'Foyle's War' was actor's defining career move

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LOS ANGELES — Christopher Foyle, the World War II English police detective turned postwar spy catcher, is a man of few words. Michael Kitchen, the actor who plays him, also limits his public utterances – at least to the media.

But Kitchen agreed to share his thoughts on the character and Foyle’s War, the series that began airing in 2002 and has become a staple of PBS’ Masterpiece Mystery!

Precision is Kitchen’s hallmark, such as the level gaze or tilt of the head he uses to great effect in Foyle’s War, which wrapped its latest PBS season Sunday.

More episodes are in the works for next year, said Mark Stevens, head of producer-distributor Acorn, which released the show on DVD this week.

In an e-mail exchange, Kitchen discusses breaking a vow, his career and the symbol of respect for war’s casualties that he keeps close.

AP: Why did you decide to return to the role of Foyle in the postwar episodes?

Kitchen: There was not one good reason not to. It’s the case that, as a younger man, I’d sworn never to become a TV detective and although signing up for the show at the very beginning was never an issue, I couldn’t shift a lingering guilt for letting the younger guy down. So it’s a fact that I had suggested fairly early on – and on more than one occasion and not least because I believed it – that moving the character into Intelligence (work) might be less confining than the obligation to a weekly Hastings murder. So, as far as this series is concerned, there was no decision to make.

AP: Unless you perceive it otherwise, Foyle appears to be the defining role of your career.

Kitchen: It’s certainly defined the last 10 years, because I’ve done little else. Having enjoyed the 30 previous years avoiding definition, it’s a privilege to be able to wait for projects that 100 percent fulfill the criteria, of which there have been, theater and radio aside, perhaps only about six. All worth the wait.

AP: Did you see it as a possible turning point in your career, from a respected character actor to leading man at midlife?

Kitchen: Less a turning point than a consequence of the turning point, which had happened some while before.

AP: When you were a youngster, did members of your family share their wartime experiences? If so, did any of those memories influence your work on the original Foyle’s War series set during WWII?

Kitchen: “I can’t say they did, directly. My dad had a small suitcase stuffed with photos, mementoes from wherever he’d traveled as a Royal Navy gunner. I’d haul it out and go through it time and time again. That world, that war, that time, in that suitcase, the smell, the feel, the aura, the weight of it, I carried with me and still do.


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