By Daily Mail Reporter
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When Foyle’s War ended in 2010 after seven series I was sad but not despondent.
After all, ITV had already axed the show once in 2007, then brought it back due to public demand.
In the last episode, my character Sam Stewart had just received a proposal of marriage from her Bletchley Park code-breaker boyfriend Adam Wainwright, and I felt sure there was more mileage in the character.
In the last episode, my character Sam Stewart had just received a proposal of marriage from her Bletchley Park code-breaker boyfriend Adam Wainwright
So I was delighted when writer Anthony Horowitz and executive producer Jill Green decided to give us three more episodes, set in 1946-47 and the world of Cold War espionage. Here are some excerpts from the diary I wrote on set last autumn during the four-month shoot in Ireland…
The new series is set in London, but we’re filming in Dublin because it has the same beautiful Georgian architecture but none of the modern skyscrapers like the Shard or the Gherkin.
This makes it much easier just to CGI in St Paul’s or the bombed-out buildings that would have dotted the landscape back then. It’s also much cheaper than paying to close off roads in London.
My scenes today are with actor Stephen Boxer who plays my new boss, atomic scientist Professor Fraser, for the first episode called The Eternity Ring, a dastardly tale of double-crossing and missing uranium. In all the previous series I was driver to Detective Chief Superintendent Christopher Foyle.
Now he’s been lured out of retirement to become a Senior Intelligence Officer at MI5 rooting out the traitors and Communist sympathisers rife in the British Establishment. Sam has bagged a position as Professor Fraser’s secretary, which puts her close to valuable nuclear secrets.
I was only 20 when Foyle’s War began, and Michael Kitchen, who plays Foyle, is like a father to me in real life (he read at my wedding to hypnotherapist Lorne Stormonth-Darling in 2007) as well as on the show. As soon as I saw him this week it was as if the previous three years had evaporated and we were immediately comfortable with one another.
It’s supposed to be the height of summer in the drama but as we rehearse today I’m wearing a pair of sturdy thermal pantaloons, a woolly vest, knee-high socks, Ugg boots and a padded brown coat because of the cold and, of course, the ubiquitous hairnet.
Honeysuckle gets a touch-up on set
At one point a tarpaulin shielding us from the sun for a cloudy shot is blown over. The great metal structure supporting it comes thundering down almost clobbering the hair and make-up teams, and Daniel Weyman, who plays Sam’s new husband Adam – now an MP – rushes over to help.
Daniel, who’s replaced Max Brown in the role, has prodigious energy, and we’re all convinced it’s down to the enormous bag of Smarties he always carries with him: he’s fuelled by E numbers!
Today we’re doing some driving scenes, which I relish, in Phoenix Park.
The vehicle this year, an Austin, is smaller than the Wolseley I was used to driving in previous series, but only slightly less powerful. No double de-clutching luckily as I’m a little rusty after three years out of action.
We have to fit one director of photography, one bear of a camera operator, the camera itself, Michael Kitchen and myself inside, and there’s no de-mister.
Michael is nervous – he always is when I’m driving. I’m told to drive at 35mph by the director. Michael suggests 25. I decide to stick at 30 but embarrass myself by kangaroo-hopping up the drive. ‘Tell you what,’ says Michael after the third take, ‘you do the steering wheel, I’ll change the gears. All right?’ ‘OK. Got it.’ It works a treat.
Sam and Adam were married before the new series starts and today is our first day’s filming at their prefabricated house. It’s in a dilapidated part of town, the effects of the Blitz visible all around.
Food was scarce so Sam hasn’t much in her shopping basket, but what she has is fascinating – to see how little butter people were allowed, how little jam. For Sam, who’s always been a good eater, I feel this must be one of her harshest privations.
I’ve also had three proposals of marriage from gentlemen of a certain age – I had to explain I’m already spoken for
I see a picture of Winston Churchill’s daughter Mary in a newspaper article today and scour it, because Lady Soames was an Auxiliary Territorial Service driver like Sam used to be.
I see she has excessively shiny shoes and now I don’t feel quite so bad about asking the wardrobe department to polish my costume shoes. I get inundated with letters from ex-army types ticking me off for Sam’s lack of attention to detail.
I’ve also had three proposals of marriage from gentlemen of a certain age – I had to explain I’m already spoken for.
