© ITV/Mark Bourdillon
JAMES DREYFUS plays Ralph Ford
James Dreyfus won the battle of the beards in 'A Rare Bird'.
"Quite a few of us play birdwatchers in the episode and we all turned up at the readthrough with little beards and moustaches. I think that's what everyone thought a twitcher would look like, but having four of us with the same goatees would have looked a bit strange!
"Make-up insisted that the others had to go, but I kept mine and Paul Nicholls was rather unhappy about that. I think we took the characters on board very quickly."
Ralph Ford is a member of the Midsomer-in-the-Marsh Ornithological Society and is also a professional taxidermist.
"I don't know any birdwatchers but I watched a documentary which was quite useful. Our society is a strange little group, they are all very eccentric. Ralph is quite nerdy, he has his top button done up and wears vegan shoes which are not very pretty.
"Because my character is a taxidermist, there was someone on set to advise me. I had a scene where I had to stuff a tiny little bird. I'm not sure what it was, but it was very colourful.
"There was also a stuffed swan which the director insisted sat in the background of every scene and then stole all my best shots. I was photographed outside my taxidermist cottage with Neil Dudgeon and Jason Hughes - and the swan of course!"
The role was a change of direction for James.
"Ralph is obsessive, jealous, very quick tempered and moody. It's not the kind of part that I usually get cast as, so it was good to do, and I like the mixture of drama with comedy that you get in MIDSOMER MURDERS. I haven't had such a good time filming for ages - I've loved the series for years and I was delighted to be part of it. But I was very strict and gave all the clothes back, and I certainly didn't keep any stuffed birds!"
James is well known for his roles in Gimme Gimme Gimme, The Thin Blue Line and the movie Notting Hill.
"I feel very lucky in the projects that I've been attached to. Rowan Atkinson was one of my heroes as I was growing up, so I was honoured to work with him. Working with Neil and Jason was absolutely fantastic too. I love working but it is not as easy now as it once was to find jobs.
"I also like writing and I have a dog called Calvin, who's a Parson Jack Russell."
James' other credits include My Hero, Bette, Waking the Dead, Nina and the Neurons, Double Time, He Kills Coppers and The Sarah Jane Adventures.
PAUL NICHOLLS plays Dave Foxely
Paul Nicholls swaps sides of the law to play smalltime criminal Dave Foxely.
He explains: "Dave is described as a 'ne'er do well' and he's basically a thief, with low intelligence, who has a fondness for the ladies. He likes money and he'll do something risky and illegal for 20 quid. He lives in a caravan and enjoys a drink and a fight.
"There are some good things about him, but you don't see them on screen. He works for a local farmer and he shoots squirrels and other pests and works in the countryside, but the rest of the time he drinks and has sex with the female gender.
"He's always bouncing around, almost like he has an allergy to Ribena, but underneath there is something violent about him. You wouldn't really want him as a mate."
Paul came to the role after working on the new series of Law & Order: UK.
"I play a copper in Law & Order, a homicide detective called Sam Casey. He's a new regular and is very enthusiastic, although he sometimes gets himself into trouble as he can be a bit immature. I also played a rookie copper in City Central. So I am usually on the right side of the law as opposed to a wrong 'un in Midsomer."
MIDSOMER MURDERS reunited Paul with star Neil Dudgeon.
"I worked with Neil when I was 16 in a detective drama called Out of the Blue. It was one of my first professional acting jobs and Neil really made me laugh. He is such a fantastic actor, so when I was offered Midsomer Murders I just thought 'yes'. Jason is also a great actor and a nice guy too."
Adds Paul: "I really loved the experience. I had just come from Law & Order which was a great job but very fast and long hours. Midsomer was relaxed and chilled."
The role required Paul to keep fit, as Dave is a wannabe boxer.
"I go running and I've boxed before but I had to brush up on it. I hit the bag which was tied to a tree, and it came back and hit me straight in the face! Luckily Dave doesn't actually fight anyone but he is always shadow boxing."
Paul began his career as a child actor and got his big break in EastEnders, playing Joe Wicks in more than 150 episodes. His credits since have included Goodbye Charlie Bright, The Canterbury Tales, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, Gunpowder Treason & Plot, If Only, The Passion, Harley Street, Secret Diary of a Call Girl and Candy Cabs.
He says: "I still get recognised from EastEnders even though it was 15 years ago. I was only 17 when I left and I have been incredibly lucky. My family have been great too and always watched my career. I can't complain."
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