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After years of eager anticipation and pandemic-related delays, the moment has finally arrived. The Father Brown spin-off Sister Boniface Mysteries has just made its US premiere.
Though we try to stay objective around here, we were lucky enough to watch a few preview episodes, courtesy of the team at BritBox. We watch a LOT of British TV around here and Sister Boniface Mysteries is easily in our top 2-3 new shows of the last couple of years.
The scenery is gorgeous, the stories offer a great balance of puzzle and comedy, and Lorna Watson is absolutely delightful as Sister Boniface. We watched and thought, “Why hasn't this woman been given a more substantial role before this?? She's fantastic!” The rest of the cast is quite good, too.
If you like a break from the gritty and atmospheric mysteries, don't miss this one. We hope to see it coming back for many, many more seasons.
For now, Sister Boniface Mysteries is exclusive to BritBox, as it's a BritBox production. You get a free 7-day trial with either option.
What is Sister Boniface Mysteries About?
In case you missed our previous posts about Sister Boniface Mysteries, the show follows the crime-solving adventures of Sister Boniface – a brilliant woman who also happens to be a wine-making nun.
In terms of tone, this one lands on the cozy side of things – and since it's set in the general Cotswolds area (a fictional town called Great Slaughter, similar to the real Upper and Lower Slaughters), the scenery alone is worth the viewing.
My co-editor David recently had the opportunity to chat with star Lorna Watson and producer Will Trotter. You may not be familiar with Trotter's name, but you're probably quite familiar with his work. He's also been the executive producer of Father Brown, Shakespeare & Hathaway, and The Gil Mayo Mysteries.
Interview with Lorna Watson and Will Trotter of Sister Boniface Mysteries
Editor's note: What follows is a full transcription of our interview with Lorna Watson and Will Trotter. Please bear in mind that with any long distance, recorded interview, there may be minor errors. These are our fault, not theirs.
For those not familiar with the series and character, how would you describe them?
Will Trotter: Sister Boniface is a myopic moped-riding vintner nun, who is actually the scientific adviser to the Great Slaughter police force in the 1960s rural England. How's that?
Lorna Watson: I thought that was excellent.
So for Lorna, what's it been like returning after almost a decade later to a character that was initially just like a one-off?
LW: David, you know what? It's been an absolute joy. I really enjoyed playing her the first time around – she's a hoot. She's such a brilliant character to play. She's lots of things.
But anyway, I really enjoy playing her. So to get the opportunity get to know her even better over the course of the ten-part series has been great.
In my background, in sketch comedy, sometimes you get characters who you enjoy playing so much, but because it's a two-minute sketch, you don't get to take it further. And in the same vein, being able to go back to a character that I really loved playing and inhabit her for ten episodes – it's something that doesn't happen very often for a start, and I had a really great time on the show.
Did you do anything special to prepare for the role?
LW: Well, I certainly watched my episode again quite a few times, but I have to say the writing on this series was so absolutely brilliant that the hard part was done for me. Jude and her fellow writers, they created this world, and it was so well-described and so well thought out.
The characters were so just brilliantly written that the rest of it was just on the day, really feeling our way and finding those little moments between us as a cast that helped to bring the characters to life. But I also suppose, I think some of it was from memory and then some of it was creating new parts to her personality that I hadn't had the opportunity to delve into in Father Brown.
What do each of you enjoy most about the series?
WT: Lorna? Do you want to go first?
LW: Sure. I think what I like the most about it is, well, I like the balance that it has in it between drama and comedy, and the warmth that it has. There's a lot of love that's gone into this show, and hopefully that has translated onto the screen as well.
I think it's got brilliant characters in it, not just the regular cast, but actually the episodic cast members who've come in. We've got also the richness of the 60s as our backdrop, and the Cotswolds feels very rich. It feels very vibrant; it's quite a vibrant show.
It's pacey and it's got this forensic DNA element to it, which I really think sets it apart and learning about crime solving through the constraints of the technological equipment that they would have had at that time in history. It's genuinely very interesting. It adds another layer to the show that I think people will enjoy.
WT: Yeah, I love all that from my perspective as an executive. There's, I guess, huge buzz out of being involved in creating popular returning series. And we've done a lot of crime ones. But this is quite unique in that, although we've done a clerical one with Father Brown, no one's done a nun before.
Certainly I don't know one who's done anything quite like this before. And also that just having the fun, watching these brilliant actors take the words and just make it their own. And in the backdrop of the 60s, which I'm really particularly fond of anyway, and I've been able to source ideas and feed them into what is the fun factory of making these shows, is the joy.
The scenery is really nice, of course. Did each of you have any favorite filming locations?
LW: Well, I like being in the convent. I was going to say that was an absolutely fabulous and very important location where we see Sister Boniface's world, actually…Will, you know more about the location than I do, but it's a school, isn't it?
WT: Yeah. That location which I found actually in the very first series of Father Brown. We're in the Cotswolds, and there are no convents in the Cotswolds.
