Foyle's War

Interviews with the Main Cast - September 2002; Publicity Release

Michael Kitchen - Det Chief Supt Christopher Foyle
Anthony Howell - Sgt Paul Milner
Honeysuckle Weeks - Samantha Stewart
Julian Ovenden - Andrew Foyle
Michael Simkins - Chief Supt Hugh Reid

Michael Kitchen - Det Chief Supt Christopher Foyle

Creating the character of new TV detective Christopher Foyle in Foyle's War was a challenge Michael Kitchen was delighted to rise to.

"I was attached to quite a few projects when Foyle first came to me in its early drafts as The War Detective. Even then it was very high quality, always attractive, always going to be a strong contender and no great surprise when it was Greenlit.

"Jill Green and Anthony Horowitz were great to work with and seemed happy to accommodate what I suggested.

"Some writers are very tight about what they've written which can be restricting. Anthony was very easy, very loose and we worked to get a draft which was going to get, hopefully, the best out of me and towards a script which flowed."

A policeman like his father before him, Christopher Foyle is a steadfast and dedicated officer who has risen through the ranks to become Detective Chief Superintendent. But rather than resting on his laurels, Foyle wants a transfer out of the force.

As the film progresses, information about Foyle's own life starts to emerge. A widower since the death of his wife from typhoid five years earlier (in Eagle Day this is eight years - Fiona), he is somewhat introspective, but the loss has brought him closer to his son Andrew (Julian Ovenden).

"Hopefully the relationship with his son reveals a warmer side to Foyle," says Michael. "Hopefully too, a lot of unspoken stuff between them gives the whole family story a depth which will be looked at in later episodes."

Foyle is assisted in his work by driver Samantha Stewart (Honeysuckle Weeks) and police sergeant turned soldier Paul Milner (Anthony Howell).

"I believe there's a lot to be had in the future out of the relationship between Foyle and Sam. I'd hope there's a strong indication of this in the first film and that the difference in their relationship between their first meeting and the end is apparent.

"I was pleased to work with Honeysuckle again - we worked on a radio production of Bleak House together - but I'd never met Robert Hardy or Edward Fox before."

Describing the character of Foyle, Michael adds: "It's perhaps not a bad idea at this stage to leave as many open doors as possible. One of the biggest things was to try and find a way of avoiding the orthodox question and answer route and find instead an alternative way of releasing whatever is necessary to the audience."

Michael could soon find himself joining the roll call of famous TV detectives.

"I think there's great potential in Foyle's War and the character is open for development. Some of the crew I'd worked with before, such as David Odd, Claire Kenny, Ros Ebbut and Jon Best, but all of them and their departments are really clever people. I enjoyed doing it a great deal. Few jobs have had such a good feeling throughout," he says.

Michael's career spans film, television and theatre where he has worked extensively for the RSC and Royal National Theatre.

His many television credits include Lorna Doone, The Railway Children, Oliver Twist, Sunnyside Farm, Reckless, The Hanging Gale, Dirty Old Town, Dandelion Dead, The Justice Game and most recently, the role of Jack Turner in ITV1's A&E.

Michael's film roles include Proof of Life, The World is Not Enough, Goldeneye, Enchanted April, Russia House and Out of Africa.

Anthony Howell - Sgt Paul Milner

Anthony Howell turned to the experiences of World War Two hero Richard Hilary to prepare himself for the role of wounded ex-soldier Paul Milner in Foyle's War.

"I read a couple of great books including The Last Enemy by Richard Hillary. He was an air force pilot shot down early in the war and burned all over his body. Although he and Milner are not like each other, it was interesting to go through the thoughts of someone who's been through a war, gets shot down and is lying in hospital terribly injured.

"Hillary went through a horrific experience, had extensive surgery and suffered the strains of not knowing if he would survive or go under. It's not a simple journey. Even when you think you are getting over it there are more ups and downs.

"I also read 'Blood, Tears and Folly' by Len Deighton which is a great non-fiction book about the war. That and visiting the Imperial War Museum and going through their archives to learn about what happened at Trondheim were a great preparation."

Paul Milner is a police sergeant who abandoned his career in order to be one of the first men to enlist. Unfortunately he is also one of the first to be injured. Back in the police force after losing a leg, Foyle (Michael Kitchen) asks him to help in his investigation.