My son Wade, who’s nearly 15 months old, is with me for the shoot along with his nanny, and I often turn up for lunch with two extra mouths to feed. The catering staff are very obliging but a crew isn’t really a crew unless they’re complaining about the catering. The latest gripe has been that we’re all going to grow wings and start clucking because of the quantity of chicken served up.
The real flapping on our set came about when some extras broke with protocol and marched to the front of the lunch queue before the principal cast and crew.
There was much muttering but no one was brave enough to tick them off because they were real soldiers. Some of them told me they wanted to be stuntmen, so I pointed them in the direction of one of our carpenters who doubled for George Clooney on the 2010 film The American.
A new series of Foyle's War will see Foyle and loyal friend Sam in a new post War era as their worlds shift into those of MI5
It’s 11am, and Michael and I go for a proper coffee at a local café as we’re not needed for a while. Queuing up for our frothies, a local lady asks if Michael is an actor. ‘Spot on,’ he says.
The lady looks delighted. Her hand goes to her handbag – we assume she’s searching for paper and pen for an autograph – and she draws out a leaflet for the Dundrum Amateur Dramatic Society. ‘They’re looking for new recruits,’ she says. ‘I myself have been a member for some time. They have very high standards.’
She creeps a little closer to him while I hide my giggles by getting the coffees. In a conspiratorial voice she tells Michael she could ‘put in a good word’ for him at the auditions at the village hall. Michael thanks her for her kind offer, but says he must regretfully decline her introduction as he’s already gainfully employed!
A jolly lunch in a local restaurant with our executive producer Jill Green and writer Anthony Horowitz. We’re all firm friends and talk of everything but the show. I thank Anthony for naming the hotel in which Foyle stays in the first episode The Wade Hotel after my son.
I’ve also resolved to buy myself a green tweed Ted Baker military style jacket after lunch as Foyle fans are a loyal lot, and anyone who’s caught a glimpse of us filming has been appalled to see Sam without a uniform in her new post-war role.
We’re filming on an airfield today and there’s no protection from the biting wind. At this stage in the shoot everyone, including Michael, who’s normally impervious to heat or cold, is putting on every thermal layer available to them.
The wardrobe girls keep morale up by handing out hot water bottles, blankets and thermal patches. These last items can be lodged down period leather gloves to spare one’s digits from frostbite or even added to a bra as wonderfully sensual nipple warmers.
The cast back in 1994
They also boost one up a cup size, so double tick.
It’s the Foyle’s War wrap party tonight. Battling some pretty stiff odds, I’d implored Michael to come. ‘I’ll politely decline, I’m afraid,’ he said. ‘Oh come on, sir,’ I pleaded, still in character hoping it might encourage a spirit of wartime allegiance. ‘I’m not good at parties,’ he said.
‘Besides, I like to remember people as they are.’ At the time this struck me as rather cryptic, but by 2am in a dark club somewhere in Dublin’s lively Temple Bar district, I begin to understand exactly what he meant. There was definitely something in the Black Stuff.
It’s my final day on set and we head to my favourite part of Dublin Bay, the Howth peninsula, to film more driving scenes. I adore the area and used to come here with Wade on my days off.
I’d walk round the peninsula with the baby on my shoulders in a backpack, working up a gargantuan appetite then spoil the pair of us with a feast of crab, langoustine and oysters from a shack on the quayside, followed by an ice cream from one of Howth’s absurdly large array of ice cream parlours.
But there’s no time for such niceties on set especially when the weather’s been wreaking havoc with schedules. It’s a mad dash to the finishing line as we motor up and down a steep drive that leads to Howth Castle. I say motor, but in many of the takes there was no ‘motor’ at all.
The Austin is on its last legs. By necessity, we had to start the scene at the top of the hill so it was easier for members of the crew to jump start what was supposed to be our ‘action’ vehicle.
When we’ve finally finished it’s off to nearby Sandycove, where we mock up some still shots of Sam and Adam’s wedding to adorn the shelves of their prefab. It’s always odd pretending to ‘marry’ someone on TV, especially as Daniel and I are old friends.
But I do hope Sam and Adam live happily ever after as they enter Foyle’s new world of counter intelligence and espionage. In sickness and in stealth!
Foyle’s War returns to ITV next Sunday, 24 March.
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