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March 28, 2019

She’s a Magnet to Murder

Ashley Jensen plays a very different kind of detective in Acorn's Agatha Raisin.

Ann Farmer
  • Ashley Jensen as Agatha Raisin

    Mark Bourdillon

After playing endearing sidekicks for years, Ashley Jensen has stepped to center stage in Acorn TV's Agatha Raisin, where she gets to put her character's worst foot forward.

"She's bossy. She's brash. She's verging on rude. And her biggest foible, I think, is that she has a terrible diet. She doesn't eat vegetables. She'll eat microwave curry with half a bottle of sauvignon blanc," Jensen says of Agatha, the title character of this humorous British mystery series that's now streaming its second season and approaching its third, already on order.

Based on the detective novels by Marion Chesney (under the pseudonym M. C. Beaton), the first season followed Agatha, a London public relations ace, as she engineered a midlife U-turn. Seeking a more tranquil existence, she moved to the quaint village of Carsely in the Cotswolds. But she's a fish out of water — as her vividly colored outfits make abundantly evident — and the town is not as benign as it looks.

"There is a lot going on behind those doors in this sleepy village," Jensen says, referring to the string of crimes that Agatha undertakes to solve, one episode at a time.

In the pilot, for instance, she enters the local quiche-baking contest, covertly using a store-bought spinach pie. After a bite of it inexplicably poisons the judge, she sets out to find the culprit — and clear her own name.

American fans are probably most familiar with Jensen from ABC's Ugly Betty, where her charming Scottish accent helped make seamstress Christina so memorable.

She received an Emmy nomination for her role as Ricky Gervais's socially awkward best friend, Maggie Jacobs, on the HBO–BBC series Extras. A natural cutup, she played a variant of Stan Laurel to Gervais's Oliver Hardy. "He'd literally yell to me, 'More Stan!'" she recalls.

In the second season of Agatha Raisin — which is packaged as three TV movies — Jensen's character continues to perturb and delight her fellow villagers.

For one thing, Agatha forms the town's first single ladies' society. "They've all had it with men," Jensen says. That propensity for eye-catching colors has only escalated. And she's officially set up her own detective agency to solve the murder or two that reliably crop up in each episode.

"Shenanigans," Jensen says, "Shenanigans all over the place."


This article originally appeared in emmy magazine, Issue No. 2, 2019

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