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Whately, Kevin (1951-)


Main image of Whately, Kevin (1951-)

From an early series of affable naïfs and dependable supporting characters, Kevin Whately graduated to lead status in a career taking in varied television, stage and film work, latterly playing effectively against type.

After growing up in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, he abandoned ambitions of a medical career and relocated to London to attend the Central School of Speech and Drama. He subsequently appeared in Shoestring (BBC, 1979), Angels (BBC, 1980), Juliet Bravo (BBC, 1980) and Coronation Street (ITV, 1981). When he first read the script for Auf Wiedersehen, Pet (ITV, 1983-86; BBC, 2002-2004), about a group of northern brickies working on a Düsseldorf building site, he considered loud-mouthed Geordie Oz the standout part, but took his wife's advice to audition instead for the youthful innocent Neville Hope. It was in this role that Whately first became familiar to the public, making the usually miserable and homesick Neville a nonetheless endearing character.

A guest appearance as a policeman in Miss Marple: A Murder is Announced (BBC, 1985) pointed the way forward, and he found his second defining role as DS Robbie Lewis in the enormously popular Inspector Morse (ITV, 1987-2000), providing a grounded foil to John Thaw's irascible, intuitive detective. Over the initial seven-year run his character gradually evolved from stolid sidekick to thoughtful second lead.

During a Morse hiatus he got his first leading role, playing rural doctor Jack Kerruish - a part written specifically for him - in the first three seasons of Peak Practice (ITV, 1993-1995). He also returned to the crime genre for The Broker's Man (BBC, 1997-98), as ex-detective turned insurance investigator Jimmy Griffin. Film appearances included The English Patient (d. Anthony Minghella, 1996), Paranoid (d. John Duigan, 2000) and Purely Belter (d. Mark Herman, 2000)

As he lost his fresh-faced looks he began to portray less sympathetic characters, including an abusive husband in Trip Trap (BBC, 1996), a bullying teacher in Purely Belter and Judas in The People's Passion (BBC, 1999). He even portrayed killers in Murder in Mind: Neighbours (BBC, 2001) and Plain Jane (Carlton TV, 2002).

In the 2000s Whately came full circle, revisiting the roles which had made him famous to essay world-weary, baggy-eyed versions of Neville - in a BBC Auf Wiedersehen revival - and Lewis, who finally emerged from Morse's shadow for his own series (ITV, 2006-present).

Richard Hewett

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Thumbnail image of Auf Wiedersehen, Pet (1983-86)Auf Wiedersehen, Pet (1983-86)

A gang of building workers leave Newcastle to find work in Germany

Thumbnail image of Inspector Morse (1987-2000)Inspector Morse (1987-2000)

Gentle Oxfordshire whodunnits faced by the melancholic detective

Thumbnail image of Skallagrigg (1994)Skallagrigg (1994)

Ambitious drama confronting attitudes to disability

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