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Mark Williams explains how Father Brown is different from Sherlock

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BBC’s popular murder mystery series Father Brown is now into its eighth season (or series, as the Brits call it), which is a pretty impressive feat. The latest series premiered in Singapore on 24 January on BBC First (StarHub Channel 502) and BBC Player.

Father Brown stars Mark Williams – well-known for playing Arthur Weasley in the Harry Potter movie series – as a Roman Catholic priest who, in his spare time, solves crime cases within the fictional village of Kembleford in the English countryside. English writer G.K. Chesterton created the character of this amateur sleuth in his short stories.

Yahoo Lifestyle SEA caught up with Williams over the telephone and had a chat with him about the appeal of the detective genre and how Father Brown is different from other murder mystery shows.

Do you think that the genre of murder mysteries is a particularly English genre?

Yeah. They’re like puzzles, like crosswords, which are also quite English. Conan Doyle started it with Sherlock Holmes, really. And then between the the wars in the 20th century, there was an explosion of writing about mysteries. Each one of them is a puzzle – each one is something to solve. I think people love that, you know, going to work on the train – they could have their murder mystery solved by the night.

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The characters of Father Brown: (left to right) Father Brown (Mark Williams), Mrs McCarthy (Sorcha Cusack), Bunty (Emer Kenny), Inspector Mallory (Jack Deam), and Sgt Goodfellow (John Burton). (PHOTO: BBC)

Sherlock Holmes was rebooted by BBC in the series famously starring Benedict Cumberbatch. How does a series like Father Brown compare to Sherlock?

Sherlock is really written for the 21st century. And it’s a bit more like Doctor Who, I think, than Father Brown. And also, Sherlock Holmes is an intellectual, and Father Brown is a spiritual man. So Sherlock Holmes is interested in solving the problem with the crime but he’s not interested in the criminals, whereas Father Brown is interested in their souls.

Do you think it makes sense for a small little English countryside village like the fictional Kembleford to have murder cases all the time?

(Chuckling) Well, it’s not logical, no, but it’s useful for television. Yes, it’s a very dangerous place to live in! Even stranger is that it’s always 1953. We’re like the Simpsons – time stands still. It’s always summer of 1953. You know, people have to remember that TV is not real. 

Mark Williams as Father Brown. (PHOTO: BBC)

The first episode of the new season of Father Brown doesn’t involve a murder case at all. Why do you think the show is able to pull off making episodes without murders?

We don’t have a murder case every week. But we have something to solve, we have a problem. The audiences are interested in the characters. We don’t have to have a sensational murder.

There are people who say that this Father Brown TV series isn’t really faithful to the original G.K. Chesterton stories. What would you say to them?

I’d say that we are very faithful to G.K. Chesterton’s character, to his sense of humour, and to his sense of right and wrong. And I think he (Chesterton) would like our Father Brown.

Father Brown Series 8 is now available on BBC First (StarHub Channel 502) and BBC Player.

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