How Ashley Jensen found her ‘Raisin’ in the sun

Ashley Jensen, so good in ABC’s “Ugly Betty” and HBO’s “Extras,” is back in “Agatha Raisin,” a comically whimsical British detective series streaming on Acorn TV.

Based on MC Beaton’s bestselling book series, it follows Agatha (Jensen), a high-powered London celebrity publicist who, burned out, chucks it all and pursues her dream — moving to the bucolic Cotswolds, where she spent idyllic summers as a young girl.

Shortly after landing in the scenic village of Carsely, the headstrong Agatha moves into a quaint stone house (she puts her initials “A” and “R” on two stone planters in front) and morphs into an amateur sleuth — solving a different murder each week a la Jessica Fletcher (Angela Lansbury) in “Murder, She Wrote.”

“She’s not entirely innocent but I think there’s a kind of whimsical innocence about the program,” says the Scottish-born Jensen, 49. “There’s such a plethora of really dark TV at the moment — programs with dark, harrowing subjects in an Edward Hopper painting kind of way. In ‘Agatha Raisin’ we know what we’re in for — it’s arch, it’s a bit camp, a bit of froth, a bit silly, a bit ‘Scooby-Doo.’

“It’s like the board game Cluedo come to life with this little hodgepodge of characters who come together in these ludicrous situations,” she says. “The charm of it is not only the beautiful countryside, but the fact that it has little pockets of seriousness in it. It’s quite nice to have that daftness running through it, and suddenly we go, ‘Oooh.’ There are moments when people are talking about real feelings for each other or something that’s happened to them.”

Jensen is no stranger to American TV audiences. She played Scottish seamstress Christine McKinney opposite America Ferrera in “Ugly Betty” (2006-2010); Maggie Jacobs, Andy Millman’s (Ricky Gervais) struggling actor-pal, in “Extras” (2005-2007); Sharon’s (Sharon Horgan) frenemy Fran in Amazon’s “Catastrophe”; and Olivia in the CBS sitcom “Accidentally on Purpose” (2009) opposite Jenna Elfman.

Season 1 of “Agatha Raisin” aired on Sky One in the UK and is available on Acorn TV, which financed Season 2’s three “Agatha Raisin” movies: “The Wizard of Evesham” (premiered Nov. 19); “The Fairies of Fryfam” (Dec. 24) and “The Curious Curate” (Jan. 28).

“I don’t really look like the character in the book, because she’s described as short and dumpy with brown hair,” Jensen says. “It’s more about the essence of the character — the energy, rather than the physical characteristics. We found that Agatha’s costume became very much a main feature — she always wears high-heel stiletto shoes, regardless of whether she’s walking across a field or down a country lane or is on a bicycle — and she always wears makeup when she’s out of the house.

“It’s almost like her suit of armor … what she wears when she goes to war outside her front door.”

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