Written by Alison James
It’s a little strange having Kevin Whately smiling at you across the table of an on-set catering bus. Very pleasant, though. He’s just so familiar – and, as it turns out, dryly funny.
“I don’t really choose to watch detective shows myself,” he laughs. “I’m not a fan and doubt I would watch Lewis if I wasn’t in it. If I do watch them, it’s usually because I have mates appearing in whatever the programme happens to be. I always think I can work out who did it but even after all these years of reading TV detective scripts, I don’t always get it right. Having said that, I spotted who the killer was when I read the script for one of the Lewis stories recently and it had to be changed.”
Thirty years playing one character is an exceptionally long run. Does Kevin know where he ends and Lewis begins anymore?
“Not really,” he replies. “He does feel like part of me – although there’s more of me in him than the other way around. I wouldn’t make a very good detective, for instance, but he’s as plodding as me – and probably
There is always speculation when a new series of Lewis is aired that this will be the last. So... will it? Kevin’s smile is somewhat enigmatic.
“There’s probably room for one more series. I’d be all right about it ending, though. I wouldn’t miss the early morning starts and commuting to different locations from Oxford where Lewis is set – it seems to get more and more difficult finding the right locations. While I’d miss the crew and the likes of Laurence Fox who plays DI Hathaway, I’m quite cool about it. It’s just a job and I would see my colleagues again – they all know where I live!”
Hypothetically, what would Kevin like to see happen to Lewis in the very last episode – whenever that may be?
“Hmmm, I think I’d have him blown up,” he ponders, “but I don’t think they would ever do that. There’d be no way back, then. We’ll have to wait and see... Ultimately, they’ll come up with something. While I have a say in what happens to Lewis and what he does, I don’t own him. The original Inspector Morse writer, Colin Dexter, does. He’s Colin’s invention.”
Whatever happens to Lewis at the end of this, or any subsequent series, Kevin wouldn’t be interested in taking on another long-running series.
“It’s a young person’s game,” he says. “Having said that, there’s Martin Shaw with George Gently and Brenda Blethyn with Vera. I’m 64 but both Martin and Brenda are older than me. I don’t know where they get their energy from but then here’s me still doing Lewis!”
Not that he’d like to make a Lewis film, either. “No I wouldn’t do a movie. With a film, there’s so much financial pressure on the production. And often with films it seems more about that and the publicity than about the acting. John Thaw who, of course, played Inspector Morse, felt the same way I do.”
It’s more than 13 years since John Thaw died, but Kevin still misses him.
“I’m increasingly in awe of John’s talent and how he could make even an ordinary script come alive,” he says. “It was his voice... he had such a beautiful voice and he could completely change gear with it. I can’t think of any actor today who can do that. John was a very shy man; it took a long time to get to know him and I loved working with him. But I also very much enjoy working with Laurence now. Laurence is quite chaotic but very good fun. He has a running gag for everybody in the crew so he keeps us laughing.
"There is a good chemistry between all the regular characters. And then there’s Oxford, of course. The city setting is a big part of Lewis’ success. Oxford is iconic; it looks so beautiful on camera because of the colour of the stone. It gives another dimension to the Lewis stories we couldn’t get if we filmed elsewhere.”
Word is that Kevin is regularly mobbed by Lewis fans when he’s spotted filming on the streets of Oxford. “I’m not sure about that but we do get a bit of attention,” he smiles. “We always have. People are generally very nice and just want a photo. I think Oxford people feel they own a little bit of the show because we’re always here. But it’s not just the locals and students who love it; Lewis goes out all over the world so we have lots of tourists watching us film, too.”
Once Lewis is in the can and on our screens, Kevin and his wife Madelaine spend a lot of time looking after their eight-year-old granddaughter, Ivy, as their daughter (and Ivy’s mum) Kitty (32) travels the world as an award-winning mezzo-soprano opera singer.
“I love being with Ivy,” he says. “With your own children, you love them immediately – and with grandchildren, it’s exactly the same.”
- Pic ©Rex
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