David Suchet is an icon of the whodunit story. He played Agatha Christie's character, detective Hercule Poirot, for a quarter-century.

After letting go of the beloved character, Suchet is bringing the story of his career to the world stage.

Saying goodbye to the character wasn't easy - he starred in all 74 Poirot television movies.

The Emmy and BAFTA-nominated actor describes it as a grieving process.

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"It was like saying goodbye to a very best friend because I know him so well," the 73-year-old explained.

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"What Poirot afforded me was to be a rare breed of being a leading character."
The world said goodbye to his character in November 2013 in the finale of the thirteenth and final series of Poirot.

"It afforded me the luxury of being in movies as well. So I had a lot to thank my friend [Poirot] for, and when he died, part of me died with him."

David Suchet as Hercules Poirot. Photo / Supplied
David Suchet as Hercules Poirot. Photo / Supplied

By his side throughout his career has been his wife Sheila Ferris who he met when Suchet was acting at the Belgrade Theatre in 1972. She gave up her theatre life to raise the children they have together. Suchet gushes about her.

"I consider myself the most blessed individual to have a wife like I've had…I have a wife who has never, ever said no to anything that I wanted to do, or any role I wanted to play as an actor," he says.

Poirot was an iconic figure in the whodunit genre, and Suchet says those stories continue to resonate with a wide range of audiences.

"I think people love to watch. They know it's going to be a whodunit, and I think they try to work it out as the programme evolves. Because of that, the audience gets very involved and they can latch on to certain detectives because they really appreciate the way that the writer has developed the mind of the character."

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When I talked to Suchet, he was in the middle of developing his stage show. He explained the evening Poirot and More, would be split into two parts. The first will be a conversation about Suchet's early life, including the first roles he played, his drama school training and his days at The Royal Shakespeare company.

"I'll be telling plenty of stories about my career, and in the second half, we're going to actually demonstrate some Shakespeare… and I'll be talking about how I learn my craft.

"It means a great deal to do this show because it will allow me to get the audience to know the man behind the mask, so to speak.

"It's a great chance for me to not only meet my audience but to talk about the person behind the character they've been watching for the last 25 years."

On top of embarking on a stage show, Suchet lent his iconic voice to HBO's His Dark Materials, which screened on Sky's SoHo and Neon in New Zealand. He plays the voice of the witch Serafina's daemon, an eagle named Kaiser. He calls the opportunity "wonderful."

"I believe it came about because somebody heard me doing a radio interview, and the producer on the show rang up my voiceover agent."

At the time he hadn't heard of Philip Pulman's book series the show was adapted from.

"I got a hold of it [the books] and read enough to think 'this is extraordinary'…the imagination is fantastic, I couldn't wait to say yes."

Next on the list of projects for Suchet is a radio drama about 16th-century composer William Bird, but after his stage tour of New Zealand and Australia, he plans to take a good rest.

"I'm not going to do any theatre because I've done so much earlier this year (2019).

"I don't want to do back-to-back work anymore. I would like to think I would have more time to give my wife who's given me the opportunity of having a very busy career."

David Suchet - Poirot and More: A retrospective takes place at Auckland's Aotea Centre on February 22.

• This article was amended on January 20 to clarify that David Suchet has appeared in 74 Poirot television movies.