So just outside the Cotswolds is Warwickshire, which is where I live. On the bridge of the Cotswolds, is my kids school, which was a convent, a Victorian convent, of which there are nuns buried in the garden. And they've got a fabulous chapel and everything.
So when we had this episode, we were going to set it – which Jude had written – Jude, who has written the whole series, certainly created the series. I said, “Look, I know where there's a convent, but it's a school. I'll go and talk to the headmaster.”
And he says, “Yeah, okay, what's happening?” I said, “Three nuns get murdered.” “Really?” Anyway, it's a fee paying school, so they still take the money. So when I knew we were going to go back there, I got back in touch with them and they were delighted to have us back because actually it was a great hit for them because they were available to put it on their website and talk about it.
In what ways would you say Sister Boniface is different from other TV detectives or Detective shows?
WT: (to Lorna) Go on…
LW: No, you go. Well, it's a very interesting question.
WT: It's a very good question. I think leading detectives or crime solvers in this case, it's CSI really, it's forensics. So therefore that's different in itself.
Whereas a lot of private detectives do deal with the detective work, this is detection of a very specific way. So this is a procedural show where they need the genius, which is within their grasp – happens to be a nun, which is even more unusual.
But the fact that Lorna has created this wonderful, quirky character leads me to feel this in the way that Peter Falk did his Colombo. He created certain physical and vocal sort of key elements to him that you want to go back and see again and again and again. Just one more thing.
And I think not a lot of shows do that. They do it in different ways, obviously. But I think Lorna's performance and her grasp of what Jude has written as a character is what makes it her unique. And she's a female, of course. So there you go.
LW: Oh, no, I was just going to say, well, exactly what Will said. Also the fact that she's nun is pivotal, and her relationship with the police – which is just a very unusual relationship. It's all very unexpected.
Jude Tindall, the creator and the writer, she said it reminds her of Dr. Spock and Captain Kirk. Quite an unlikely friendship, but it just works. Yeah. So it's unusual in standing out in that way.
But also, I guess because it's in the 60s – and forensics in the 60s…I can't think of any other shows that deal with that. It's genuinely interesting. And to see what sort of technologically they were doing then.
Do either of you have a favorite episode or storyline?
WT: They're all so good. I've got a couple of stand out ones for me, but the people have different choices. I really love the Twin Towns episode because it's quite an emotional episode. That's when a German town comes to Twin with our locale, Great Slaughter. And there's also echoes of the war and a lot of backstory comes out and becomes quite emotional.
And I really love the jigsaw puzzle episode because it's a serial killer, not dissimilar from Anthony Perkins' performance in Psycho, his obsession with his mom. And he keeps taking these jigsaw pieces away. He applies cold cream and gives the victims a jigsaw puzzle. It's completely bizarre.
It's Hitchcockian. It's that sort of idea that it's cozy. Hitchcock was big on cozy crime. He went across America finding towns, which were all apple/cherry pie and everything was all lovely, but beneath the surface there was some dark element. And I think that sort of has that going through it.
LW: “Love and Other Puzzles”. That one. And I agree. That's one of my favorite favorites, too, actually. And the episode where Max has to wear lederhosen.
WT: Very funny.
I know we're just out about out of time. So for the final question, what's in store for the future of the show? Are there any topics or storylines you'd like to explore?
WT: Well we're at the start of that process. So yes, we are exploring stuff. I can't really say, but yeah there'll be some backstory stuff we might touch on but also a lot of it is about what the writers come to us with and ultimately, we've got to make sure the forensics work and the crime story works and then the stuff around it, the characters around it.
Obviously there's the on/off love affair with Max's character and Miranda's. So what do you think Lorna, do you know? What are you going to throw into the pot?
LW: Well, I mean goodness, I don't know. I'd quite like to meet Sister Boniface’s parents at some point. Yeah, that might be interesting. I don't know. There are so many much still to do if we get the opportunity.
WT: I need a spoiler alert. (readers, skip to the next big heading if you don't want to hear this)
———————SCROLL TO THE NEXT HEADING IF YOU DON'T WANT TO SEE THIS———————
SPOILER: I can tell you that Ruth and Sam have to go undercover and unfortunately, the intimate results happen in a funny way.
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LW: I love it. Oh that's exciting.
Well, we'll look forward to that. Well, thank you guys for doing the interview. We really appreciate your time and love the show.
LW: Thanks so much. David, lovely to chat to you.
WT: Yeah, David, thanks very much.
Watch Sister Boniface Mysteries on BritBox
If you haven't already checked out Sister Boniface Mysteries on BritBox, we strongly recommend giving it a try. It may not appeal to those who stick with the dark and gritty mysteries, but if you like something light-hearted from time-to-time, we think you'll love it. We certainly did.
If you don't have a smart TV (or if yours doesn't have the BritBox channel), you can easily get around this with an affordable Roku device. They begin around $25-30 (sometimes less if there's a sale), and they connect to your wifi to allow you to subscribe to all sorts of great streaming content, including BritBox.
Have you watched? Will you? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments!