Told you so... Poirot extras became stars in own right
It's an act of deduction worthy of Hercule Poirot himself, but actor David Suchet believes he spotted the talents of some of Britain's most successful actors long before they became stars in their own right.
Suchet, who was educated at Wellington School, Somerset, told the Radio Times he had accurately predicted which of the drama's bit-part players would go on to become household names.
Among the 1,124 actors who appeared in the 13 series of Agatha Christie's Poirot were Joely Richardson, Damian Lewis and Michael Fassbender – all before they were well known.
"This is quite true," Suchet told Radio Times of his talent-spotting skills. "As regards everybody who has now become a big name – I have said at the time, 'Watch out for that one'. I've sensed it."
He said he and the production team did not want the programme to be a "Spotlight gallery" – a reference to the actors' directory used by casting agents. However, the requirement for fresh faces to adopt looks of consternation when accused of a crime created a huge demand for new talent.
The cast included two men who went on to play the lead role in Doctor Who. Peter Capaldi, who makes his first appearance as the Doctor at Christmas, turned up in Wasps' Nest in 1991, 14 years before he became a household name as Malcolm Tucker in The Thick of It. Christopher Eccleston was a fascist thug in One, Two, Buckle My Shoe in 1992.
Richardson had one of her first television roles in Poirot in 1989 when she was 24. Four years later she starred in the BBC adaptation of Lady Chatterley's Lover.
Lewis was a recent graduate from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama when he played a young resident at a hostel beset by thievery in Hickory Dickory Dock in 1995. By 2001 he had taken the lead role in Band of Brothers and is currently playing the compromised war hero at the centre of Homeland.
Emily Blunt, meanwhile, fared considerably better than her character in Death on the Nile in 2004. Linnet Ridgeway, an American heiress, was found with a bullet hole in her head. Blunt herself went on to take leading roles in My Summer of Love and The Devil Wears Prada.
Two years before he appeared in Hunger, Fassbender was a disinherited heir in After the Funeral. He has since been nominated for a Golden Globe for Shame and appears as a cruel plantation owner in 12 Years a Slave.
Suchet, who will appear in the last episode of Poirot on November 13, said the quality of the actors was a tribute to the show, which ends after 24 years.
"I feel so privileged to have been involved at the chrysalis stage of their careers," he said. "It's absolutely fantastic."