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Acorn TV QUEENS OF MYSTERY Q&A w Cast Olivia Vinall, Julie Graham & Creator Julian Unthank, Ep Guide

Maj Canton - April 8, 2019






QUEENS OF MYSTERY makes its world premiere in the U.S. and Canada exclusively on Acorn TV beginning Monday, April 8, 2019. Created by Julian Unthank, this six-part series follows a young police detective, aided by her three crime and mystery-writing aunts, whether she wants it or not. The wickedly offbeat contemporary murder mystery series features bold visuals, quirky characters, fast-paced dialogue and darkly comic murders. Perennially single female detective, Mattie Stone (Olivia Vinall), and her three aunts – the motherly Aunt Beth (Sarah Woodward), the rebellious Aunt Cat (Julie Graham), and the book smart Aunt Jane (Siobhan Redmond) are well-known crime writers that help her solve whodunit style murders, as well as set her up on blind dates. In addition to her weekly murder investigations, Mattie is also preoccupied by the fact that her mother Eleanor disappeared without a trace when Mattie was three. The ongoing mystery of Eleanor’s disappearance continues to haunt the Stone women. Also starring Andrew Leung as the dashing Dr. Daniel Lynch; Rebecca Grant as Daniel’s mean-spirited girlfriend Natasha; Michael Elcock as Police Constable Terry Foster who has long been in love with Matilda; and Martin Trenaman as the dry Inspector Derek Throne. The six-part series features three two-part mysteries.




This February 2019 TV Tango attended the Television Critics Association (TCA) Winter Press Tour, where Acorn TV presented a panel that included stars Olivia Vinall, Julie Graham and series creator Julian Unthank. Here are a few highlights (edited for clarity and readability) from that panel.


Creator and cast of QUEENS OF MYSTERY at the Television Critics Association (TCA) Winter Press Tour in February 2019 at The Langham Huntington in Pasadena.

Left to right: series creator Julian Unthank, stars Julie Graham & Olivia Vinall, and Acorn TV Chief Content Officer Mark Stevens.


Series creator Julian Unthank.

Question: Can you talk about the genesis of this show?

Julian Unthank: I wanted to write a drama that has three actresses over the age of 40 and not be about being a woman over the age of 40.  So it started from that point and we sort of expanded the show from that point of view.  Everyone was saying in the UK they wanted these sort of shows which were Scandi noir type shows about the killing and the bridge and that sort of stuff. I think when commissioners are asking for one thing, it's such a huge gestation period for a show, it pays to go the exact opposite. I really wanted to do something bright, more colorful, and something which is sort of a four quadrant show, that you could watch as a family show.

Question: What is it like creating a colorful, aesthetically unique show on a budget?

Julian Unthank: A lot of that was Ian Emes, our main director, he did 1 and 3, and he’s an Oscar-nominated animator. And we wanted that Wes Anderson aesthetic where there was a huge amount of attention to detail. Like our opening credits, you can't see them in trailer but we've got the guy with the Paddington Bear with the Paddington Suit with the popup book doing that for us. We didn't have a huge amount of cash, but he loved the script and he loved the show and he just sort of came along and did it. So we got real big bang for our buck. That was the great part about working with Acorn, because there was obviously oversight but there was no sort of interference, and everybody that came on board was kind of given a free reign, and allowed to be the artist that they wanted to be. So as a result everybody put so much more effort—it wasn't just a job for everybody, everybody had the chance to sort of really push themselves. I think that shows in the material and the show gets better as it gets on.

Question: What do you have in your background that makes you write so well for women?

Julian Unthank: Not sure, really. You can get a more interesting voice out of it. I don't think it matters whether it's men or women or caterpillars, it’s just understanding the characters and the world. If you look back at all my stuff that I write, it’s nearly always female leads. It’s just more interesting. I think it’s a matter of knowing the subject matter and knowing people. I don't think men and women are that different. I hope not, you know.

Olivia Vinall as Matilda.

Question: Olivia, how do you get into character? Does the wig help?

Olivia Vinall: Oh, actually, that’s my hair in it. The whole style and aesthetic of the show is really particular and individual, so I think that it creates the world really well. And Ian, the Director of the first and the third episode had such a particular eye for it, so he has a lot of influences from "The Avengers" and Emily and Wes Anderson films. So I think aesthetically it's very different and that really helped to create the characters in the world.


Question: Why do you think so many crime shows come out of the UK?

Olivia Vinall: I think there's an incredible history with crime fiction within the UK from Sherlock Holmes and previous writers; it feels in the blood and part of the history. There's something about small places, isn't there, where if something intriguing or mysterious happens, it's different. Everyone's really, really excited and the ripple effect of that. So if something like a murder was going to happen, it's quite an incredible event.

Julian Unthank: Yeah, people are fascinated by the process, and I think there's a comfort in knowing the baddies always get it in the end, the good guy always wins, I think there's a huge comfort. Investigative shows give comfort because they know however bad things are, there's people as guardians out there, doctors and police officers that are gonna protect us from the bad guys.

