Renowned as he is for his comedy performances in Not The Nine O’Clock News, Blackadder and Mr Bean, success hasn’t shielded Rowan Atkinson from the snobbery levelled at comic actors.
Now 61, Atkinson is trying a different tack with his leading role in ITV’s new detective drama Maigret, as the eponymous “self-contained” police officer. It’s a more serious role, but one he insists he accepted because it was “interesting”, and not because it might gain him kudos.
“One thing I would never wish it to be thought is that you play serious roles in order to achieve some kind of respectability, which it’s more difficult to get if you’re playing comedy roles,” explains the actor. Although “slightly different muscles” are flexed in a dramatic performance, essentially, Atkinson says he’s using “exactly the same skills, whatever they are” in Maigret, based on the novels by Belgian author Georges Simenon.
As detective Jules Maigret, a role previously played by Michael Gambon and Richard Harris, that meant putting to bed physical comedy – something he admits he was doubtful about. “It’s very low-key and naturalistic, and generally, the characters I’ve played haven’t been low-key or naturalistic,” says the star.
Maigret, ITV, Monday, 9pm