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Shaw, Martin (1945-)


Main image of Shaw, Martin (1945-)

Despite a long and varied stage and screen career, Martin Shaw will probably be forever associated with the leather jacket and bubble perm of Ray Doyle, the undercover cop who, as one half of The Professionals (ITV, 1977-83) provided Britain's answer to Starsky and Hutch (US, 1975-79).

He made his amateur stage debut, accompanied by his parents, at the age of three. Although offered a scholarship to Birmingham Drama School when he was 16, he instead took his parents' advice and went out to work, but two years later moved to London to attend LAMDA. Early television appearances included Coronation Street (ITV, 1960-) and a semi-regular role as hard-drinking medical student Huw Evans in Doctor in the House (ITV, 1969). In the first half of the 70s he played Banquo in Macbeth (d. Roman Polanski, 1971) and won acclaim for his stage performances in 'Saturday, Sunday, Monday', opposite Laurence Olivier, and 'A Streetcar Named Desire', as Stanley Kowalski. Ever keen to avoid typecasting, he next appeared as Rahid, Arabian sidekick to the titular adventurer in The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (d. Gordon Hessler, 1974).

In 1977 he first appeared opposite Lewis Collins in an episode of The New Avengers (ITV, tx. 6/10/1977); although the duo played terrorists, they would be partnered on the right side of the law later that year for The Professionals. Over the next six years Bodie and Doyle screeched around London in their Ford Capri, battling terrorism on behalf of CI5 - an undercover section of the police headed by the no-nonsense George Cowley (Gordon Jackson). Since the show ended Shaw has expressed little fondness for it, claiming that his association with Doyle in the public imagination 'disenfranchised' his previous career: "It was not only as if my career had started there, it was as if that's what I did, so there was no longer the opportunity to do what I had done before."

After turning down several similar crime-fighting roles, he cropped his curls and returned to the stage to essay Elvis Presley's final hours in Alan Bleasdale's 'Are You Lonesome Tonight?', which enjoyed a long and successful run. However, the image of law enforcer proved a difficult one to relinquish, and subsequent television roles have included a corrupt Chief Superintendent in Black and Blue (BBC, 1992), the lead in two series of The Chief (ITV, 1993-95), a sympathetic Chauvelin to Richard E. Grant's eponymous swashbuckler in The Scarlet Pimpernel (BBC, 1999), two outings as P.D. James' Adam Dalgliesh, and a lengthy run as Judge John Deed (BBC, 2001-2007), the commonsense adjudicator with a penchant for discarding his briefs. Other appearances included the lead in Rhodes (BBC, 1996), and Doctor Robert Kingsford in Always and Everyone (ITV, 1999-2002).

After playing 1960s detective Inspector George Gently in the BBC's adaptations of Alan Hunter's novels (BBC, 2007-09), Shaw announced that he wanted a change of pace from crime and medical dramas, turning executive producer and donning priest's robes to portray driven maverick exorcist Father Jacob in Apparitions (BBC, 2008).

Richard Hewett

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