Says Anthony: "Paul Milner is a very interesting character. He has to deal with an incredible disability. Obviously the initial days after such an injury are very difficult, but day-to-day living with a disability is hard, too. It's a long process of adjustment.

"I went to Queen Mary's Hospital in Roehampton and the staff showed me the prosthetics that Douglas Bader wore - he lost one leg above the knee and one below. Artificial limbs are not as sophisticated as they are now, of course.

"Losing a leg is treated as a bereavement - the denial, the anger and the acceptance - and it changes Milner's life forever. He tries to carry on as normal, but things crop up that he has to deal with.

"Foyle originally approached Milner to work with him when he was a sergeant but Milner turned him down. Foyle comes back to see him in hospital, not out of pity, but because he senses they could work together. Milner is intuitive, with a quiet but busy mind. He is interested in the case, in spite of himself.

"Foyle, Milner and Sam, Foyle's driver, are three mismatched characters who come together. It's not a cosy threesome - there is a lot of pain and disappointment to deal with. I feel there's a great depth to be explored."

Anthony recently played another soldier - SAS trooper Sam Leonard - in ITV1's Ultimate Force. "Sam chose to join the SAS of his own free will and accepts that he will kill as part of his job. Milner is not a killing machine, he is gentle person and a deep thinker - being required to kill for his country is not part of his real make-up."

Anthony studied architecture before turning to drama. His first job was a world tour with director Robert Lepage and he has since spent a season at the RSC. His other TV work includes Wives and Daughters and Helen West.

When he's not working, Anthony is busy doing up the house he bought recently in South London.

"It's my first home so I've been buying furniture, painting and putting up shelves and cupboards. It's great to have a place of my own, but I still see my family often as we are very close. My parents are really supportive and come and watch everything I do.

"I'm also very close to my grandfather who would have been Milner's age during the war. He can't travel to London to see me on stage but he loves to watch me on TV and I'm sure he'll identify with Foyle's War."

Honeysuckle Weeks - Samantha Stewart

Honeysuckle Weeks found it easy to slip into the role of police driver Samantha Stewart in Foyle's War - because she and her character share an uncannily similar background.

"Sam was described to me at the outset as someone who was born in Cardiff and brought up in the South Downs. In real life, I know the South Downs like the back of my hand because I grew up there and I was also born in Cardiff. I felt transported into the character as I read.

"It was so amazingly just like my life, although the story was changed slightly to make Sam a vicar's daughter, to make up for my slightly Oxford accent. Sometimes you just know a role is right for you. You think no-one else could do it as well, which might not be true, but it's a great feeling."

Honeysuckle's determination to win the part was reinforced when she discovered Michael Kitchen would be playing Foyle.

"I worked with Michael in the radio drama of Charles Dickens' Bleak House and we were also both in the cast of Lorna Doone. When I found out Michael was starring in Foyle's War I was desperate to get the part.

"Sam has so much energy she doesn't know what to do with it. She is very enthusiastic and excited by taking on a role in society so young. Her job makes her independent and as a consequence she is almost overwhelmed to have freedom, both literally and metaphorically.

"Her curiosity about Foyle's work is childlike - charming, but irritating - and Foyle gets severely cheesed off. But she gets it right in the end and Foyle is forced to admit that she has an intuition that balances a man's logic. She feels through her imagination rather than just the facts."

Sam is pulled out of the Mechanised Transport Corps to become Foyle's driver.

"She has joined up of her own free will. It's an adventure for any girl to aid the war effort but she's working with men. When her father finds out he thinks it is not morally sanitary.

"It was fun driving the cars and fortunately I didn't have to be an expert driver. Ron who owned the cars obviously adored them. Here I was a young lady driver and he had to let me loose with his beautiful car. He wanted me to know all about how it worked and was incredibly proud of it, so I had to be very careful and look as if I'd been driving it for longer than a couple of weeks."

Foyle's War took Honeysuckle back to a location where she had previously worked - Squeerys Court in Kent, which doubles as the home of Henry Beaumont (Robert Hardy) and his wife Greta (Joanna Kanska).

"I filmed a Victoria Wood Christmas Special there, a spoof of Sense and Sensibility called Plots and Proposals. It was quite different this time. In Plots and Proposals I played Kate Winslet's character and was dressed in a Regency outfit, frolicking in the garden with ringlets. For Foyle's War there were lots of horses with blood all over them and we were investigating a murder."

