Thu
Mar 5 2015 2:00pm

Casting TV Crime with Rhys Bowen and Tasha Alexander

Joan Hickson as Miss Marple

Join Rhys Bowen and Tasha Alexander as they discuss their favorite (and least) crime televison series, casting decisions, and ponder the perfect actors to play their own leading characters!

Rhys Bowen: Tasha, do you watch many mysteries/crime shows on TV? I am not a huge TV viewer and I find that most of the shows I choose to watch are on PBS. And my favorites are the oldies: Poirot, Miss Marple, Inspector Morse. I enjoy some of the DCI Banks and the Dalziel and Pascoe but most of the newer ones seem to have too much violence, and their plots have gaping holes in them.

You'll notice that all the shows I've mentioned are British. Maybe it's just my nostalgia for my homeland, or maybe it's just that the BBC does better productions with more eye for detail (again nostalgia on my part as I used to be part of BBC drama and always loved the lengths we would go to get it right).

A current favorite is the one with retired policemen solving cold cases. (Is it called New Tricks?) Again I like it because the characters are likable and human, although some of the plots stretch my credibility a trifle! Oh, and I do like Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries.  (But then I love anything in the Twenties, especially the costumes.)

I'm wondering if I enjoy a TV show more or less if I've read the book. From this list it would appear to be more—although there have been some awful Miss Marples. I'm not too keen on the present one. They portray her as nosy, snooping and making bad decisions about going into dangerous situations. I LOVED Joan Hickson. She really got Miss Marple right, don't you think?

Tasha Alexander: Hickson was a terrific Miss Marple. For me, I have to make a conscious effort to separate books from film adaptations. It’s nearly impossible for a production to capture a story the way it fills a single reader’s imagination, let alone that of every reader. Furthermore, film is a completely different way of telling a story, so I do my best to try not to compare the two, but rather to evaluate the effectiveness of each on its own. That said, there are times when something jars me too much and I just can’t watch—I never could get into the BBC Inspector Lynley Mysteries. Nathaniel Parker is a talented actor, but he just didn’t look like the Lynley-descended-from-Vikings who resided in my own head. It’s a weakness on my own part not to have been able to get past that, but there it is.

RB: My only exception to preferring the oldies and goodies is the Benedict Cumberbatch version of Sherlock Holmes.

Although it's set in modern times, I feel the writer got the character right. Holmes was a young man. He clearly had Aspergers or similar. He would have been fascinated with modern technology, and I like the new twists on the original stories. How about you?

TA: Now is when I have to admit to not having watched any of the new incarnations of Holmes. However, you are not alone in singing the praises of the Cumberbatch version, and I may have to relent and give them a try. I would say that my favorite mystery adaptation is the Cadfael series starring Derek Jacobi.

I adored Ellis Peters’ books, and felt that ITV did an outstanding job with the show. Most of the changes they made worked—for example, I found that Brother Oswin taking on a larger role in the stories was a good choice.

RB: Tasha, if they make your series into TV, who should play Lady Emily? For Lady Georgie in my Royal Spyness books, I would really like Emma Watson. She has that upper class innocence. I'm not sure about Molly Murphy. Again, she's young. It would need some up and coming Irish actress. Any suggestions?

TA:  Emma Watson would be a brilliant Lady Georgie! As for Molly Murphy, that’s tough. What about Saoirse Ronan? I know she was born in the States, but didn’t she grow up in Ireland? As for Lady Emily, I wouldn’t even know where to begin. I make a point of not describing her in the novels because I want readers to form their own image of her, but a television series would change that. I think people would start picturing her as the actress; it would be unavoidable. The only thing harder than casting Emily would be casting Colin, although there never seems to be a shortage of dashing and handsome British actors. Thank goodness…

RB:  I agree completely that if the TV character does not look and seem like my vision of the character, I can’t watch.  That’s why I was so glad they finally got Poirot right with David Suchet. The previous Poirots were so wrong!  And Cadfael—yes, perfect. But then Derek Jacobi could play anything!

