How did you make the move into
television, and can you remember anything about your early work in the
"Well, I came down South and it
kind of happened. I can't really remember a lot about my early
television work. I did a couple of Armchair Theatre plays.
Sydney Newman really had a grip on TV drama. Single plays like those
were so beautifully done. They had the choice of who they wanted
because they were so well thought of. They were very, very
professional and I loved every moment of them. You were working with
mates most of the time, too. You knew everybody and you were all
aiming for the same thing."
In the mid-Sixties, you were a
regular in the television series, The Mask of Janus and its
sequel, The Spies. Do you feel these series were a landmark in
"I think so. I look back on them
with enormous gratitude. They were very important for me. At that
time, I first realised just what fame means. You've got a company of
regular actors including Peter Dyneley and Dinsdale Landen, and you're
rehearsing at the Acton Hilton – as we called the BBC's rehearsal
rooms in Acton – and recording them. You're walking about and someone
might recognise you from something, but once the programmes go out on
air, you just can't go out. You can't go on the Tube, can't get on a
bus because suddenly it's instant recognition – 'ooh, it's 'im!'. It
became very embarrassing. People would come up to you, want to talk,
want autographs. I was in the Army & Navy Stores at one point, buying
something, and all the girls I could see had sussed me, but the woman
who was in charge of the department knew my face and thought she knew
me – but of course, she didn't! We had this long conversation – I
asked her how her mother was. She thanked me for asking. I enquired if
her mother had the same old trouble, because all mothers have the same
old trouble, don't they? So, she told me about that and said how nice
it had been to see me. I said it was nice to see her too, asked her to
give my love to her mother, and walked out. I stopped for a moment and
saw the girls were telling the woman who I actually was. That was
quite good fun."
Around the same period, you were
also making guest star appearances in several filmed series – Ghost
Squad, Man in a Suitcase, The Avengers,
Department S and Jason King. These series are still popular
nearly fifty years later. Did you feel they were anything special at
"They were solid entertainment and
you did them as well as you could, but you were a working actor. You
were just doing a job. You didn't think it was going to last forever.
It's not as grand as people think it is. I think there was a bit of
prestige about them, but I'd be thinking, 'I've got a job' – and that
was my motivation. What you do is go there, say the lines and don't
bump into the furniture as Noel Coward said."
the Man in a Suitcase episode Web With Four Spiders,
your scenes are almost exclusively with the series star, American
actor, Richard Bradford. Bradford was famously an advocate of the
Stanislavski 'method' approach to acting.
How did you find acting opposite Bradford or other performers who
would immerse themselves in their roles?
"They played their game, I played
mine. I just behaved and they acted. And boy did they act! They acted
all over the studio and I just stood there and did my bit. I didn't
want to join in, because for me, less is more. You don't need to emote
all over the stage to get the emotion across to people. It's all in
the eyes, all up there, in the mind. That may sound pretentious, but
it's true. If they want to act out of every orifice, fine, if it works
for them. It just wasn't my scene."
You also worked with Peter
Wyngarde on his two starring vehicles for Lew Grade's ITC,
Department S and Jason King. What are your memories of
working with him?
"Of what we did, knowing my memory,
not a lot until I see them again, but working with him was a pleasure.
He was a lovely, lovely man. Of course, he was gay. We all knew that.
So what? But he had a country house and he called it Camp Cottage,
which always gave me a bit of a laugh. A beautiful man, inside and
out. Speak as you find. We got on terribly well together. And the
ladies loved him. What a waste! I almost wish I was gay – I mean, who
You also did a couple of
episodes of The Avengers. In your first, You Have Just Been
Murdered, you played a silent assassin, who before committing the
deed, would convince his victims that they were exceptionally easy to
kill… How do you approach a role without dialogue?
"Who needs dialogue? You do it with
your demeanor, your body, your eyes and your face. You can terrify
someone, without pulling faces or anything. You can make them think
all sorts of things through the simplest of techniques. A good actor
can make you feel all sorts of emotions, just with eyes and simple
movements. Marcel Marceau didn't have too many lines – and he worked!
You don't always need verbiage to make a point – unless you're doing
Shakespeare, of course. You couldn't stand there all night as Hamlet
and say 'you know what I'm thinking?' of course. It worked for me
anyway, with my sort of acting – which is non-acting, really."
Later in your career, you went
on to appear in series like The Professionals, Remington
Steele, Bergerac and other genre shows. Do you feel that
you were suited to light-hearted thrillers and were you concerned
about being typecast in that sort of show?
"I wouldn't have minded at all. I'm
a light-hearted sort of person! I'm not a dour type who says give me
something serious to do for Christ's sake… Comedy is so much harder
than doing it straight. Anyone can go on and scowl, but it's harder to
do a scene with a twinkle in the eye. It's worked for me. The
Bergerac I did has been shown so many times… It's always on some
channel somewhere. People at the club I go to know the dialogue in
that episode more than I ever did. I played a villainous businessman
on Jersey and there's a scene where I'm in an inflatable armchair in a
swimming pool. We were filming and the inflatable got a puncture. I'm
saying my lines and slowly going down like the Titanic! Good times…"
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and Alys Hayes, 2009