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David Suchet bids farewell to Agatha Christie's Poirot

David Suchet, who has played Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot on TV for the last 25 years, completes his run — and the character's canon.

July 19, 2013|By Henry Chu

Early on in the TV series, the makers decided to set every episode in the 1930s no matter when it was written. That allowed them to pour on the fabulous Art Deco details — "we have people who watch 'Poirot' for the cars," said Rebecca Eaton, executive producer of PBS' "Masterpiece" — and that lends the series a comforting nostalgia, a sort of "Downton" of death.

It also enabled producers to shoot the stories out of their written sequence, as happened with the final five adaptations. "Curtain," which will be the last to air, was filmed first, because it was easier for Suchet to lose weight to play an aged, frail Poirot and then gain it back for the remaining episodes.

There were emotional reasons too.

"I would've hated to leave the character dead," Suchet said. "Now I can leave him alive and kicking and feeling well."

The last episode to be made was "Dead Man's Folly," which includes settings — a boathouse, the garden of an English country house — that Christie based on her own summer home, Greenway, here in Galmpton, overlooking the River Dart. (The property now belongs to the National Trust and is open to the public.) Using it in the TV version was a no-brainer.

"Originally we only had the funding to do just the boathouse and establish just the river, and then we came and scouted down here and we said it's crazy not to have the face of the house," said producer David Boulter. "So we scratched our heads and came up with a way of affording a few more days down here."

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With the sense of closing a circle, producers contrived it so that the final shot would be of Suchet walking up to the porch in full Poirot regalia of sharply pressed suit and shiny patent-leather shoes, though the scene features early in the film.

The day, June 27, started out beautifully sunny but clouded over and began spitting rain. The production went ahead, and, watched by an admiring crowd that included Christie's grandson, Suchet minced his way into TV history.

What lies on the other side for him is partly known, partly not. Besides completing the Poirot oeuvre, he is wrapping up recording a spoken version of the entire Bible and has a documentary on St. Peter in the works, to complement one he made on St. Paul.

He has expressed an interest in doing some comedy. Ironically, said Boulter, after 25 years of bringing killers to justice, Suchet would make a great villain.

"He does a really good baddie," Boulter said. "There aren't that many actors of that caliber around, British actors, and I think he'll get some fantastic roles now in independent film."


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