Stylish crime drama Professor T is a six-part ITV movie on Britbox starring Ben Miller, Frances de la Tour, Emma Naomi and Barney White. It’s produced by Eagle Eye Drama, launched by the same team behind Walter Presents. Based on the hit Belgian series, Professor T is set against the backdrop of Cambridge University. FRANCES DE LA TOUR expands on her role as Adelaide Tempest.

How would you describe Adelaide?

“She’s eccentric, extraordinary, impossible and also very funny. Ultimately, she’s an incredibly protective mother to her son, Jasper, and it can be very moving, because you can see that she adores him. Even though she’s very dominant, I think they’re very dependent on each other because they share an awful past. It’s an impossible relationship though, because they’re both so different and she treats him like he is eight years old. They’re wonderful characters because they’re both so extreme.

“Adelaide is also an artist, and all of her paintings are of her dog, which is very funny. She puts on an exhibition, and there’s nothing but portrait after portrait of her pet, Kafka!

Did you enjoy working with your canine co-star?

“That little dog was so sweet! I’ve worked with dogs before in films, and it can be difficult because they’re little animals and they don’t think like we do, so a lot of concentration goes on the animal’s behaviour. But he was the sweetest, most amazing little thing and his owner was lovely. I saw him every day, but I can’t remember his name because I just kept calling him Kafka. I don’t think he knew what was going on, but as long as you kept feeding him little bits of sausage he was alright.”

Had you worked with Ben Miller before?

“No, but of course I know of him and have seen so much of his work, so actually I already liked him very much. He’s such a lovely actor. I really loved working with him, he is incredibly giving and so generous.”

What made you want to join the cast?

“I was sent the script and the first thing that struck me was that Walter Iuzzolino was involved. I’ve watched all the Walter Presents programmes because they’re so good, although I deliberately haven’t watched the Belgian Professor T because I wanted to come to our story fresh. I was so happy to meet him. I thought to myself, “I’m going to meet Walter Presents!” He’s a lovely man, and then knowing that Ben was playing Professor T I got quite excited about it and the script is so good.

“There’s lots going on, I think that’s what makes it so interesting because there are almost two separate storylines. There’s the relationship with Jasper and his mother, and then obviously there’s all the murders. You never quite know how something will turn out until you film it, but I think this is going to be very good and it was a really fun set. I can’t say that about all shows, because it isn’t always the case – some shows just aren’t fun, but you get on with it. But on Professor T we had a very nice group of people, our director was terrific and we all got on very well.”

Why do you think audiences are so fond of crime drama?

“I don’t know but I’ve often thought about it because I love them myself. I think it’s the intrigue, because you like to think you’re ahead of the game and that you know who the killer is. The most serious ones are often very successful, like Cracker with Robbie Coltrane, that was wonderful, and the Nordic noir dramas where they all have personal issues that make them incredibly interesting, and solving the case is wrapped around their personality.

Have you ever played a detective?

“No. I’m happy to play any character that’s well written, be it a teacher or a grandmother wandering around a village. If a detective story came up that I thought was interesting I would do it. The thing is that there haven’t been many female-led detective series.

There have been more and more in recent years and they’re very good, but I’m too old now. In reality nobody would employ a 75-year-old woman to run a detective agency, you have to recognise your limits when you get older. You could have a very interesting story about a woman who used to be a detective though …”

Frances de la Tour Professor T Britbox SA. Picture: Lawrence Cedrowicz
Frances de la Tour in Professor T. Picture: Lawrence Cedrowicz

Have you seen roles for women improve over your career?

“I think they are getting better because society is changing somewhat, but not hugely. I think we’re still kept in our place. Lots of women still don’t get equal pay in all sorts of careers, which is absolutely ridiculous and unacceptable, I think we’ve got a hell of a long way to go yet.

“The problem is that something ground-breaking happens and then you go back to square one. Angela Lansbury was in Murder She Wrote, but then you had to wait years for Helen Mirren in Prime Suspect, nothing happens immediately.

“There’s also a tendency to make leading female characters a bit dippy or screwball, and you wonder why they can’t have their heads in the right place. There’s always some angle about them being a bit odd or strange.”

What: Professor T Frances de la Tour interview
BritBox SA: Six-part ITV drama