If I had to choose between a TV show and a book, it would always be the latter.

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Rhys Bowen is the author of the Anthony and Agatha Award-winning Molly Murphy mysteries, the Edgar Award-nominated Evan Evans series, and the Royal Spyness series. Born in England, she lives in San Rafael, California.

Tasha Alexander is the author of the Lady Emily novels, a series of historical suspense, including Tears of Pearl and Dangerous to Know. She attended the University of Notre Dame, where she signed on as an English major in order to have a legitimate excuse for spending all her time reading. She and her husband, novelist Andrew Grant, divide their time between Chicago and the UK.

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103 comments
Rebecca Brothers
2. RileyC
Lovely to see a discussion between two of my favorite writers! The Inspector Lynley series really did get it wrong with the casting, both with Lynley and Havers. The suggestion of potential romance between the characters was an even worse misstep.

Hadn't thought of Emma Watson for Lady Georgie but it works. Maybe Tom Hughes for Darcy? What about Michelle Dockery and Matthew Goode for Emily and Colin?
MaryC
3. maryc
Enjoyed the post. I don't have anyone in mind to play the roles.
Sally Schmidt
4. bigcootie
Great discussion. Agree it is often hard to live up to the book. Emma Watson would be wonderful.
Pen Mettert
6. Pen M
I agree with most of what you said. I love the British PBS shows. And David Suchet is sooooo perfect as Poirot. ;)
7. Janice Crombie Cross
Subject close to my heart - will always chose the book over TV or film - The Brits seem to have a knack for doing adaptations "right" - love Inspector Lynley Books, hate TV shows, Nathaniel Parker is so not Thomas and the lady who plays Barbara is so wrong (again a great actress just wrong for the part). Love Joan Hickson and David Suchet! There are some recent series which are good like Shetland and Vera. Have to separate book and adaptation - remember they are "based on" - really new - Father Brown and Grantchester, oh and Broadchurch 1 & 2. Cheers!
9. Dianna Stewart
The best Darcy for the Royal Spyness series is Chris Pine!!! (see him in Princess Diaries 2 ...)
sara hyman
10. annefitza
I have not read any of Tasha's books YET, they are on my TBR list so I can't weigh in on Lady Emily casting. I think the idea of Emma Watson as Lady Georgie is proper as long as they start making them SOON. Any chance, Rhys?
11. Karlene
Try Grantchester - a PBS mystery series set in England in the 1950's with a handsome village vicar as the amateur solving mysteries that puzzle the police.
Kathleen West
12. SlayBelle
I too enjoy mostly PBS and BBC shows. Some of my favorite TV mysteries are Agatha Christie, A Touch of Frost, Foyle's War, Campion, and The Bletchly Circle.
13. Nancie Ligon
So true that casting can ruin a good book turned film! I can't watch The Outlander for that very reason. But Emma Watson as Georgie would be brilliant! I can forego all TV programs from the U.S. - but don't take my PBS British programs away from me! A confirmed Anglophile.....
Beth Penland
14. Beth P.
I like all kinds of crime shows but I think my favorites are Inspector Morse, Inspector Lewis, Endeavor and DCI Banks. I also like Sherlock with Benedict Cumberbatch. The new show on PBS, Grantchester is really good, too.
15. Christi Caughey
I agree with Rhys mostly on the mysteries about the British handling of the shows, but I do like Elementary on US TV.
16. Lynda W.
I agree casting is so important, the one that sticks in my head as being so far off the mark was Robert Carlyle as Hamish Macbeth! Perfect casting is Essie Davis as Phryne Fisher. Emma Watson sounds like a great match for Lady Georgie.
Keep the great stories coming ladies.
Carolyn Bartkus
17. cbartkus
I love Robert Caryle as Hamish MacBeth also and Essie Davis. Emma Watson would probably make a good Georgie; I also think Carey Mulligan might be good in that role, but who knows. I really like the Endeavor sereis but wish there were more. I can't think of a single Irish actress to play the part of Molly, though. I though maybe British actress Emily Blunt??????? I have never liked Nathaniel Parker as Lynley and the actress who plays Barbara Havers is sooooooo wrong for that part.
Carolyn Bartkus
18. cbartkus
I would also like to see Anne Perry's books come to life with Charalotte and Pitt and Hester and Monk. As far as I know, only the first book she wrote about Pitt (Cater Street Hangman) has been brought to the TV screen. How sad. I'll have to give some thought as to who should play Lady Emily. I've read all of them. I also like Carola Dunn's mysterys with Daisy Dalrymple and would like to see those made into a series or movie.
19. Valrae Goglio MacDonald
Will admit to not being a fan of historical mysteries---like mine on a more contemporary level. Can't comment on casting and much prefer the written word over the televised adaptation. I usually get quite specific pictures in my mind of the characters and the settings, so anything filmed never lives up to my expectations. We subscribe to ACORN and are currently viewing the Midsomer Murders series---approximately 105 episodes!!! In the past have enjoyed Foyle's War, A Touch of Frost, Miss Fisher, Poirot and many other such offerings. Recently watched Nathaniel Parker in Three Pines Mystery---hadn't read the book upon which it was based, but thought this adaptation was wretched---although I am a big fan of Mr. Parker's!!! Would love to see what can be done with the stories of Michael Robotham and Stuart MacBride, Deborah Crombie and a few other favorites. At age 68, I am running out of time to read and see all that I desire. Greatly enjoyed the conversation you ladies allowed us to witness. Looking forward to many more lively discussions. Happy Spring to all!!!
Janice Santillo
20. themommazie
I always prefer the book to the TV or screen adaptation, British or American. Nothing beats a good book.
Irene Menge
21. Goldenmane
