Rowan Atkinson, a.k.a. Mr. Bean enacts the role of a serious detective in BBC First’s ‘Maigret’ on Zee Café

Mumbai: Popular amongst every age group of TV audiences, renowned actor and comedian Rowan Atkinson is better known as Mr. Bean. Apart from the iconic character of Mr. Bean, Atkinson has played numerous comic roles and has also been listed in ‘The Observer’ as one of the 50 funniest actors and comedians ever in British comedy. The actor who has been greatly admired for his roles in Blackadder, Johnny English, Not the Nine O’clock News will now be seen playing a serious detective in BBC First’s Maigret, which premieres in India on Friday, June 30th @ 10 PM, only on Zee Café.

The actor who has so far tickled your funny bone will now be seen essaying the role of Jules Maigret in this new series. A fictional French police detective, Maigret is a popular character created by writer Georges Simenon around which seventy-six novels and twenty-eight short stories were published between 1931 and 1972. Rowan’s portrayal of the French detective makes you forget that he was ever Mr. Bean, truly distancing himself from his iconic comedic roles. Rather than pulling funny faces, he adopts a forlorn, furrowed demeanour. Rowan’s portrayal of the pipe-smoking Maigret is as per critics ‘brilliant’ and ‘a masterclass in understatement’. Rowan as Maigret is a gruff, but patient and fair, brooding sleuth puffing contemplatively on his pipe as he attempts to solve the latest grisly murder on the streets of Paris in 1950s. A serial killer is targeting women in the seedy district of Montmartre. With no leads and the newspapers rife with speculation, all focus is on Chief Superintendent Maigret.

To a query on whether Atkinson was learning more about Maigret all of the time, he says, “Yes, you do. And you can’t really put your finger on what you’re learning. You’re just settling into it. It’s almost the muddiness of the character which brings the clarity. You don’t want a character who is just the same all the time. It’s a matter of exploring how he is in this kind of situation, how he is in that kind of situation. How is he when he’s angry? When’s he’s interested? When he’s intrigued? You’re trying to find the 360 degrees of a character. You can come up with a caricature in a relatively short space of time. But if you want a character, that takes longer. All characters for me are a voyage of discovery.”

Audiences in India have loved Atkinson as Mr Bean and are always wanting to know more about their favourite actor. Beyond being a versatile actor, Rowan speaks about his hobbies in an interview and said, “Cars have always been my thing. Motor cars and motor racing are my hobbies and interest and they remain so to this day. I’m glad I’ve always had that as an interest because it is pleasingly distracting, let’s say, and quite different to the business we call show. It is quite a different mental and physical activity. And, of course, quite often I’ve been able to incorporate the interest in shows. Mr Bean’s car antics and Johnny English car antics. I’m pleased I have had a hobby. A surprising number of people don’t have hobbies. I always find that odd. Their job, their existence is their hobby. And I’m pleased I’ve always had something to take me far away from my job.”

Over the decades, the beloved character Maigret has had numerous incarnations on the small screen all around the world. Maigret has been portrayed by the French, British, Irish, Austrian, German, Italian, Dutch, Japanese and Russian actors. For those still sceptical about seeing their favorite funny man switch roles… The actor encourages his fans to make-up their own minds. In Rowan’s own words, ‘The proof of the pudding is in the eating. All I would ask is that people watch the show and make their own mind up.”

Well, our mind is definitely made up, with Rowan Atkinson in the title role and an excellent supporting cast, Maigret is must-watch television.