Suchet is known to millions of people around the
world for his superb portrayal of
AgathaChristie’s Belgian detective, Hercule
Poirot, in London Weekly Television’s series
Poirot, which lasted for six years—from
1988 to 1994.
Suchet, born in London in 1946, decided on an
acting career at the age of eighteen as a member
the National Youth Theatre of Great Britain. He
then studied for three years at the London
Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts, eventually
joining the Royal Shakespeare Company in
Suchet has had a very diverse career, acting on
stage, radio, television, and in cinema. His
stage credits include Othello, The
Tempest, The Merchant of Venice,
Oleana, Who’s Afraid of Virginia
Woolf, and Timon of Athens. He has
also made several television films including
The Secret Agent (1992), Freud
(1984), Blott on the Landscape (1985),
and A Song for Europe (1985). In 1986 he
received the Royal Television Society
Performance Award for the parts he played in
Freud, Blott on the Landscape, and
A Song for Europe. Among his film credits
are A World Apart (1988) (for which he
was nominated as Best Actor in a Supporting Role
by The British Academy of Film and Television
Arts), Sunday (1997), and A Perfect
Murder (1998). He is currently starring on
Broadway as Antonio Salieri in Sir Peter Hall’s
production of Amadeus, a part he has been
playing since 1998 in London and Los
a five year hiatus Mr. Suchet has reprised the
role of Hercule Poirot in two new films by
A&E, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd,
which aired in February, and Lord Edgware
Dies, which will air on June 4th of this
TSM: You’re playing the part of Salieri in
Amadeus on Broadway. How is the play
SUCHET: It’s doing very well, Andrew, thank
you. We are sitting at about 70 percent which is
nice because February is always a bit of a
difficult month, of course, but we hope to get
through the strain of February into early spring
TSM: Will you be doing a tour of more states
other than California and New
SUCHET: No. I think, for me anyway, the time
will be right to leave the show at the end of
July. Obviously they are hoping to get a tour of
the States with this production, but it won’t
feature me as Salieri.
TSM: How did you first get interested in
SUCHET: Well, it all began when I was at
school. When I was 16 or 17, I played Macbeth in
the school play. I’d done other plays at school
but following Macbeth, which was particularly
well received, my English teacher, a man called
Joe Storr whom I remember very well—I’m still in
touch with him, actually—advised that I would
maybe enjoy joining a group of young theatre
people called the National Youth Theatre of
Great Britain, which I thought was a great idea.
So I went to audition and then joined them and
did one or two plays for them and enjoyed acting
very much. Now, at that time, I was also hoping
to be a doctor for my real career, but my
mathematics was not good enough.
TSM: Yes, your father is a
SUCHET: That’s right. He’s retired now. I
remember the moment I wanted to become an actor.
I had just finished the last performance of
Bartholomew Fair by Ben Jonson at the
Royal Court Theatre in London. (My goodness,
those years ago the National Youth Theatre could
play the Royal Court!) I had picked up my
make-up bag and went to the stage to watch all
the scenery coming down, and as I saw the
scenery coming down and the light bars coming
down and the empty auditorium and started
remembering what it was like being on that
stage, I thought the atmosphere was so
incredible that, at that moment, standing there,
I decided that my life should be in the theatre
and in show business. It’s a magical world and a
world that is very important to people. The arts
are vital and necessary to people for a
well-rounded life. So that’s where I wanted to
be, and that’s where I am.
TSM: I really enjoy the Poirot series and I
understand The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is
coming up on February 13th. What was that like
to do—because you stopped acting in the part for
five years and now you’re back in the
SUCHET: It was great. Now I’m back in the role
but I don’t know for how much longer. If A&E
continues to want to do them, then of course
I’ll do more. It all remains to be seen whether
they want to make more because now they have the
option. It’s not with ITV—it’s not with England
anymore. But it was really great coming back to
TSM: There is also another Poirot film which
A&E has done.
SUCHET: Yes, there is another one. We did two.
The next one is called Lord Edgware Dies.
That was lovely too and it’s a great fun one.
Actually, ironically, Lord Edgware Dies
is another title for Thirteen at Dinner.
And the funny thing about that is that I filmed
Thirteen at Dinner with Peter Ustinov
years before. I was Japp— possibly the worst
performance of my career.
TSM: Did you imagine at that time that one
day you’d play Poirot?
SUCHET: No I didn’t. I didn’t really know
Poirot. I sort of knew him—I thought he was
Peter Ustinov, really. But when it came my way I
was absolutely thrilled to bits.
TSM: How and when were you approached to
SUCHET: I was approached the year before we
actually started shooting—which was 1987. We
started shooting in 1988 and it was first on
television in England in 1989. So I got to know
Poirot in 1987 during my research and that’s
quite a long time ago, isn’t it?
TSM: Yes, 13 years. It seems like the other
day when I first saw it. Did you know that
Rosalind Hicks saw you in a film in the 80’s and
thought that you would make a perfect
SUCHET: Yes. She saw me in Blott on the
Landscape, which was a BBC adaptation of Tom
Sharpe’s novel, and she thought I’d be her next
Poirot. But it was when she saw me with Peter
Ustinov as Japp and remembered Blott on the
Landscape that she really
So how did you prepare for the part of Poirot?
