Fiona Dolman describes getting the role of Sarah Barnaby, wife of new Midsomer Murders DCI John Barnaby (Neil Dudgeon), as the perfect job.
"I'm a big fan of the series and a few years ago I met the casting director for another job and found out she also did Midsomer. I did a fairly good begging session at the end of my casting, hoping she would remember me," she says.
"When the role of Mrs Barnaby came up, they saw quite a lot of people. I was shortlisted after the first audition and came back to do scenes with Neil. It's awful when you start that process because it's much harder to get a job that you really want.
"When my agent phoned me with the good news I was absolutely thrilled. I was filming within a month which was good, as I'm no good at secrets."
For her very first episode, Fiona found herself in the company of Edward Fox, Phyllida Law, Neil Pearson, Haydn Gwynne and Abigail McKern, to name but a few.
"My first episode couldn't have been more perfect - Edward Fox is a guest star and it just doesn't get any better than that! We sat in the read-through and it was like having a master class. When he kissed my hand, was I star struck? Hell yes!"
Adds Fiona: "The best thing about it is that I don't get killed, I get to stay. As an actress, when you reach a certain age the parts can get very small and thin on the ground, so to get a recurring role is a joy and a privilege.
"I also love the mix between the macabre murders and the humour brought by the characters with their British eccentricity. It's serious but there's a lightness of touch to it - that's what makes it watchable.
"Working with huge names in British theatre is just fantastic. There are a lot of people like Judi Dench and Maggie Smith whom I'd love to work with, and when I first joined I heard Johnny Depp wanted to do an episode. If that's true, he'd be pretty much up there on my wish list."
Fiona makes her Midsomer debut in episode two, "Dark Secrets", when Sarah Barnaby takes up her new post as head of Causton Comprehensive School.
"It's her first posting as head and she wants to prove herself. As a person, she's quick-thinking, optimistic, strong-willed and quite dynamic. There's a bit of animosity when she arrives at the school but she's good at diffusing confrontation.
"I've got some friends who are teachers and I spoke to them to find out what she would have done to get to be a headmistress. They told me that you learn to be a diplomat, a bit of a politician, and that's how she is."
Fiona is enjoying watching how Sarah's character and relationship with her husband develops.
"They're a younger couple than the previous Barnabys so we spice it up a little bit. They're both clever and I think their relationship is quite equal. There's a lot of healthy teasing. If people have very serious jobs it's nice to go home and make light of things.
"They don't have children but they do have a wonderful dog called Sykes who is like their child. He's brilliant, a real scene-stealer! Also Joyce Barnaby had loads of hobbies so I'm hoping that Sarah can have a few so I can work with the guest stars. I think she'd probably be in a book club and I quite like salsa dancing so I wouldn't mind that."
Fiona has played a policeman's wife before - she starred as lawyer Jackie Bradley, wife to PC Mike Bradley, in more than 50 episodes of ITV's long running drama Heartbeat.
Coincidentally Jason Durr who played her husband in Heartbeat recently appeared in John Nettles' final episode and John Nettles appeared in Fiona's last Heartbeat episode.
Says Fiona: "I don't know why I keep marrying policemen on screen - I think I like to feel safe. Heartbeat had a similar feel to Midsomer in terms of the crew. When something is long-running like that it feels like a family set up because people have worked together for so long. And, like Midsomer, it appeals to people of all ages and all walks of life.
"Neil and I went to Cannes and I had no idea how huge Midsomer was internationally. You'd think that different countries would like different programmes, but they all love it."
Fiona was born in Findhorn, Scotland, and travelled the world as a child, thanks to her father's job in the RAF.
Her early acting credits include The Knock, Ultraviolet and The Bill, before joining Heartbeat in 1998. Following her departure from the series, she went on to play Miss Pamela Andrews in 48 episodes of The Royal Today.
She has also appeared in Holby City, Doctors, New Tricks and Coronation Street, and more recently Paradox and Waterloo Road. She also recently completed the feature film Ways to Live Forever.
Fiona is married to Martin Curry, a first assistant director, whom she worked with on Strike Force and Heartbeat, and they live in a cottage in Yorkshire.
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