When it comes to most of the famous actors born in the United Kingdom, they all had a brief stint on television. Yes, there's likely to be a BBC adaptation of William Shakespeare or a role on one of the U.K.’s many long-running dramas, like Midsomer Murders, which first premiered in 1997, on their long list of credits.
The hit detective series, based on Caroline Graham’s Chief Inspector Barnaby books, has amassed 19 seasons of guest stars -- often playing murderers or victims -- before they were famous, including Henry Cavill, Orlando Bloom and The Crown's future queen Olivia Colman. Midsomer’s place in the TV canon is akin to the Law & Order franchise -- most notably SVU -- which has become a starting place for now-famous film, TV and Broadway actors.
Ian Strachan, who has been a producer on Midsomer since 1999, takes ET through the history of famous guest stars as the full series makes its debut on BritBox. Starting Friday, March 30 at 3:33 pm ET -- a nod to the 333 (fictional) murders that have taken place so far -- fans can catch up on the show’s 19-season run.
Season 7, Episode 1: “The Green Man”
Before he was Superman, Cavill played a ruffian in the woods of Midsomer. “His chiseled cheek bones and the Clark Kent star quality shone through even then,” Strachan says.
Season 3, Episode 3: “Judgement Day”
When Bloom appeared on the show, he was already involved with The Lord of the Rings, which released its first installment, The Fellowship of the Ring, in 2001, a year after his episode aired. “As soon as he arrived on set, he found a fan-base with all the cast and crew with all those boyish good looks,” Strachan recalls, adding that while Bloom has gone on to star in LOTR and Pirates of the Caribbean franchises, “he’ll always be remembered for being killed by a pitchfork in Midsomer.”
Season 1, Episode 1: “Killings at Badger’s Drift”
Known for her work in Mary Poppins Returns and HBO’s The Newsroom, one of Mortimer’s early roles was as Katherine Lacey in the pilot episode of Midsomer Murders. “It was a pretty eventful episode for her, as she had an incestuous affair with her artist brother and then committed murder suicide with him,” Strachan says, adding there was no drama behind the scenes, “fortunately!”
Season 1, Episode 5: “Death in Disguise”
The future Gifted and True Blood star played Christopher Wainwright, a BBC cameraman with some shady secrets.
Season 5, Episode 3: “Ring Out Your Dead”
An established actor at this point, Bonneville appeared on a 2002 episode of Midsomer. “Hugh played posh of course in this episode, although his house was a far cry from Downton Abbey,” Strachan says, referring to the Yorkshire country estate at the center of the hit Julian Fellowes series. He and his former co-stars continue to dominate the screen in the three years after Downton ended.
Season 12, Episode 5: “Small Mercies”
Colman, who is a two-time Emmy nominee, has gone from a waitress in “Small Mercies” to Queen Elizabeth II on season three of The Crown. “It’s an absolutely fantastic achievement and I’m delighted to have had the chance to work with her on Midsomer Murders,” Strachan says.
Season 13, Episode 8: “Fit for Murder”
A frequent Mike Leigh collaborator, the longtime actress appeared on Midsomer Murders in 2011 as the murderous Phoebe Archbold. “We were thrilled to have someone of her stature,” Strachan says of the future Academy Award nominee for Phantom Thread and current star of Harlots on Hulu.
Season 4, Episode 6: “Tainted Fruit”
As the arrogant Melissa Townsend, the future Into the Woods and Hot Fuzz actress was found dead by the swimming pool of her manor in Midsomer Malham in a 2001 episode.
Season 7, Episode 3: “The Fisher King”
Both Jim Carter and wife Imelda Staunton have appeared on the show. Carter’s role as a character who looked after the river banks came seven years prior to his now-iconic role as Mr. Charlie Carson on Downton Abbey.
Season 2, Episode 3: “Dead Man’s Eleven”
The celebrated actress appeared as Christine Cooper on Midsomer in 1999, before her 2004 breakout film Vera Drake and the recurring role as Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter film franchise.
Season 9, Episode 7: “Death in Chorus”
Before becoming Dr. Who, Capaldi brought his unique blend of mania to the role as a chorus master on the series. “Our composer Jim Parker taught him the basic moves of conducting, suffice to say, Peter reinvented the wheel in his performance!” Strachan recalls.
Season 15, Episode 1: “The Dark Rider”
Cassidy is one of many Downton Abbey stars to briefly appear on Midsomer, going from Knebworth House in “The Dark Rider” to Highclere castle on the PBS series.
Season 10, Episode 3: “King’s Crystal”
Famous for playing Jamie Fraser on Outlander, Heughan appeared on Midsomer in 2007, as Ian King, whose family enterprise is shattered when its accountant winds up stabbed.
Season 15, Episode 6: “Schooled in Murder”
Before she became known for playing Claire on Fleabag, Clifford played PC Milton in a 2013 episode of Midsomer about a dairy worker who is brutally murdered by a giant round of weaponized cheese.
Season 7, Episode 5: “The Maid in Splendour”
The celebrated avant-garde stage director and actress landed her first screen role in a 2004 episode of the series, playing Bella Monday.
Season 2 – Season 3: 4 Episodes
Before his breakout portrayal of Truman Capote in 2006’s Infamous, Jones had a recurring role as Dan Peterson on the series. “Toby had us all in stitches between takes behind the scenes, as he recounted hilarious stories of other sets and shows he’s been on,” Strachan recalls of the actor’s time on set.
Season 8, Episode 8: “Midsomer Rhapsody”
Ellis has enjoyed success in the United States as the title character on FOX’s Lucifer. And like many U.K.-born actors before him, he got his start in an episode of Midsomer. “we all thought the glint in Tom’s eye would take him places,” Strachan says.