Meet the New Miss Marple

Julia McKenzie: Replaces Geraldine McEwan as the iconic sleuth.
Photograph: ITV

Julia McKenzie, who played the ditzy Hester in the 1980s sitcom Fresh Fields, is ITV’s new Miss Marple.

McKenzie, 66, was most recently seen in the BBC costume drama Cranford as Mrs Forrester and the film Notes on a Scandal. She will replace Geraldine McEwan as Agatha Christie’s elderly sleuth in the ITV1 adaptations.

She starts production of the classic murder mystery A Pocketful of Rye at the end of the month, joining the ranks of actresses, including Joan Hickson and Margaret Rutherford, who have played the role.

“I’m very excited but also slightly daunted by the enormous responsibility that comes with taking on such an iconic role,” McKenzie said.

“Just about everybody in the world knows about Miss Marple and has an opinion of what she should be like, so I’m under no illusions about the size of the task ahead,” she added. “And I suppose I’ll have to remind myself how to knit.”

McKenzie also appeared on TV in Bright Young Things and Blott On The Landscape.

On stage, she most recently starred in The Philadelphia Story at the Old Vic in London.

McKenzie won an Olivier for her performance as Mrs Lovett in the National Theatre production of Sweeney Todd, and in 1977 was nominated for a Tony Award as best actress in a musical for Side by Side by Sondheim.

ITV director of drama Laura Mackie said the Miss Marple brand was one of the “strongest in British television”.

“Julia McKenzie will bring another dimension to a classic character, and I hope the public are as excited as I am to see her bring her own unique interpretation to one of fiction’s most well-loved detectives,” Mackie said.

Christie’s grandson Mathew Prichard, chairman of Agatha Christie Ltd said: “I can imagine Julia McKenzie playing Miss Marple with exactly the right balance of sympathy and intelligence, and I confidently predict that she will become a Miss Marple to rank with the very best.”

Phil Clymer, executive producer of Marple, said McKenzie had been the outstanding candidate ever since McEwan decided to step down.

McEwan retired last month after playing the role for three ITV1 series. Miss Marple has been sold to more than 100 territories worldwide.

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