Why Dirk Gently’s Bart Curlish is your new favourite TV character

The star and producer of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency on Fiona Dourif’s breakout character

If you’ve been watching Max Landis’ new take on Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency on Netflix (or, indeed, BBC America if you’re in the US), you will have had your attention grabbed by a character who was not in the books but is pretty flipping fantastic just the same: Fiona Dourif’s holistic assassin Bart Curlish.

The scruffy, growling but weirdly upbeat killing machine steals scenes from her very first appearance as she kidnaps the hapless Ken (the wonderful Mpho Koaho, who is also excellent) and brings him along on her mission, heading inexorably towards Dirk (Samuel Barnett) and his reluctant assistant Todd (Elijah Wood). 

“I shouldn’t have favourites but I totally do,” laughs Barnett. “It’s Ken and Bart. I mean, on paper, I did not get it. I think Bart and Dirk are two sides of the same coin, the way Max describes it is, if Dirk is search key of the universe, Bart is the delete key. They are two universal constants, two opposite ends of the spectrum, but I couldn’t even get a grip on my head how Bart sounded when I read it.

“And then seeing Fiona Dourif do it and then Mpho Koaho, who plays Ken, and seeing their dynamic, it’s just hilarious. It starts off with her trying to kill him with a machete, and then becomes almost this buddy road movie. They are the most unlikely pairing and they are absolutely my favourite because there’s so much comedy between them and so much danger all the time. Any second she could just…get him! I just find him so funny, and Fiona has just run with what Max has written in the script and created this fully fledged, completely brilliant weird character. I’ve not seen anything like that on TV before.”

Mpho Koaho and Fiona Dourif as Ken and Bart, the mismatched buddies on a dangerous road trip
Mpho Koaho and Fiona Dourif as Ken and Bart, the mismatched buddies on a dangerous road trip

“Bart was the hardest character to cast because I don’t think you’ve ever seen a female character like Bart on television before,” agrees executive producer Arvind Ethan David. “She’s one part Beetlejuice, one part Jack Nicholson, she’s this extraordinarily dirty, dangerous, homicidal dust mop, who at the same time has this sweetness to her.

“We saw hundreds of people for that part,” he continues, “and then, ridiculously, Fiona’s been a friend for years, and one day we bumped into her in Vancouver and were like ‘Oh! You should audition! Come in! Sorry, we’re idiots!’ And she says she spent two or three days preparing for it and then she came in and we were like ‘Oh! There’s Bart! Thank you!’ She gets better and better, you won’t believe some of the things that Bart gets up to in this show, and she is this really brilliant dark mirror version of Dirk and the idea of a holistic detective having a holistic assassin, that’s all Max and I’m so grateful to him for coming up with that.”

Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency is now streaming on Netflix. Keep up with the latest genre new with the new issue of SciFiNow.