Tuesday 16 March 2021

Derek Martin

British actor Derek Martin in 'The Sweeney' TV series.

Derek Martin:  

If you watch 'EastEnders', you'll recognise Derek Martin as lovelorn cabbie Charlie Slater who was finally killed off in 2016, after 700+ episodes and even a spin-off, 'Slaters In Detention'. And if you don't watch 'EastEnders', you'll recognise him from dozens of cop series, gangster dramas and comedies, stretching back to the '60s.

Cutting up rough in an episode of 'The Professionals'

Despite having little formal drama training, Londoner Derek Martin has been ubiquitous in no-nonsense roles across British television for decades. Leaving his job at Smithfield meat market and starting as a stuntman and extra, he soon proved to be more than capable with dialogue and gradually built a reputation as reliable casting for heavies, coppers, soldiers and security guards. 

An uncredited appearance in the 'Doctor Who'
adventure 'The Claws Of Axos' from 1971

In 'The Curse Of Fendahl', a classic Tom Baker 'Who' from 1977 

An idea of this trajectory can be seen from his long involvement with 'Doctor Who'. Cast in no fewer than nine adventures from 1965 onwards, he was an uncredited extra until 1977's 'The Curse Of Fendahl'. A conscious decision to move away from stunt work and into speaking roles paid off after much effort and application. The long upwards haul included appearances in 'No Hiding Place', 'Adam Adamant Lives!', 'Z-Cars', 'Softly Softly', 'Terry & June', 'Hart To Hart' (an episode shot in London), 'Target', 'Shoestring', 'Private Schultz', 'Minder' and 'Angels'.        

As a redcap in an episode of 'It Ain't Half Hot Mum'
with the late Windsor Davies and Donald Hewlett  

British actor Derek Martin in the 1978 TV series 'Law & Order'
As the bent copper DI Lyall in 'Law & Order' 

Big breaks came in the form of 'Law & Order' in 1978, a gritty police corruption drama featuring his soon-to-be 'EastEnders' colleague Peter Dean. He also played David Yip's guvnor DCI Berwick in 'The Chinese Detective' and Janet McTeer's cynical deputy in the prison drama 'The Governor'. 

A TV stalwart and deserving of a salute.

Tuesday 2 March 2021

Susie Blake

Actress Susie Blake in 'Victoria Wood: As Seen On TV'

Susie Blake:

Pert and pretty actress, hilarious as the confidingly bitchy continuity announcer from 'Victoria Wood: As Seen On TV' in the '80s and later memorable as the boozy barmaid Bev in 'Coronation Street' who would have married Fred Elliott - had he not dramatically died in epic soap opera style on the morning of their wedding.

Susie Blake's mother Molly presented the popular 
BBC children's programme 'Muffin The Mule'

A member of the illustrious Mills dynasty of actors (she's the great niece of Sir John and cousin to Hayley and Juliet), Susie Blake trained at LAMDA and began appearing on television during the mid-'70s. Her charm and vivacity might have seen her cast in a number of typically lightweight young female roles of the era, but clearly her stage-honed acting ability and knack for comedy started to show itself quite early in her career.     

In her first TV role, a 1974 episode of 'Zodiac' 

As a music hall singer in the Victorian detective series, 'Cribb'

By the '80s, she could be seen in the sitcom 'Born & Bred' and was a regular in 'Russ Abbott's Saturday Madhouse', but it was 1985's 'Victoria Wood: As Seen On TV' that cemented her place in the public eye. Less famously, she also provided voices for Victor Lewis Smith's hit-and-miss 'Adventures of Ferdinand De Bargos' and was given centre stage in her own sketch comedy vehicle, 'Something For The Weekend' in 1989. 

With Russ Abbott in his popular Saturday
evening variety/sketch show in the '80s 

We also see Susie Blake pop up briefly in hit shows of the '90s such as 'One Foot In The Grave', The Darling Buds Of May', and the wine-bar, Laura Ashley frock-era comedy 'Singles', before we hit the 'Coronation Street' years. She played Bev Unwin from 2003 until 2015, quite an epic stint, even for that great national institution. Keeping her hand in on the theatre stage, she also found time to appear in a number of large productions at the National Theatre and Lyric in everything from Ibsen and Shakespeare to 'South Pacific' and Joe Penhall's 'Blue/Orange'. 

Slightly miffed at having John Cleese lick her
injured leg in 'Fierce Creatures' (1997) 

Trouble at the Rovers Return, as Bev Unwin
in 'Coronation Street' 

There aren't many cinema productions in which she can be spotted, but they include 'Fierce Creatures' (1997), and 'Nativity 3' (2014). It's more likely you will see her these days in the unfathomably popular 'Mrs Brown's Boys' in which she plays Hilary. I wonder how Victoria Wood would have her snooty announcer character describe that particular programme? We shall never know.     

Susie Blake - imdb