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25 Years In The Making: David Suchet On Playing Agatha Christie’s ‘Poirot’

25 Years In The Making: David Suchet On Playing Agatha Christie's 'Poirot'

Now that every “Poirot” story written by Agatha Christie has been adapted, it’s time for the great detective to retire. The British series, which first premiered in the UK on January 8, 1989, is now concluding its 25 year run, with the final five episodes set to debut in the States via Acorn TV, a streaming service importing British television for American audiences. 

Recently, Indiewire was able to sit in on a screening of the very last episode, as well as a conversation with series star David Suchet as he reflected on the twenty-five year process of bringing Christie’s iconic detective to life. The audience  at the Paley Centre for Media, a devoted group of (largely elderly) fans, lapped it up, laughing and crying without any hesitation during the celebration of the show’s legacy.

Suchet, a classically trained actor educated at the London Academy of Music and Art (LAMDA) was first cast in 1987. He had previously worked on three major series: “Blott On The Landscape,” “Oppenheimer” and “Freud” – and was a part of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre Company from 1973 to 1986.

He had also had been involved in another Poriot adaptation, “Thirteen At Dinner,” in which he played Inspector Japp. Drawing upon his memories of that role, Suchet confessed that “when the film came out, it was quite clear that
it was possibly one of the worst performances that I’d ever given.” Continuing on, he giddily explained that “Peter Ustinov went on to make four other television films with the same supporting cast,” but that if he’d been good he would “never have played Poirot.” In other words, it was his luckiest break.

Suchet also went on to talk about his process of finding his character after landing the role, reminiscing about how he would intensely study Poirot from Agatha Christie’s point of view, writing down every single character detail found in the novels. “Not to determine how I was going to play him yet, but just to get to know what she was writing, what eccentricities — how he dressed, what was his past,” he said. 

“I worked on his dress sense. I worked on how he looked. I worked on the padding underneath to give me the shape Agatha Christie had designed for him. With his head slightly forward, tilted to one side ‘like a blackbird’ as she described — all these little things.”

The role helped improve his listening, Suchet said: “I’ve got to struggle to hang onto that, now that I’m not playing him anymore. But he did teach me that and he also taught me observation. I’m far more observant than I was before.” 

Suchet revealed the pain he felt at having to let the character go, and how he had to do a number of retakes while shooting the final episode because he became too emotional. As he explained, it was near impossible to simply say goodbye to the character, because “he’s my best friend.”

“It’s a twenty-five year relationship and we’ve become incredibly close,” Suchet added. “It’s a strange thing to say, but we have. I know him possibly more than I know anybody else.”

The first two episodes of “Poirot” Season 13, “The Big Four” and “Dead Man’s Folly,” will be available on Acorn TV beginning July 28 and Aug. 4, the day after their PBS broadcast. The final three mysteries will not air on PBS and will instead be available exclusively on Acorn TV, beginning with “Elephants Can Remember” on August 11, “Labours of Hercules” on August 18 and “Curtain: Poirot’s Last Case” on August 25. At that point, the entire season will be available via Acorn. For more details, go to their website.

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