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Nathaniel Parker shines in Still Life.
11 September 2013
I enjoyed interviewing Nathaniel Parker on the phone the other day as the popular British TV star explained his reasons for starring in the new CBC-TV movie Still Life which premieres Sunday September 15 at 8 p.m.
In fact as I reminded him I once phoned him in Prague when he took over as the lead actor in the British TV mystery McCallum.
"That was 1998," Parker remembered. "So it was great to talk to him again.
Parker is the big name to entice TV viewers into watching Still Life.
He shines as Chief Inspector Armand Gamache who is investigating a suspicious death in the tiny town of Three Pines which is nestled deep in Quebec's impossibly beautiful Eastern Townships.
"When I was asked I was hesitant," Parker admitted. "But only because I had played an inspector in another mystery series as you well know."
He's modestly referring to his spectacular success as Inspector Thomas Lynley in 23 two-hour installments of The Inspector Lynley Mysteries made between 2001 and 2007.
"Then I read this script and both characters could not be more different."
Whereas Lynley was aristocratic Chief Inspector Amand Gamache is world weary, completely professional in his drive to find the killer, armed with two decades of experience at his job.
"The character made sense to me. It was a challenge."
Still Life was written in 2002 by Louise Penny.
As Parker notes her ninth book How The Light Gets In has just debuted number one on The New York Times best seller lists.
"It's a wonderful coincidence."
Filming took place last autumn with Parker as the star export complete with a gaggle of recognizable Canadian character actors including Anthony Lemke, Gabriel Hogan, Kate Hewlett, Patricia McKenzie and Dylan Trowbridge.
Veteran Wayne Grigsby (October 1970) wrote the taut script. CBC veteran Phyllis Platt is one of the executive producers and Peter Moss's atmospheric direction is a huge plus.
"We shot everything on actual locations," explains Parker. "The cast was wonderful, I didn't know any of them at the beginning. Also the crew was great. I had a fine time making it. In the last few scenes you can see the colors changing.
"I live in the English countryside. But the geography in the townships is different, the houses are farther apart and there are huge forests. It's really spectacular."
To explains Parker's very definite English accent a line was inserted stating Gamache had studied at Cambridge University.
"But as filming progressed some French phrases did creep in there."
It seems Canadian TV film makers are finally clueing in to the popularity of such British mystery imports as Inspector Lewis, Broadchurch and the recent run of Silk.
Over the years there have been a few tentative attempts at making a quality home grown mystery series --the outstanding example is The Murdoch Mysteries but it runs in hour long installments.
Way back there were CBC's attempts to forge a Benny Cooperman TV franchise with Saul Rubinek and more recently Wendy Crewson starred in CTV's two-hour Joanne Kilbourn mysteries.
As far as TV mysteries go Parker has guested over the years on such British staples as Poirot, Morse, A Touch Of Frost.
So he knows what it takes to forge a success.
"The emphasis is always on character," he explains. "That was the success of Lynley I feel."
As a TV stalwart Parker, 51, says he was never told why Lynley was cancelled."Our ratings remained strong but the entire production team defected to another network."
Undeterred Parker joined the cast of Merlin playing the character of Agravaine for all 13 episodes. He also impressed as Albert Speer in BBC's miniseries Nuremburg: Nazis On Trial.
Parker says he'd "certainly" be up for more stints as Inspector Gamache.
"It all depends on the ratings. The books were written with the seasons in mind so the next one must be filmed during the winter."
"I've only seen a rough cut of Still Life so far but I think it turned out. Yes, it's been an adventure so far."
STILL LIFE PREMIERES ON CBC-TV SUNDAY DECEMBER 15 AT 8 P.M.
MY RATING: ****.
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