Hugh Fraser Q&A: ‘Agatha Christie’s Poirot’
Hugh Fraser played Captain Arthur Hastings, faithful friend to Hercule Poirot (David Suchet), on television for almost a quarter of a century. However, he has only become eligible to contend at the Emmys for his final performance as this steadfast English companion of the eccentric Belgian detective in the telefilm, "Agatha Christie's Poirot: Curtain, Poirot's Last Case." In our recent conversation, the celebrated character actor explained how Acorn TV made this possible. The streaming service, which specializes in programming from across the pond, stepped in to co-produce for the first time to ensure this final installment in the franchise reached US audiences.
Fraser vividly recalls his audition for the role back in 1989 for a proposed series of hour-long adaptations of Christie's short stories. "I had read the books as a teenager and found them interesting. When I was offered the part, I had a good look at the books." In doing so, he discovered that the adaptations by Clive Exton gave "the character a little more humor than Agatha Christie who used him as a functionary, a device to ask all the right questions and elucidate the plot."
From the first episode, critics and audiences alike responded to the pairing of Fraser and Suchet. Admits the actor, "You can't really plan for that. The rapport between David and I was there, we got along extremely well and had a great time doing it. There was a chemistry between us, a lot of enjoyment in making the show. That was fortuitous."
There were four seasons of this anthology series, with production of the first three of the feature-length versions of Christie's novels coming before the last of these. Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, almost all of the other 33 novels were brought to life. However, with Hastings not appearing in many of these, Fraser's penultimate appearance was in season eight back in 2002.
"Curtain" raises with the welcome return of Hastings to Poirot's side and brings them back to Styles, the country manor at which they solved their first crime. This time around, Poirot must confront his own desires to bring a killer to justice no matter what the cost. For Fraser, "It was very interesting going back to it. David and I met for the read-through and from the first scene it was as though we had not been apart." And he says the final scene offered him a unique opportunity to say farewell to the role after 25 years. "There was a definite atmosphere on the set that day. It was really quite powerful, tinged with sadness and grief."
Over the years, Fraser, a classically trained actor, has recorded all of the Poirot novels as audiobooks. "The joy of doing, all the characters have a life. The maid who comes to open the door, who is there for half a page, has a cold. Every character is defined so it is a pleasure to read them."
All 13 seasons of "Poirot" are available for streaming on Acorn. And Acorn is making this final installment available to all TV academy voters via a website. It offers a hassle-free way (no ID, no password required) to watch this top-notch telefilm.