TV and film are never as good as the book, except, perhaps, 007. And Sean Connery is the only Bond I'll ever see when I reread the books.
Linda Knowles
23. strigoivii
I woud prefer to see some up and coming (though mostly unknown) actors given a chance. That way the viewer sees the character not the actor.
Marlyn Beebe
24. Marlyn
Emma Watson would be perfect to play Lady Georgie. I haven't seen enough of Saoirse Ronan to know if she would fit as Molly, though.
Cindy Hipolito
26. mysuccess
While I do not have any suggestions as to other actors that could play some of the characters mentioned, I do enjoy these TV crimes/mysteries very much. Look forward to reading more of these authors' works.
Sandy Klocinski
27. SKlocinski
Thank you, Rhys Bowen for another addition to the Molly Murphy series. I’ve been a fan of Rhys Bowen since I first stumbled across one of her Constable Evans books in a library about 15 years ago.
Although each book can stand alone as complete, it’s always nice to know a character’s history. Treat yourself and read the whole series.
28. Shanon Baas
I like this.
Jim Belcher
30. librarypops
Crime shows are good, but more and moe of them are very hard to follow because of slurred or hurried speech and acents.
Robin Weatherington
31. rawfish
Books are always better than video, and I can't wait for this one.
Joyce Mitchell
33. JoyceLm
I also love the New Tricks series. Our local PBS only broadcast the first season but I fell in love with it & now buy the series on DVD from Amazon.com. Thanks.
34. pegkeohane
Grantchester does not live up to expectations of British mysteries..
tlwhitby
35. tlwhitby
Poirot played by David Suchet , is the only actor who truely brings the character to life .
Wilifred Alire
36. walire
Grantchester - a PBS mystery series set in Cambridge is very good, but the books by JamesRuncie, are even better.
justin m murphy
38. tmwhitby12
Dalziel and Pascoe , is one of my favourite shows .
39. Barbara S
Love the Miss Fisher ones and Foyle's war. Have not see the New Tricks. Really enjoyed "Rosemary and Thyme". I didn't like Midsomer Mysteries at first but I do now.
pat murphy
40. pwhitby
Benedict Cumberbatch is such a great actor . Many actors have played Sherlock Holmes , but he brings him to life .
Deanna Stillings
41. reader123
I always prefer the books because I like to make the person's looks up out of my own head, not some casting director's.
42. joycedelaney
No question about it for me - oldies but goodies are my favorites. Joan Hickson's portrayal of Miss Marple is masterful.
Andra Dalton
43. andra77
Think like most of us here that nothing will ever compare to the heft of holding a real book in our hands as we eagerly turn the pages. Not to mention the fact that I also find myself constantly drawn to the oldies as they seem to have a richness to them & depth that some books today seem to miss. Thanks for the opportunity to win & good luck to all who enter!!! :)
45. Susanne
I heartily concur that Joan Hickson was the best Miss Marple of All Time, that the Miss Fisher mysteries are quite fun, and I would love to see Jessica Brown Findlay from Downton Abbey make an appearance as a lady detective.
Andrew Kuligowski
46. KuligowskiAndrew
Oh Miss Bowen, you continue to tease ... in your list of fantasy casting for your own works, you fail to mention Evan Evans. Perhaps you have forgotten about our intrepid Welsh hero, but your readers (and his) have not forgotten. Unfortunately, I am not familiar with the newest generation of young actors, and would embarrass myself attempting to cast that role with anyone younger than 40 or so (which, of course, the role calls for!!)
Clydia DeFreese
47. clydia
Most of the mysteries I like are English also. Probably because I watch PBS mostly. Midsomer Murders......the old one.....are my favorites , but since I've seen most of the old ones, I'll probably go on to something newer. Inspector Morse is another favorite. The dry wit is entertaining in both those series. My only complaint is most of the English shows are so dark.....they really need more light bulbs in the studio.... And I hate this new technique that has music behind most of the scenes. Sometimes it's difficult to understand what they're saying. But I still buy every DVD whenever they are on sale!!
Darlene Slocum
48. darandsam
I get a lot of enjoyent from the british programs. They are all programs that are watched and not sewing or reading at the same time. My PBS channel is limited on what they show but I am always watching for them to add something new. I find their comedies hilarious.
Vikki Wright
49. OMrsWright
My fav's are the British ones as well. They seem to have more of a puzzle to them and the acting is so well done, a lot of use of microexpressions (Original Midsummer Mysteries for example.) I am glad to hear someone besides me singing the praises of New Tricks! It is a great show. I do agree that the music in the BBC shows should either be gotten rid of or turn it down for goodness sakes! But I have always wondered if that was our local PBS stations doing . I guess not.
Laura Shangraw
50. fritterbit
I wouldn't know how to cast a production but would be interested in watching once it's done.
52. writerider
Love the the Lady Emily Series and would love Perry's books to come to TV...have read both of her series.
Thank you for this conversation. Enjoyed it!
Love the Blechley Circle, Sherlock, and Miss Fischer Mysteries. Love the British mysteries.
Michael Carter
54. rubydog
Great casting discussion!
Yes, please enter me in this sweepstakes.
Thanks --
Lori Provenzano
55. Mountainesque
In my view the British casting is usually spot on, with the lead actors more than capable of making the roles their own. Do not AT ALL like the recent Hollywood blockbuster movie casting and interpretations of Sherlock Holmes, but I suppose the writing and frenetic pacing of the plot developments are equally to blame.
Crystal Blackburn
56. lovesmysteries
Joan Hickson is Miss Marple in my mind. I enjoy the other interpretations but she is the best. I feel the same way about David Suchet as Hercule Poirot.

Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller, both as very modern, present day interpetations of Sherlock Holmes are great too.
Debra Kidle
57. lubelle
This would be a great read, thanks for the chance!
58. Elizabeth M
Thanks for the opportunity.
Nancy Oliver
59. nancoli
Love Emma Watson for Georgie. How about Jonathan Rhys Meyers for Darcy? Thanks for posting this interview. Enjoyed it very much.
Brenda Tucker
60. rango3
Interview is super, and I agree, the book is better than the film or TV.
Sally Winkleblech
62. sallyw
Interesting interview, I do prefer the book usually too. I would like to see some newer faces so you don't start thinking about past performances and being distracted.
Sally Winkleblech
63. sallyw
Interesting interview, I do prefer the book usually too. I would like to see some newer faces so you don't start thinking about past performances and being distracted.
Aaron Shapiro
64. shappiesweep
This was a cool read, thanks! I honestly don't know which I prefer, they're both so good! With all the different adaptations it's hard to pick a favorite.
Lynn Jarrett
65. OkieReader
I have to agree with Bowen's comment on Cumberbatch. I too believe he is the best Sherlock I have ever seen. I really like how the modern conveniences have been incorporated into the old storylines. I like how the "old" addiction was made into a different one too. He is a perfect actor for the part.
Cecile Fleetwood
66. ladydragon
My favorite Book to TV Series is Ellis Peters' Brother Cadfael! I just wish there could be more books to dramatize! I love to see that 2 of my favorite authors enjoy reading & watching many of the same mystery series that I do!
Thanks for a great article!
73. runner
Groovy Casting TV Crime!
Joe Hauser
74. jhauser42
Amazing how many people (16 of 73 as I write this) fail to read the rules where it says:

