Martin Shaw may have sealed his place in viewers’ affections as Inspector George Gently, and previously as Judge John Deed, but there was once a time when he seemed famously, permanently, to be etched with the alter ego of Ray Doyle, one curly-haired, glowering third of ‘The Professionals’.
Martin filmed the hardman special agent of ‘CI5’ for four years, from 1977 to 1981, alongside co-stars Lewis Collins and Gordon Jackson. But now he reveals that, despite his character’s popularity, he didn’t exactly revel in the role. In fact, for much of the time, playing the part he previously described as “an Action Man Doll” was actually against his will.
He tells Radio Times:
“I foolishly signed a contract that I thought they would let me out of. It’s completely my own fault.” For how many series?
“Four and a half. After the first one, I thought I’d graciously be able to say, ‘Thank you very much, but this is not for me.’
Despite his bad time on the show, Martin emphasises that he’s long made his peace with the role that forever made his name, saying “All the antipathy has faded away.”
However, it seems he’s much fonder of his most recent incarnation, that of Inspector George Gently, but remains equally content to say goodbye to the detective show after a decade, describing it as “the perfect time” for the BBC to bring it to an end.
“It feels completely appropriate,” he says. “I had no difficulty in letting go of the role, because it makes space for something else. All through the last day of filming, people were saying, ‘Are you going to be emotional?’ I said, ‘No, not at all.’ It’s a fact of life. Things come to an end. And then, after the last shot, I started to make a little speech… and I was gone. Bang! So I did get emotional after all.’
‘Inspector George Gently’ Series 9 starts on Sunday at 8.30pm on BBC One. Read the full interview with Martin Shaw in next week’s Radio Times, on sale now.