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For Honeysuckle Weeks,

Foyle’s War Ended at Just the Right Place

Reprinted from the Spring 2015 issue of  Prose ‘n Cons™ Mystery Magazine -

Image Courtesy of Acorn TV

While the eighth season of the eminent British program Foyle’s War was its last, new American viewers are discovering the show everyday thanks to PBS and streaming services like Acorn TV. Although Michael Kitchen headlines the series as the quietly persistent Christopher Foyle, much of its fan base can be attributed to enthusiastic sidekick Samantha Stewart played by Honeysuckle Weeks.

  Since its 2002 debut, Foyle’s War has been lauded by critics and audiences alike. Three ninety-minute movies finished out the series, bringing a suspenseful - yet logical - conclusion to a plotline that started with Foyle working as a police detective, and ended with him in the secret service at MI5. This plot trajectory is, it seems, to be expected from creator/writer Anthony Horowitz, whose large body of screenplays and books includes Midsomer Murders, two Sherlock Holmes continuation novels, and the upcoming, Ian Fleming estate-approved, James Bond novel.

  Honeysuckle Weeks is, quite reasonably, proud of her role as Sam Stewart (later Wainwright) and the show as a whole. Her character evolved from driver, to trusted confidant, to - by series end - undercover investigator in the home of a suspected murderer. Still, she believes, particularly where Sam is concerned, the ending was well-timed.

  “I was always aware that there was a limited amount of time that Sam would be able to continue to work as Foyle's assistant. It was highly likely that, once married, Sam's life would have followed the natural course of things and she would have had to relinquish her job to become a mother,” she says.

  Indeed, any other path would have been in conflict with the historical accuracy Horowitz worked so hard to foster. “I think it’s an interesting point,” Weeks remarks, “that Anthony flags up in episode one that despite [Sam’s husband] Adam being of a socially revolutionary frame of mind and ideologies, that didn’t at all include a reversal of the expected career paths for both sexes.”

  Weeks concedes that delaying Sam’s marriage took a bit of persuasion. “There was talk of a marriage to Foyle's son Andrew (the R.A.F. pilot) as early as series three I think, but I fought with Anthony for years to allow Sam to remain a 'spinster of the parish.' I was well aware that in this specific era married women were expected to be stay-at-home house makers and mothers, especially once the war had ended. There was a huge governmental push to try and get women out of their wartime work places and back into their homes so that they could replenish the nation's workforce by having babies... and lots of them.”

  While the show deals primarily with WWII and its aftermath, it also tackles “hot button” issues of the day such as fear and suspicion of Germans living in the English countryside, racial prejudice, and anti-Semitism. Americans will find the show’s take on the United States’ military presence in the United Kingdom both intriguing and enlightening. Perhaps most compelling, though, are the subtle ways Horowitz chooses to illustrate the hardships wrought by this great global conflict. In one scene, food shortages reduce Sam and Adam to eating whale meat as a protein source. If she looks a bit queasy, admits Weeks, “it was because I had a very hard time not retching at the smell of those whale steaks sizzling in the pan.”

   The final season (or “series,” as it’s known in the U.K.) was filmed on location in Liverpool, which served as a stand-in for London’s central city districts. This put the Foyle’s War crew squarely in the territory of two other shows already filming there, one of which is Peaky Blinders (available to American subscribers of Netflix.) The interiors of Sam’s house were shot in a former brewery the art department turned into a sound stage. “You could still smell that oddly yeasty aroma from the fermenting hops,” says Weeks.

  Considering the seriousness of the subject matter, you might assume that the set of Foyle’s War was a reserved and quiet place, but Weeks assures it was not. “If you were to go into Michael Kitchen’s trailer at lunchtime you could hear him playing the classical guitar. Or, if we happened to be filming at some grand country house, you’d often hear him behind its equally grand piano.”

  As for interactions among cast members, like the relationship between Sam and Foyle, Weeks prizes her relationship with Kitchen. “He is a decidedly avuncular figure in my life and a person I often go to for professional advice.”

  Fortunately for her fans, the end of Foyle’s War does not mean American viewers have seen the last of Honeysuckle Weeks. In February 2015 she appeared in an episode of BBC One’s Death in Paradise. This show is also broadcast on PBS - usually after its original airing and DVD release - so viewers can check upcoming listings. And, Acorn TV (which offers the complete series) will be syndicating the final season of Foyle’s War to public television stations in May 2015.

  “I’m glad Sam is going out on a high note, rather than loitering frustratedly by the side of a cradle for another few years. Of course, in an ideal (and somewhat unrealistic world),” admits Weeks, “I would have leapt at the opportunity for Sam to continue working as a kind of early Miss Moneypenny, but I do think Anthony wrote particularly fabulous scenes for me.” PnC

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