TV Drama spoke to Agatha Raisin star Ashley Jensen about what viewers can expect from the next chapters of the series, which is sold by all3media international and Acorn Media International.
The stylish amateur sleuth is at it again with a new season of Agatha Raisin. Based on M.C. Beaton’s best-selling books, Agatha Raisin stars Ashley Jensen (Catastrophe, Extras, Ugly Betty, Love, Lies & Records) as a former London PR whizz turned amateur detective trying to solve crimes, in a rather unorthodox manner, in the Cotswolds. Marking the return of one of Acorn TV’s most popular series and its first sole commission, Agatha Raisin is back with a brand-new feature-length movie, Agatha Raisin and the Wizard of Evesham, with its world premiere in the U.S. and Canada exclusively on Acorn TV on November 19. Two other new movies will air in December and January, respectively.
TV DRAMA: What are some of the nuances of the Agatha Raisin character you’ve been most excited to portray?
JENSEN: It’s such a joy to play a character who absolutely does not take no for an answer and has utter unprecedented confidence in who she is and her importance to doing whatever it is she’s doing at the time. People always say, It’s so much fun to play the baddie or someone who behaves very differently from how they actually behave. She also has an absolutely sublime wardrobe! [Laughs]
TV DRAMA: What can viewers expect from season two?
JENSEN: In terms of real life, it has been a couple of years since season one. But in television time, it’s a few weeks. Last time viewers saw Agatha, she was jilted at the altar by James Lacey. During that time, they go to Cyprus, which is a little bit like Las Vegas in the sense that “What happens in Cyprus stays in Cyprus.” The audience doesn’t know yet what happens there. This is what we’re moving on to now. She’s a little bit done with men by season two and goes as far as to say, That’s it; I’m setting up the Carsely Ladies’ Society (her best friend Roy is an honorary member). They take it upon themselves to stand up and be counted. They are unapologetic for who they are, and they are not beholden to men. It culminates in this rather fabulous burlesque dance routine!
TV DRAMA: Tell us about the move to expanded episode lengths.
JENSEN: What’s delightful this season since Acorn TV picked it up is that it’s not just 45-minute episodes like the first season; these are 90-minute feature-length films. This has given us so much more time to expand the characters and expand upon the relationships they have with each other. It gives the audience time to enjoy these relationships and for us to have a few more plotlines and red herrings. It allows us to take our time a little bit more with the characters rather than just getting to the plot.
TV DRAMA: Had you been a fan of the books initially?
JENSEN: I hadn’t read the books before I got the job but when I realized I was going to play Agatha I read them. We have expanded on some of the details from the book, and some of the characters have been changed. These books were [first] written in the early 1990s. In a sign of the times, Agatha was a smoker in the books. That would possibly make her more like Cruella De Vil these days, wouldn’t it? We have kept the fact that she has a terrible diet (she eats microwaved meals) and is partial to a glass of chardonnay. There are aspects of the character that a lot of women can relate to. There are moments when we get to see Agatha on her own or with her friends, when the armor has been broken down a little bit. That helps to make her more of a three-dimensional character and more relatable.
TV DRAMA: How do you balance the humor and mystery?
JENSEN: The tone was already laid out in the books, so we knew which world we were in from the beginning. At the moment, there is a plethora of programs that are very dark, like Scandi noirs. Ours is the opposite—I would call it Cotswolds technicolor! Although the show does deal with murder, it’s more in a Scooby-Doo type of form. There’s always an element of fun.
TV DRAMA: As the lead actor, what tone do you like to keep on set with the other cast members?
JENSEN: We all realize that everybody is there for the same reason: we all want to make a really good program. Everybody is as vitally important as the next person. Having come up from the lower rungs of doing just a couple of lines in something, I was very aware of how a set works and the atmosphere on the set. For me, it was important as a lead actress to be the captain of the ship. I wanted to have an atmosphere on set where I felt that guest actors were not intimidated. It can be quite scary when you’re coming onto something where everybody knows each other and everybody is bantering. If you’ve got actors coming on who are intimidated, it’s not a great starting point. I really wanted everyone to feel that it was a happy job and for people to leave having thought, That was such a great gig! It’s very playful. Everybody takes it very seriously, but we’re allowed to play and try things out and not be afraid to make a mistake.
TV DRAMA: How has season two evolved with Acorn TV, a streaming service, on board?
JENSEN: When we heard that we were picked up by an American company, it gave us confidence! It means that they had faith in this and wanted to work with it and give the show what it needs. We’re very privileged and honored to be the first commissioned show by Acorn. That gives us the confidence to play; I think the show is bolder, brighter. It’s a level up from where we were! We’ve flown with it more with the confidence of Acorn behind us.