Fear not, Midsomer residents, DCI Barnaby has a new recruit - and he’s eager to get stuck in.
Actor Gwilym Lee tells us about first-day nerves, forgetting his lines and going home for Santa.
Quality time, along with deep and meaningful chats, might help some people connect. But when it comes to bonding with his brother, Midsomer Murders’ new recruit Gwilym Lee has a different trick up his sleeve.
“Alan Partridge is a big influence in my life,” says the 30-year-old, laughing. “My brother had never seen it, so last Christmas I bought him the entire box set and told him to watch it. Two episodes in, he called me and said, ‘I understand you so much more now.’”
The rest of us will become better acquainted with the actor soon too, when he makes his debut in Midsomer Murders as Detective Sergeant Charlie Nelson.
Whippersnapper Nelson replaces DS Ben Jones - who was played by Jason Hughes for seven years - as DCI Barnaby’s new partner in crime. To date, the village drama has featured 268 murders, 12 accidental deaths and 11 suicides.
“When I told my mum I got the part, she was delighted. She’s like my own personal publicist and has really spread the word,” says Lee. “She’s my biggest fan, and the rest of the family are very pleased too. They’re incredibly supportive.”
Nelson arrives shortly before Christmas and, unbeknown to the rest of the characters, is living in a hotel. “Suddenly, they realise that he has no-one to stay with over the Christmas period, so Kate [Tamzin Malleson] invites him to become her lodger,” explains the actor.
DS Nelson’s look, he reveals, is quite a contrast to previous sidekicks.
“We’ve broken with tradition. There’s no suit and tie - instead, he wears T-shirts and jumpers. He’s a bit more funky with jeans, nice jackets, a cool watch and the best pair of brogues ever.”
There have already been some teething problems on set, though.
“I’ve forgotten my character’s name a couple of times,” he says. In one scene, I got my ID out and was trying to be really assertive and formal with two suspects.
“I said, ‘This is DCI Barnaby. Erm, I’m DCI Lewis...erm, Nelson. Wrong show, wrong show.
“The director was like, ‘What’s going on?’,” adds Lee, who appeared in fellow crime drama Lewis in 2009. “It was on one of my first jobs out of drama school,” he says.
Raised in Birmingham, Lee trained at the Guildhall School Of Music & Drama and cut his teeth on the stage before winning small parts in Channel 4’s Fresh Meat and BBC One’s Restless.
Midsomer Murders is his biggest gig to date, and he admits landing such a major TV role left him feeling “pretty nervous” on the first day of filming. And as you’ll see when the episode airs on December 24, the new recruit’s eager to please his new colleagues.
“Nelson’s a bit of an eager terrier pulling at the leash, and there have been times where Barnaby says ‘Nelson!’, clicks his fingers and I go and jump in a cold lake or sprint after people. Weirdly, this pattern has emerged where I rugby tackle anybody. And quite a lot of women too...”
All in all, Lee is totally chuffed with the role. “It is a bit of a dream really, because I get the opportunity to play a character over a long period of time and to really establish working relationships that are going to evolve,” he says.
When his first episode screens at Christmas, he’ll be at home with his family. He and his siblings may be grown up, but traditions in the Lee household haven’t changed.
“We always have a very traditional Christmas at my parents’ home, with stockings in the morning and then going to see if Father Christmas has left anything by the tree,” he says.
Midsomer Murders: The Christmas Haunting airs on ITV on Tuesday, December 24