for Provence.
Keala was asked about what made her want to film this show, and also about how it felt when her version of “The Greatest Showman” was suddently everywhere. Keala replied, as you might expect, that it “was massive.” She’s never known another feeling like that, so it was “very humbling, and I’m extremely grateful for it.” Her second answer was more surprising. Although she’s American, her father is from England. She moved to England to learn more about her heritage. This led to her getting this job.
Nancy told us that they were in France for just the last three weeks of filming. They filmed in an area of England that she called “fake France” for 8 or 9 weeks, which she thought looked “beautiful.” They took over “an old school near Reading.” Their crew built great sets, which include Antoine’s office, crime scenes, the apartment, etc. She praised their art department for their fine job. Then they went to France. She mentiond that they had lots of sunshine throughout the shooting.
Keala was asked how she felt about leaving Englang to film in France. Keala loved filming in Provence, which was new to her. She could help be excited about how beautiful it was.
Roger Allam arrived late, apologizing. He was having Wi-fi problems.
Another reporter asked Keala about her British accent. She told him that her father is from England and her mother is from New Zealand. That same reporter asked her about whether she planned to spend the rest of her career in Europe or not. She’s not sure because she came here for personal reasons; not for work. She had just intended to “bring my dog and bake some bread.” Then she got this part through pure luck. She was familiar with Nancy and Roger because she’s “always been obsessed with British theatre and television and film.” Since her father was British, she wanted to learn more about her heritage. She “can’t wait” to see what happens next.
The next journalist asked Roger to compare his previous role as Thursday on “Endeavor” to his role now as Antoine. Roger says he wanted to play this role because it’s “such a contrast” to playing Antoine. He’s been mostly a theater actor and enjoyed playing many different roles. Every time he goes for a new role, to tries to do one that’s the exact opposite of his previous character, claiming that he’s doing it “neurotically. While he acknowledged that is a similar role in that both are trying to solve mysteries, but Antoine is a “very, very different kind of character.” That’s what he wanted. He also loved “being in Aix-en-Provence for some of the time which is a lovely place.”
Roger and Nancy were asked to talk about their characters’ jobs, especially Antoine’s role as an investigating judge. He also asked Keala if they might have karaoke night on the show (since she and Roger are singers). The first question was actually addressed quite well in the show, but perhaps this reporter didn’t watch it. Roger explained that in the French judicial system, the judge “collects all the evidence to present the case to court,” working with the police. Nancy pointed out that they did explain that in one of the scenes. She explained that she’s “a professor of criminal psychology,” but she has a “morbid interest in the detail” of her partner’s cases, so she enjoys discussing them with her. She joins the police as an advisor by the end of the first episode.
Keala asked if his karaoke question was serious, so he corrected that he just wanted her to tell us about her relationship with Antoine. She said that her character, Hélène” is friends with Antoine. They went to school together, although in different years. There was laughter when she said that he “just a little bit older.” Although they’ve been friends a long time, and they enjoy joking around, she has to be careful not to overstep because he’s more informed that she is. They all work together to solve the cases. She praised the stories and the “gorgeous settings in the south of France.” She emphasized that they had “really good time” and “laughed a lot.” She did say that most of their cast and crew are singers, so they sang a lot off-camera.”
The next reporter was wise enough to ask about Roger’s singing background, since he was the first to play Javert in the first stage production of “Les Misérables” in London (in 1985). He asked Rogert and Keala about being singers and singing on the set. Keala said that she was nervous about going to the set because Roger and Nancy are “icons.” When the camera would go off, she would start singing because that’s what she normally does. Then Roger “started humming and singing,” which led to them discussing music, and how he had done the first “Les Miz.” She relayed that, according to Roger, “he’s the reason why there’s a confrontation song in the actual show.” She had done the Broadway revival, so they chatted about the show and swapped notes. She noted that, “it was really lovely. And then the rest is history.”
Roger was then asked to tell us about he influenced the creation of that song in “Les Miz.” Roger replied modestly that he just thought the scene needed some “beefing up a bit,” so he made a suggestion, and they incorporated it.
The actors were asked about solving murders in the Provence area. Roger replied that the books are all set in Aix-en-Provence
, so that’s where their stories happen. Nancy added that the writer is based on France. Their screenwriter, Shelagh Stephenson< wanted to make sure that the characters acted very French and not British, “even though there were British actors playing the part.” She put certain “idiosyncrasies” into the writing that are very distinct.
The reporter wanted to know “what French attitude permeates the show.” Keala replied that it’s southern France, so it’s different from “up north.” Nancy said, “Wine helps. Wine helps solve crimes, a glass of wine… and a really good meal!” This made everyone laugh. She added that good chatting about them solving the crime happens while they’re cooking up the food.
Roger thought that his role as judge was very French – being a powerful “representative of the state” and “trying to achieve justice.” He felt this was a uniquely French thing that was different from British scripts.
Roger was asked why he often plays detectives. She asked, “Why do people see in you this solid, honest status?” He joked that it’s because of his “immense inner integrity.” Everyone laughed at his joke. He mused that both of these characters are very different, even though they’re “both men of integrity.” He pointed out that he’s played many slimy villains and that it’s just fun to act as disparate people and walk in different shoes. The journalist asked how Roger is different from Antoine. Nancy pointed out that Antoine has no friends. Roger said thoughtfully that he’s very British, so he tries to be French in the show. Nancy added that the characters all “have a really complex history…that have all been damaged in some way,” but they don’t drag their baggage around for everyone to see. Those few times when you see a little bit of the history, which “informs his empathy and his ability to see both sides of the problem that ultimately caused the death of that character.” Keala and Nancy tried to expound more about the writing and about Roger’s character. Roger said, “What they said,” and everyone laughed.
Proofread and Edited by Brenda