"TIP: Since only comments from registered users will be tabulated, if youruser name appears in red above your comment—STOP—go log in, then try commenting again. If your user name appears in black above your comment, You’re In!"
JAMES LYNAM
75. jpl123456
Great writers.
I would love to read their discussion.
Saundra K. Warren
78. shortiew
Remember watching the old Miss Marple movies when I was a kid
Marjorie Manharth
80. mmanharth
Getting such good ideas for books from this discussion. Love the BBC PBS shows.
Tracy Lech
81. tracy.lech
I agree that Emma Watson would make a great Lady Georgie! Please make a movie!
Thanks,
tracy
Susan Smith
82. susan1215
Sounds like some great books. Thanks for the giveaway!
Janice Milliken
84. msjiva
It's the 3B's for me: Books, British acting & BBC! Nothing better than a good British mystery to soothe the nerves and get the gray matter working.
Heather Cowley
87. choochoo
I'm horrible at casting, so I'll just say 'ello, and 'ope to win!
Diane Furst
88. dbooks22
Totally agree with the Benedict comments. Love that version of Sherlock. Also love David Suchet as Poirot.
Vicki Wise
94. azcactus94
Sounds like good books, would love to give them a read.
Carol Gowett
95. clynsg
I think I am up to date on both Molly Murphy and Lady Georgie, but haven't read any of Alexander's books as yet.
Pam Flynn
97. desdemona
Criminal element really has great books and these are supurb examples of the reads I love.
v cess
98. AbbieNormal
Enjoyed the discussion, as I have enjoyed their books. Actually, Emma Watson could play Lady Georgie or Molly Murphy.
v cess
99. AbbieNormal
Valrae Goglio MacDonald....Wow! That's quite a handle. Hope someone is making note of it for a character in a story of some sort.....even if it's only the cat. Made me smile....
Joyce Lokitus
100. Joyce710113
I love to read the mysteries/crime dramas and then see the British PBS shows bring the characters and surroundings to life. Since I'm from the US, many of the actors were unfamiliar to me prior to seeing them take on famous book roles.
Marisa Young
101. Risa
I agree with both. Joan Hickson is great.
Chris Noe
103. ezmerelda
Loved that conversation. I watch a lot of BBC America, but am still not familiar with some of the actors mentioned. I do, however, adore Benedict Cumberbatch and all of the cast of Sherlock.
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