The disciple detective
PICK OF THE WEEK: In the Footsteps of St Peter, BBC1, Friday and Easter Sunday, 9am.
AVID SUCHET, best known as Poirot, returns to television screens this Easter in a documentary that takes him to Israel and Italy, following in the footsteps of Peter, the disciple closest to Jesus, who went on to become Bishop of Rome and the first Pope.
The actor, now 68, became a practising Anglican when he was 40 and while he says good-naturedly today: “I won’t go into that old story, because we’ll be here until tomorrow”, it’s clear how passionate he is about his faith and what he learned about St Peter from making the new show.
“I discovered this wonderfully flawed human being,” says Suchet. “A lot of Christians now look to Peter as being so human and fallible and adorable. He’s a loveable rogue, isn’t he? He allows us all to fail and still be acceptable.”
Suchet was born in London to a South African gynaecologist father and an English mother, but was raised without religion. He went to boarding school with his brothers Peter and John, who’s a wellknown presenter, before studying at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA).
His career began on the stage as a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company in the 1970s and television roles followed, including in 1985 playing Inspector Japp, opposite Peter Ustinov as Poirot in Thirteen at Dinner. Four years later, he would take on Agatha Christie’s meticulous Belgian detective himself – a role he played until Curtain: Poirot’s Last Case in 2013.
He admits he’s still slightly in mourning for Poirot.
“I’ll never let him go. I’ll never be able to because he’s on our screens all the time somewhere in the world,” he says, chuckling.
“I was in Rome last week and he was on – speaking Italian! I’m told by ITV there could be 760 million viewers worldwide, that’s quite a lot.”
A few weeks ago, Suchet and his wife Sheila, who he married in 1976 and with whom he has a daughter Katherine and son Robert, went to Prague for a weekend they had bid for in a silent charity auction – and he witnessed the extent of Poirot’s reach.
“We walk into the hotel and there’s these young people behind reception who see me and go bananas because they grew up in the Nineties, and with all the problems in Prague, watching Poirot gave them comfort.
“One person had tears in their eyes to say that their mother and father were kept going by the series. You just do the job and go home – but it’s had such a wonderful, far-reaching effect beyond just being entertainment, and that’s very humbling.”
DIVINE JOURNEY: David Suchet on the shores of the Sea of Galilee as he follows the path taken by St Peter in a two-part Easter documentary for the BBC.