Getting To The Bottom Of The Mystery
The Pale Horse is the latest adaptation of Agatha Christie on the BBC, which started on Sunday, and here’s one of its stars, Sean Pertwee, talking about it…
Can you describe the story of The Pale Horse?
The Pale Horse is a multi-faceted yarn set against the backdrop of the beat generation, the shift in cultures we had in this country from the 1950s to modernity. It follows the protagonist, played by the brilliant Rufus Sewell, as he tries to uncover the meaning behind a series of murders. There is a list of names which is found in a dead lady’s shoe. The people on the list die, for various reasons, and he tries to discover why as his name is on this list too.
How would you describe your character?
Detective Inspector Stanley Lejeune is an old-school gumshoe copper. The word gumshoe is derived from an English expression about detectives who used to wear crepe gumshoes. He’s old school so he relies heavily on his sense. There’s a lot of sensory description in the script as he talks about scent and smell and the gut instincts he has around certain people.
What has helped you get into character?
I’ve been lucky enough to be involved in several Agatha Christie productions. The Brits do costume dramas so brilliantly that it requires very little to feel of that period. When I was a kid, my father had a gardener who was the archetypal blue-collar backbone of society – everything that I admire about strength and doggedness. He was very much in the forefront of my mind when I played this character, this quiet, steely, flinty man who is also incredibly tough. Through his tough exterior there is a certain sense of humanity, but a real sense of justice. He is a good man.
How has it been to work with Rufus?
Working with Rufus Sewell is actually vaguely irritating because I’ve known him for many years and the older he gets, the more handsome he gets. He’s got cheekbones you can open letters with. The reason why I find Mark Easterbrook so interesting is because he has a dogged determination. He has a secret of his own too.
How will the show feel different to a usual whodunit?
It’s dark, multi-faceted and it leans towards the supernatural. There’s the old school and the new school and Mark Easterbrook cruises through the middle of it. You get to experience England at its greatest change: the birth of the beat generation of the 1960s.
What drew you to the script?
I’ve always wanted to work with Sarah Phelps and I’ve been an admirer of her work for many years. She’s an absolute genius and her style is extraordinary. She encapsulates the period so well.
What was it like to be transported back to 1961?
It’s been incredible. I definitely remember that period and that type of person through my father, through living in London and the people that he knew. Seeing all the standby cars and props from the period transported me right into that time.
What do you love about Agatha Christie?
What’s not to love about Agatha Christie? When I first got the script I read it aloud to my wife and she begged me not to stop; I should have been learning my lines. I was in Marple’s The Moving Finger, two Poirots and now this production. More people see these than anything else. Everyone loves Christie.