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Friday, June 20

Austen Actors Highlight New Masterpiece Mystery Season

Reserve your summer Sunday evenings for the newly redesigned Masterpiece Mystery hosted by none other than Mr. Elton (Alan Cumming) as master of ceremonies introducing each of the four new series starting on June 22 and continuing through September 28.

Fans of Masterpiece Classic and The Complete Jane Austen series on PBS will recognize several familiar faces throughout the Mystery season. The new host of the series is Tony Award winning British actor Alan Cumming, who stared as Mr. Elton in the 1996 adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel Emma, directed by Douglas McGrath and co-staring Gwyneth Paltrow as Emma Woodhouse. It will be interesting to see what direction he takes hosting each of the series in comparison to his predecessors Gene Shalit 1980, Vincent Price 1981-1989, and Diana Rigg 1990 -2003. The series began airing without a host in the 2004 season, so this return to its original hosted format is a traditional move by executive producer Rebecca Eaton.

Alan Cumming as Mr. Elton and Juliet Stevenson as Mrs. Elton in Emma (1996)

This season’s Mystery lineup includes The Men of Mystery beginning on June 22 with three episodes each of the return of Inspector Lewis and Foyle’s War starting on July 13, and six episodes of The Inspector Lynley Mysteries on August 10. The series concludes with a reprieve of two episodes of Sally Lockhart staring Billie Piper (Fanny Price in Mansfield Park 2007) and JJ Feild (Henry Tilney in Northanger Abbey 2007).

Laurence Fox as DS James Hathaway and Kevin Whatley as DI Robbie Lewis in Inspector Lewis

Inspector Lewis opens the season on Sunday June 22 with three new episodes staring Kevin Whatley (The English Patient) who returns as Detective Inspector Robbie Lewis in this spin-off to the popular Inspector Morris series. Also returning is his younger sidekick, the cool, cerebral Detective Sergeant James Hathaway played by Austen actor Laurence Fox. Janeites will remember his performance as Jane Austen’s (Ann Hathaway) unsuccessful suitor Mr. Wilsey in last summers movie Becoming Jane, whose amorous pursuits had him in more than one embarrassing situation and uttering such great lines as “Sometimes affection is a shy flower that takes time to blossom.”

Ann Hathaway as Jane Austen and Laurence Fox as Mr. Wisley in Becoming Jane (2007)

Mr. Fox comes from an accomplished acting family. He is the son of British actor James Fox, nephew to actors Edward Fox, Joann David (Mrs. Gardiner in Pride and Prejudice 1995 and Elinor Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility 1971) and producer Robert Fox, and cousin to fellow Austen actor Emilia Fox (Georgiana Darcy in Pride and Prejudice 1995). He married British actress Billie Piper (Fanny Price in Mansfield Park 2007) on New Years Eve in 2007. If he had anymore Austen connections, he would have to be related!!!

Laurence Fox and his wife Billie Piper

The Inspector Lewis series includes three episodes and features additional actors that share Jane Austen connections; 1.) Whom the Gods Would Destroy – June 22, Anna Madeley (Lucy Steele in Sensibility 2007), and Anna Massey (Aunt Norris in Mansfield Park 1983); 2.) Old School Friends – June 29, David Glover (Foot the butler in Sense and Sensibility 2008); and 3.) Expiation - July 6, Lucy Robinson (Louisa Hurst in Pride and Prejudice 1995, Mrs. Elton in Emma 1996 and Janey in Bridget Jones the Edge of Reason 2004), Julia Joyce (Young Fanny Price in Mansfield Park 2007), Pip Torrens (Edward Austen-Knight in Miss Austen Regrets 2008 and a Netherfield butler in Pride and Prejudice 2005), and Phoebe Nicholls (Elizabeth Elliot in Persuasion 1995).

Anna Massey as Aunt Norris in Mansfield Park (1983)

I have always enjoyed the Masterpiece Mystery series, and am glad to see so many Austen actors finding work with such a venerable series. I hope that you enjoy the opening episode!

Posted by Laurel Ann, Austenprose


kaye dacus said...

Anna Massey has another Austen connection: she narrated audiobook versions of both Northanger Abbey and Persuasion. I have her version of Persuasion and love the way she acts out each of the characters with that distinctive voice of hers!

Georgie Lee said...

I like Alan Cummings. I think he will do a good job hosting Masterpiece. However, there was something very elegant about Diana Rigg.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of Laurence Fox, I actually loved him as Cecil in the newest A Room with a View on Masterpiece Theatre. He portrayed him as very real and sympathetic.