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Kerry Godliman: 'Whitstable' sleuth is 'quite close to me'

Kerry Godliman can now be seen in the British detective drama, Whitstable Pearl. Photo courtesy of Acorn TV
Kerry Godliman can now be seen in the British detective drama, "Whitstable Pearl." Photo courtesy of Acorn TV

NEW YORK, May 24 (UPI) -- Derek and After Life actress Kerry Godliman said she embraced her inner Miss Marple to play a small-town restaurant owner and amateur sleuth in the new British mystery series, Whitstable Pearl.

Based on Julie Wassmer's books, the six-part drama debuts Monday on streaming service Acorn TV.

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Godliman plays Pearl, a middle-aged single mother, who starts a private detective agency in her family's oyster bar.

Frances Barber plays Pearl's sassy mom, Dolly; Rohann Nedd plays her university-bound son, Charlie; and Howard Charles plays Mike, a big-city cop displeased to be transferred to a coastal village.

"I just really loved the script and the character. She is really quite an unusual person, Pearl. I was flattered to be asked to do it. I haven't played a part like her before, so it was quite exciting," Godliman, who is also a stand-up comedian, told UPI in a phone interview Thursday.

"I haven't completely transformed myself for the characterization," she added, noting she didn't give Pearl a distinctive walk or manner of speaking.

"She is quite close to me in terms of characterization. She's got a bit of humor and she's strong, but she is vulnerable, as well. Traits I have."

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The actress thinks many viewers will relate to her character, particularly if they are beginning new chapters in their lives.

"When women reach a certain age and the kids grow up and leave home, there is a turning point in your life and you do sort of review, 'Well, what do I want, now that I am not needed in the same way?'" Godliman said.

Pearl is a good detective because she cares about her clients, has an excellent moral compass and isn't forced to work within the same constraints as the police do when she is investigating her cases, the actress said.

The character is invested in her neighbors' safety and happiness because she is a lifelong resident of the town. She also has the advantage of knowing the locals and many of their secrets.

"She's got a different barometer, so she can make different choices," Godliman said. "Ultimately, she can't arrest anyone or alter the course of justice, I suppose, but she can go with her instincts a lot more."

Her relationship with Mike is difficult to define and evolves over time.

"It has a lot of twists and turns. Initially, I think she finds him irritating and a bit patronizing and gruff, but then she softens a bit toward him, and they kind of flirt, but it's not massive. Then he annoys her again," Godliman said.

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"They do a little dance back and forth. They don't click straight into anything too soon."

While the show hasn't officially been renewed yet, its star is game for future seasons.

"I want to be the new Miss Marple," she laughed, referring to the iconic Agatha Christie crime-solver. "She'll go on and on and she'll age. It will be like, 'How many people can be killed in this tiny town?' There'll be no one left!"

Whitstable Pearl may follow the practice of showing an idyllic village in which unexpectedly clandestine deeds take place, but it isn't the typical resort town seen on television.

"It doesn't have a Ferris wheel or a pier or arcades. It's not that kind of town. It's a pretty seaside town and it is a holiday destination, but it's a little bit untraditional. It doesn't have 'Kiss Me Quick' T-shirts. It's got a concrete factory down the front and oyster farms. It's a working town with natural beauty," Godliman said.

"It's kind of bohemian, Whitstable. It's got a real art scene, as well as bougie shops. It's got a lot of different tribes all living cheek by jowl with each other."

The cast and crew grew close while filming the series since much of the United Kingdom remained on lockdown during the coronavirus pandemic.

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"We were all down by the sea in deep winter in the middle of a pandemic," Godliman recalled. "It bonded us.

"I think we were all just happy to be there and grateful for it, but nothing was open. All the shops were shut and the restaurants and the pubs. We were just there as a little unit, sort of floating through this funny circumstance."

The actress has a theory about why many people lately seem obsessed with mystery TV shows, films and books.

"There's a kind of formula to them. There is a puzzle or a riddle and then it's sorted out," she said.

"There's closure and there is something quite appealing about that, isn't there? We are not left dangling with unanswered questions at the end."

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