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Gwilym is already making his mark on Midsomer team

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: December 14, 2013

Gwilym Lee (left) as DS Charlie Nelson with Neil Dudgeon as DCI John Barnaby

Gwilym Lee (left) as DS Charlie Nelson with Neil Dudgeon as DCI John Barnaby

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Quality time, along with deep and meaningful chats, might help some people connect. But when it comes to bonding with his brother, Midsomer Murders' new recruit Gwilym Lee has a different trick up his sleeve.

"Alan Partridge is a big influence in my life," says the 30-year-old, laughing. "My brother had never seen it, so last Christmas I bought him the entire box set and told him to watch it. Two episodes in, he called me and said, 'I understand you so much more now!'"

The rest of us will become better acquainted with the actor soon too, when he makes his debut in Midsomer Murders as Detective Sergeant Charlie Nelson.

Whippersnapper Nelson replaces DS Ben Jones – who was played by Jason Hughes for seven years – as DCI Barnaby's new partner in crime. To date, the village drama has featured 268 murders, 12 accidental deaths and 11 suicides.

"When I told my mum I got the part, she was delighted. She's like my own personal publicist and has really spread the word," says Gwilym.

Nelson arrives shortly before Christmas and, unbeknown to the rest of the characters, is living in a hotel. "Suddenly, they realise that he has no-one to stay with over the Christmas period, so Kate [Tamzin Malleson] invites him to become her lodger," explains the actor.

DS Nelson's look is quite a contrast to previous sidekicks. "We've broken with tradition. There's no suit and tie – he wears T-shirts and jumpers."

There have already been some teething problems on set, though.

"I've forgotten my character's name a couple of times," he says. "In one scene, I got my ID out and was trying to be really assertive and formal with two suspects. I said, 'This is DCI Barnaby. Erm, I'm DCI Lewis... erm, Nelson! Wrong show!"

Gwilym appeared in Lewis in 2009. "It was on one of my first jobs out of drama school," he says. Raised in Birmingham, Gwilym trained at the Guildhall School Of Music & Drama and cut his teeth on the stage before small parts in Channel 4's Fresh Meat and BBC One's Restless.

Midsomer Murders is his biggest gig to date, and he admits landing such a major TV role left him feeling "pretty nervous" on the first day of filming – and that's before some famous faces popped in.

"We had Rebecca Front in my first episode and, as far as I'm concerned, she can do no wrong," he recalls. "She's a bit of a hero and, all of a sudden, I'm working with her. You have to stop yourself from going, 'I just think you're great and The Thick Of It is so amazing'. You have to be really cool and go, 'What are you up to at the moment?' Then, on the last day, just as they're about to go, you go, 'I love everything you've done, I'm a massive fan!'"

While Gwilym was awestruck by Rebecca – and comic actor Mark Heap, who also crops up – he has found that his own street cred has shot up since he scored the role.

"My flat-mate's girlfriend's from Sweden and she's in the fashion industry, very cool, quite an ice cold demeanour," he explains. "I said, 'I'm doing Midsomer Murders', and she was like, 'I watch it every Christmas with my family!'"

For Gwilym, nothing beats a good dose of fresh air and a run when he is not filming, although recently, he had the air knocked out of him by vicious weather.

"I finished a mountain marathon in the Brecon Beacons this October," he says. "Perfect time of year for it. I was just waiting for the worst storm in ten years to blow into the valley! But I love all that kind of stuff. If I can be outdoors running around, I'm in my element."

Lee has been trying to blend his love of the great outdoors with his new job. "I remember mentioning early on in an audition that I'd love any opportunity to be outdoors, and they've tried to incorporate that into the character. Nelson likes green tea and is a bit of a health freak, getting up at 6am to go for a run."

When his first episode screens at Christmas, Gwilym will be at home with his family. He and his siblings may be grown up, but traditions in the Lee household are unchanged.

"We always have a very traditional Christmas with stockings in the morning and then going to see if Father Christmas has left anything by the tree," he says. "We always go downstairs in age order; I go first as youngest – I'm 30 and the oldest is 36!

"My dad then goes to the hospital where he used to work, dressed as Father Christmas, and gives out presents to all the newborn babies, and we follow as his pixies."

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