Photo copyright: BBC | Fifty Fathoms
Burnley-born actor Lee Ingleby hasn’t been out of work since his first major breakthrough in the 2000 BBC miniseries Nature Boy. He is perhaps best known for his roles as detective sergeant John Bacchus in the BBC drama Inspector George Gently and as Stan Shunpike in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Here he talks to Andrew Peters about the future without George Gently.
Photographer: Joseph Sinclair. Grooming: Gloria Peñaranda
Q Lee, your drama teacher at school was your inspiration for a career as an actor. What was it in particular that ignited the flame?
A At 15 I wasn’t particularly good at sitting still and I found I was easily distracted in lessons such as maths and English. It was only art and drama that really grabbed my interest and my teacher Mr Wellock taught both. Drama wasn’t really part of GCSE curriculum then and if you wanted to get involved it was an after school club. The play that year was Kes, it was my favourite film so I leapt at the chance. I got the lead role. After the final show, Mr Wellock gave me a prospectus for a performing arts course at a college and told me I should go there. So I did.
Q Would you like to pass on your love of acting and knowledge to youngsters?
A I remember when an actor came to the college I was studying at to take part in a Q and A with us. He sat and chatted about the highs and lows of becoming an actor for an hour or two and it was so helpful and inspiring. A few years later I got the chance to reciprocate at the same college, it was a real honour. It’s important to do that.
Q What has been your career highlight to date?
A I’ve been very lucky, I’ve been involved in all sorts of fun projects. Filming with Dan Radcliffe on Harry Potter was a lot of fun, and being involved in Master And Commander: The Far Side of the World with Russell Crowe was also a highlight, especially filming out at sea near the Gallapagos Islands. But for me, my first lead role was very special: it was a BBC2 drama called Nature Boy. A very special job in so many ways.
Paul Hughes (LEE INGLEBY), Alison Hughes (MORVEN CHRISTIE) in The A Word Photo copyright: BBC | Fifty Fathoms
Q Your roles have been many and varied, sometimes tackling serious issues such as autism (in The A Word). Do you prefer playing serious roles?
A I’m greedy, I’d like to do all genres if I could. I love comedy as well and I hope I’ll get to do more of it in the near future.
Q What’s the most difficult thing you find to do as an actor?
A Auditioning is the thing I find most difficult. You spend an awful lot of work preparing and rehearsing for a role that you sometimes don’t always get.
Q Martin Shaw, with whom you co-star in Inspector George Gently, described stage work as a ‘reconnection’. You haven’t done much theatre work, so would you like to do more?
A I love theatre. It’s a place to explore and breathe as an actor. Rehearsals are intense and rewarding. Allowing the time to create is just fantastic: I’d love to do more theatre for sure.
Q Despite mainly ‘edgy’ roles, you appear to like to inject humour into situations. Who are your comic heroes?
A My comic heroes are many. I loved Blackadder and The Young Ones as a youngster, I still enjoy watching them today. Also, you can’t go wrong with The Two Ronnies. Brilliant.
Q Would you consider doing comedy, as it appears to be a thread that runs through your persona?
Q Obviously co-starring in the very popular TV drama Inspector George Gently as Gently’s (Martin Shaw) rule-breaking sidekick John Bacchus has been a huge part of your acting life for the past 10 years. Martin thought it was time to move on, did you?
A I did. It was sad to see the partnership go. Both Martin and I loved every minute of Gently and we have become firm friends as a result. But yes, things can’t go on forever.
One to watch Joe Bannister
Joe Bannister’s first acting experience was performing in the National Youth Theatre’s production of James Graham’s debut Tory Boyz, at the Soho Theatre.
Joe went on to study Theology at Cambridge University where, in amongst his studies, he spent his time performing plays and developing his comedic skills as a member of the world-famous Footlights Comedy Club. While still a student, he played Hamlet at Elsinore Castle for the British Shakespeare Association. It was whilst performing this role that Sir Trevor Nunn spotted him and gave him his first professional job, in The Lion in Winter – sharing the stage with Robert Lindsay and Joanna Lumley at the Theatre Royal Haymarket.
Subsequent to this, Joe was nominated for Best Actor at the Off West End Awards for his portrayal of Percy Bysshe Shelley in Howard Brenton’s Bloody Poetry. He then continued his work in the West End in the critically acclaimed stage version of Chariots of Fire, before spending two seasons at the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC). There Joe performed in five plays ending with the lead in Sean Foley’s production of A Mad World My Masters at the Barbican. During this time he also appeared in ITV’s Endeavour opposite Shaun Evans.
Then followed more Shakespeare, reunited with Sir Trevor Nunn for King John at the Rose Theatre in Kingston and then playing the lead, Orlando, in As You Like It at the National Theatre – which was beamed to cinemas around the world for the NT Live series.
A return to the West End for Hobson’s Choice alongside Martin Shaw preceded performing in the great Howard Davies’ last production, Wild Honey at the Hampstead Theatre. Having recently starred in fantastically well reviewed new play Romona Tells Jim by Sophie Wu, at the Bush Theatre, Joe finished filming his first feature film The Isle alongside Conleth Hill and is currently starring opposite Hayley Atwell and Matthew Macfadyen in the BBC and Starz’s new adaptation (by Manchester By The Sea writer/director Kenneth Lonergan) of E.M Forster’s Howards End. This is a very exciting time for rising star Joe Bannister.
Q Over that time how did you try to develop the character of John Bacchus?
A I loved John’s complexity, he was an old fashioned man really and it was Gently who was the modern forward thinker. I always got the impression that John wanted to be like Sean Connery in Dr No, but it never panned out that way.
Q The series spans the sixties and all the changes during that decade. Would you like to have experienced that era?
A Who wouldn’t: the music, the fashion the changing times.
Q Is it true you have kept some clothes from the series?
A I kept a suit from the earlier series, but sadly it no longer fits.
Q What would have been the worst thing about the sixties for you – the haircuts?
A I don’t think they were that bad. The eighties on the other hand...
Q You obviously got on very well with Martin Shaw. Did you learn a great deal from him?
A I did, he’s a gent and a great guy to work with. It was always teamwork with Martin, a real collaboration with everyone.
Q The next series of the BAFTA-nominated The Line of Duty series in which you play Thandie Newton’s corporate lawyer husband Nick Huntley is delayed. Are you looking forward to this role again?
A It was lovely to play someone who had outward status and authority, but a quivering wreck underneath it all. Jed Mercurio is a brilliant writer, always pulling the rug from under the audience’s feet when they least expect it.
Q Do you fancy following your A Word fellow actor Christopher Eccleston and becoming a Doctor Who at some time in the future?
A Now wouldn’t that be fun?
Profile: Lee Ingleby
Actor Lee Ingleby, 41, is renowned for his versatility having won acclaim for his roles in some of our best-loved and most successful dramas. Lee was last seen in the BAFTA-nominated crime thriller Line of Duty playing the role of Thandie Newton’s corporate lawyer husband. He also returned for the eighth and last ever series of BBC One’s much loved Inspector George Gently in which he stars as Inspector John Bacchus, the brilliant but flawed police officer who doesn’t always play by the rules.
Most recently, Lee was announced as lead in the new ITV drama Innocent, starring alongside Hermione Norris. The four-part drama series tells the compelling story of his character, David Collier, who, convicted of murdering his wife, is living a nightmare. The series is due to transmit in early 2018. Next year, Lee will join the all-star voice cast of a new TV mini-series adaptation of Watership Down along with John Boyega, James McAvoy, Mackenzie Crook and Nicholas Hoult. Last month Lee returned to the second series of BBC One and Sundance TV’s The A Word.
Lee’s previous credits include BBC’s Nature Boy, acclaimed turns in White Heat and Jimmy McGovern’s The Street, a serial killer in Luther and the inspiring founder of Chester Zoo in the BBC’s Our Zoo. Lee was also seen in the principal cast in Sky1’s The Five alongside Tom Cullen, Sarah Solemani and O-T Fagbenle that “fizzed along at a fascinatingly compelling pace” according to The Guardian. For film, his credits include a nervous midshipman in the Oscar-winning Master and Commander, Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban and Ever After: A Cinderalla Story opposite Drew Barrymore.
Quick five from CharityQ Coffee or tea?
Q Favourite current TV programme?
A Blue Planet II
Q Guilty pleasure?
A Sleeping in
Q Main inspiration?
Q Glass half full or half empty?
A Half full