NORTHUMBERLAND-BORN actor Kevin Whately has spoken about his decision to take a break from the popular ITV series Lewis.
The 61-year-old has played the loveable policeman Robbie Lewis for more than quarter of a century but announced last year he would be taking time out from the successful detective show. He finished filming in October.
Kevin has played Lewis on and off for 26 years, first as sidekick to the late John Thaw in Inspector Morse and, since 2006, in his own spin-off in which Lewis is boss to Laurence Fox’s DS Hathaway.
Kevin, who was born in Humshaugh, near Hexham, said: “Laurence and I told them this time last year that we wanted to finish it.
“I think both of us wouldn’t have minded going under a bus but they said, ‘Well we’re not going to kill you off’ so we’ve agreed to have a sabbatical.”
Kevin said he thought they would film more in 2014 and there are the remaining episodes of the current series to enjoy.
“It does resolve itself at the end of the films. There’s a kind of gentle ending of sorts. It’s not a cliff-hanger or a brick wall but there’s a rounding off, which is quite nice,” he said.
“I’m police retirement age and I’m sure Lewis would be thinking about that or would be kicked out anyway.”
As he looked back on his time playing Lewis, Kevin talked fondly of former co-star John Thaw, who died from throat cancer in 2002.
He said: “He insisted we share a dressing room. It was something he’d done with Dennis Waterman (in The Sweeney) and it meant we were always together, chewing the fat and maybe running scenes together.
“It was a really great thing of him because I didn’t have any status in those days and I was so inexperienced. I learned everything from John. I loved him. I just thought he was the best screen actor this country has ever produced.”
Kevin, married to Madeleine for 28 years and with a son and daughter, admitted that he has begun to also question his own vocation. He said: “I’m not driven by acting any more. I like doing it as a job but I’m not driven to play Hamlet or King Lear ”
Kevin developed a taste for showbiz as a child, when, inspired by their mother, an opera singer and former pupil of the Royal College of Music, he and his siblings would perform plays in the garage.
He said: “I was always very shy and felt completely at home on stage. I liked hiding behind the different characters and it was a form of therapy for me, which I think it is for about 50% of actors. Half of us are terrible exhibitionists and the other half are terrible shrinking violets.”
Over the last 30 years he’s rarely been off our screens, starring in the likes of Peak Practice, Auf Wiedersehen, Pet and Joe Maddison’s War, which was written specifically for him.
“I’ve just been dead lucky. I’ve had a charmed life acting wise,” he said. “Something always seems to dovetail into something else. One of my agents, who’s dead now, used to say how jammy I was. You work hard but you do need a lot of luck!”