Did you have any coaching for the
SUCHET: No, I did it all myself. What I did
was, I had my file on one side of me and a pile
of stories on the other side and day after day,
week after week, I plowed through most of Agatha
Christie’s novels about Hercule Poirot and wrote
down characteristics until I had a file full of
documentation of the character. And then it was
my business not only to know what he was like,
but to gradually become him. I had to become him
before we started shooting. I worked very hard
on finding the right voice. I was desperate that
he should sound French, although he is Belgian,
because everybody believes that he is French. I
wanted to move my voice from my own—which is
rather bell-like and mellow and totally unlike
Poirot. I wanted to raise that voice up into his
head because that’s where he works from.
Everything comes from there. My voice is very
much in my chest and in my emotional area, but
his is up in his head. He’s a brain, so that
voice had to be raised up and perfected. And
then I had to learn how to think like him and
how to see the world through his eyes. I had to
make his mannerisms and eccentricities not as
though they had been put on to be laughed at,
but as if they had come absolutely from within
that person. I had to make it look real for the
audience, yet in a way so that they could find
themselves smiling at this strange little man.
His mannerisms and eccentricities have to be
real and not jokey, so he must never be aware of
them or comment on them—even things like putting
a handkerchief down on the floor before he
kneels. They mustn’t be commented on. This is
just what he does.
TSM: Do you find that you have any
similarities to Poirot—such as
SUCHET: Looking around my apartment at the
moment, yes, I’m an unbelievably tidy person. I
think I have to own to that.
TSM: Which episode would you say you enjoyed
working on the most?
SUCHET: I enjoyed The Murder of Roger
Ackroyd, but I think my most favorite of all
was The ABC Murders. I loved
TSM: That’s one of my favorites, and I also
liked "Murder in the Mews." Are there any which
you’d like to film which you haven’t done
TSM: You have an excellent supporting cast
with Philip Jackson as Japp and Hugh Fraser as
Hastings and Pauline Moran as Miss Lemon. What
is it like to work with them?
SUCHET: They are all terrific, actually, and
they are all in the next one—the whole family
comes together in Lord Edgware Dies. It
is wonderful when we are all together. I think
it makes it really rich. And they are so good to
work with. They understand their characters just
as fully as I understand mine, so we could do
anything with them now.
TSM: And Philip Jackson is marvelous as
Japp. He just seems to turn into
SUCHET: I agree. He’s a very nice man. We see
each other—Philip and Hugh and Pauline and
I—during the year even if we don’t
Well that’s nice. And one can detect that
certain chemistry on the screen. What are some
of your other favorite roles on television or in
the cinema, besides Poirot?
SUCHET: This is going back a long, long way
now, but I have played Freud.
saw Freud back in the 80’s.
SUCHET: I enjoyed playing Freud. I enjoyed
Blott on the Landscape—I loved playing
Blott. I loved doing A Song for Europe.
That was a film I did about Stanley Adams, who
actually blew the whistle on that big chemical
company in Switzerland—Hoffmann-La Roche—because
they were forming illegal cartels. He was a very
brave man. And then he was really put through
hell by the Swiss police and his life was
destroyed. That was a great role—Stanley
remember you as Mr. Verloc in The Secret
Agent, which I enjoyed seeing.
SUCHET: I’m so pleased. I loved doing that.
Verloc in The Secret Agent was a great
challenge for me and a very difficult role, but
I really enjoyed that very much.
It’s one of my favorites. You were very much
like the Verloc of the novel.
SUCHET: Yes. When there is an adaptation of a
novel, what I always try to do is serve the
original writer. For me that’s the way to go.
That’s my mission, if you like.
What are your other interests besides
SUCHET: Recently I haven’t had much time, but I
love photography and I enjoy music. I used to
play the clarinet, actually, but I don’t play it
as much now. Sometimes I get it out. I like
reading theology and philosophy. And I love
water—I enjoy boating on the canals and rivers
of England as well.
What are some of your philosophical
SUCHET: Well, I’m a Christian by faith. I like
to think it sees me through a great deal of my
life. I very much believe in the principles of
Christianity and the principles of most
religions, actually—that one has to abandon
oneself to a higher good. I think to accept the
now and to live in the present is the most
important thing for all of us to learn to do—to
be able to live in the present and not let the
quality of the present be coloured by the fear
or anxiety of the future or the pain of the
Do you have plans on ever writing?
SUCHET: Oh, I wish I could write. I don’t think
I can write novels. If ever I write at all, I
would think it would be philosophical books. I
don’t think I have it in me to write a novel.
But you never know. I’ve never
TSM:One more thing before this interview
ends. Would you please say good-bye like
SUCHET: Monsieur Gulli, it has been a great
pleasure and privilege for me to speak with you
today. And I hope that you will publish me in
the way, of course, that I am, which is as the
greatest detective in the world . . .. Au
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