Question: Does anyone have any favorite mysteries?

Julie Graham: My mother was a huge Agatha Christie fan when I was growing up. So all the books were in the house, and I think I read them all back to back. And I was always a huge fan of that kind of genre, and I think this is a real nod to that genre. It's a little bit tongue in cheek but it doesn't take itself too seriously. It's fun but it has a kind of thread through it that hooks you in. And also, it was just lovely to be part of another female-led show. Because you have this family element that grounds the show and then it allows all the other characters, the periphery characters, to have a bit more fun. But at the heart of it, there's people who really care about each other.

Olivia Vinall: When I was young I have to say, I really loved "Poirot," I don't know if anybody else felt the same, but I grew up in Belgium for many years. I was like, “Yes, that’s me! I want to do mysteries, they're great!” And we've seen that in things like “Desperate Housewives” in a different way, but getting that insight into that kind of character who you're not sure who they are and that extra voice and the layers that have been written into it is something very particular to this mystery series.

Julie Graham as Aunt Cat

Question: Julie, which of the three aunts would you choose to play?

Julie Graham: I didn't have much choice in that, I think I was much more suited to play [the punk rocker aunt]. I mean when I read it, I automatically kind of felt an affinity with that character. So yeah, I was pretty pleased to play Cat. And obviously I'm the favorite aunt. She's just such a great fun character to play, because she's a bit anarchic and she doesn't really care about what people think about her and she's got this kind of quite rock-and-roll background. It comes out that she went to Hollywood and was a stuntwoman, so she's a black sheep of the aunts.

Olivia Vinall (center) as Matlida.

Question: Matilda’s loss is a big driver for the show and mystery, how do you balance that performance-wise and writing-wise?

Olivia Vinall: This beating heart of the family unit that lies underneath the mystery is really the drive of the narrative, for me. I think that I don't know myself, actually, what's happened to my mother. Me, as Olivia, I don't know. And I asked not to be told because there's something that my aunts know and they’ve brought me up and I'm not privy to that information. And so that’s actually really helped play this character who has no idea. And that is her drive at being a detective. I would say that’s why she's pursued this career in life because the biggest mystery for her is what happened to her mother. And if you're told a story that someone in your family is dead but there's something in you that is fighting to always see them again and that pushes you forward in life, that’s Matilda’s motivation.

Julian Unthank: It’s a long, deep mystery and lots of people know different things. The actors know what their character knows and the idea is to try and keep that as closely guarded as we can. It’s all to do thematically with this idea of this character trapped between these two worlds. Matilda is caught between her family and the law. You constantly put the character on edge and not being able to decide between the two. And we’ll hopefully play that out for quite a few seasons to come.


If you want to know nothing about the episodes at all, skip this section. Provided by Acorn TV, this episode guide includes general episode descriptions and specific plot details.

"Murder in the Dark" (Two episodes premiere Monday, April 8, 2019)
This two-part mystery finds the newly promoted DS Matilda Stone dispatched to Hiddledean Hall where all three of her aunts are attending the 15th Wildemarsh Crime Writer’s Festival. In a crime as strange as the fiction on display, the prestigious Golden Pick Axe Award has been found buried in the head of a prize nominee, and pages from his latest manuscript have been stolen. Everyone present is suspect, from the rival nominees - including Matilda’s Aunt Beth - to hot headed agents and slimy publishers, who all had something to gain from the death... Or does the solution to the crime lie in the fictional story that someone has gone to such extreme lengths to hide?

"Death by Vinyl" (Two episodes premiere Monday, April 15, 2019)
This story gives us an insight into Cat Stone’s years in an 80s new wave girl band and her love affair with Nikki Holler, its lead singer. “Volcanic Youth” and their entourage have been invited to record a reunion album at an exclusive retreat not far from Wildemarsh - but it’s not long before one of them is found dead in the studio... strangled with a microphone cord. Matilda begins her investigations and soon becomes aware of motives for murder buried in the band’s past, fuelled by drink and drugs. Only by teaming up with veteran ex-band member, Aunt Cat, can Matilda piece the fragments of these shattered lives together. But in assisting Matilda to nail the killer, Cat must confront the tragedies of her own past — emotions she’d buried decades ago.

"Smoke and Mirrors" (Two episodes premiere Monday, April 22, 2019)
The two-part season ender is set in the Wildemarsh Corn Exchange Theatre, where rehearsals are in progress for an adaptation of Jane Stone’s futuristic novel The Macbeth Duality, starring celebrated thespian, Sir Lawrence Shaw. Hopes are high, particularly as Sir Lawrence has managed to persuade his twice ex-wife Dame Blanche Chastain out of retirement to take a small role. But when a large sandbag falls from high in the flies, crushing one of the cast, Matilda’s investigations lead her to conclude this was no accident. As Matilda works her way through her suspects - the larger than life cast and crew of the play - Cat and Beth do some investigating of their own, and uncover bribes and secret obsessions behind the scenes. The plot thickens when a second body is found, and one of the remaining cast absconds... There will be more bodies on the stage floor unless Matilda acts fast.