Honeysuckle began her acting career at the age of nine and had her first big TV break starring in Goggle Eyes. She has combined acting with studying, gaining a degree in English Literature from Oxford University. Her other credits include Close Relations, Midsomer Murders, The Orchard Walls, The Rag Nymphs, The Wild House and the recent film My Brother Tom.

"When I don't act I'm busy writing books and screenplays and take it quite seriously. I've wanted to do this since I was very young and both my brother Rollo and sister Perdita are actors, too."

Julian Ovenden - Andrew Foyle

Acclaimed young actor Julian Ovenden jumped at the chance to make his TV debut as Michael Kitchen's son in Foyle's War.

"The most attractive part of the role for me was the relationship between Andrew and his father. His mother has died so it gives a tender side to their relationship, particularly as he feels responsible for his father. Their relationship is close and there is humour and a lightness of touch there. Sensitivity is encapsulated in very short scenes.

"Michael was so lovely to work with. He was very professional but always put me at ease. I learned an awful lot from working with him.

"However, Foyle is a fly-fisher and takes his son with him. I had never fished before so I was standing there with a small net. Michael had to do all the serious fishing, so luckily it was good for the character that I couldn't fish."

Andrew Foyle is studying maths at Oxford but enlists with the RAF.

"In this film he is just going off to war after training as a pilot in the RAF in Scotland," explains Julian. "He feels excited and a patriotic obligation, but he is also slightly guilty about leaving his father behind. He knows he is putting himself at risk and could be leaving his father behind for good.

"I loved playing Andrew because it is a period piece and feel I am quite suited to that. I looked at books to learn about the period and watched a few old films, but I didn't get too hung up on that because there were so many people with expertise on the set. The costumes really helped and the set was really authentic."

Adds Julian: "If there is a series I would like a leather flying jacket and a nice blue uniform. It would be good to get some flying in and also to bring home a beautiful young girlfriend. But apart from that, and maybe a motorbike, I don't want much!"

Julian's role in Foyle's War is the latest step in a speedy rise to success since leaving the Webber Douglas Academy just two years ago.

After eight months with the RSC, he starred as Franklin Shepard in a revival of Sondheim's Merrily We Roll Along at the Donmar Warehouse - a leading role that won him great critical acclaim. He also plays the lead in the film Thick, Twisted and Harry.

"I've recently finished a film shot partly in Spain for Working Title called Come Together. It's a contemporary romantic comedy with James D'Arcy and Lucy Punch and I play Matt, a sporting lead."

Adds Julian: "I feel very lucky and have no complaints. The work has been fantastic and very varied, so long may it continue."

Michael Simkins - Chief Supt Hugh Reid

Michael Simkins says his character provides a foil to Foyle!

"Hugh Reid is Foyle's equivalent in uniform and he is a good sounding board for him. Foyle doesn't wear his heart on his sleeve, but Reid becomes his confidante. They play golf together and fish together. He is one of the few people Foyle wants to socialise with out of hours.

"Reid takes his work seriously but, like Foyle, he has a slightly gallows humour. He thinks that if Hitler suddenly arrived, the criminals they are investigating wouldn't amount to a row of beans. There are more pressing issues around them and the roles that they play in the force could be redundant at any time."

It's the first time Michael has played a policeman in wartime, but he's used to putting on a copper's uniform for work.

"I have played two or three policemen a year for television - either bent or straight. It must be the way I look. I was sitting in Soho once and a rather thuggish bloke came up and said 'you're a copper, aren't you?' I have done crime reconstructions so obviously I've picked up some things on the way!

"I've done lots of different roles, too - before this I played Billy Flynn in Chicago with Denise Van Outen and I spent a year as Sam in Mamma Mia." His other credits include My Family, I Saw You, A Touch of Frost, Trial & Retribution III, Chalkface and Castles, where he met Foyle's War director Jeremy Silberston.

Michael also pens the column, An Actor's Life, in The Guardian.

"That came about as a result of my tracking down the last survivor of Britain's worst rail crash in 1916. The guy was 17 when it happened and I met him when he was 92. Then the paper found out I was in Chicago - one thing led to another and they asked me to do a weekly column. It's quite difficult to come up with something new each week, but I know it's read by some of the more influential people in the business, and it's given me a lot of pride.

"It's essentially humorous but I respect people's privacy and would never consider snooping. But actors often come up with the most odd concerns or fantastic stories. Next I'm hoping to put the pieces together in a book."

With thanks to Shelagh for the publicity material.