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The BOX: CLOSE-UP: Life's hard without my Oxo family.

Byline: ROZ LAWS

LIFE has been tough for actor Michael Redfern since the Oxo gravy train dried up.

He was once the most famous dad in TV commercials, playing the head of the Oxo family for 16 years. But now he is on the verge of quitting Britain because he can't afford to live here.

He has worked as a taxi-driver and run a cafe but has struggled to find acting work since the Oxo ads were axed in 1999.

Michael features in this week's edition of Taste For Success, in which presenter Tony Francis discovers the history of Oxo. His culinary tour of the Midlands reaches Worksop in Nottinghamshire, where 40 million little brown Oxo cubes are produced each week.

Michael, 60, says: 'I am still recognised as the Oxo Dad, although sometimes people say 'Has anyone ever told you you look like the bloke from the Bisto ad?'.

'After 16 years I am imprinted on people's minds as that character. It was great at the time and gave me a good living, but it has hindered my career.

'Work has been very thin on the ground. There are very few jobs about, especially for my age group. The jobbing actor seems to have disappeared from TV now. What dramas there are seem to have the same few celebrities in them over and over again.

'In the 1960s I spent four years in Birmingham starring in two soaps, United! and The Newcomers. They were both made at the old Gosta Green studios.

'When I came out of soaps I couldn't get a job because they said I was typecast. Now it's a complete reversal -they only want people from soaps!

'The best part I've had in the last few years was back in Birmingham in Doctors, playing a father who gave his footballer son steroids. It was directed by Christopher Timothy, who knows Lynda Bellingham well and thought of me for the part.

'But I haven't been earning a living, as an actor or otherwise. I haven't coped very well at all. I've been doing a bit of taxi work but that doesn't bring in much unless you work at night, and I don't want to do that at my age.

'I enjoyed running a friend's cafe for a while -I like cooking and yes, I do still use Oxo! -but then he sold it. I like playing golf, so I organise the odd charity golf day and quiz night, but we need to do something to make ends meet.

'Now we're considering moving abroad, to France or Spain, because I'm just chucking money away here. It's so difficult. I can't afford the mortgage or the bills. I sit at home waiting for the phone call but it never comes.'

Michael lives in Dorset with his wife Carol and has a son at university. His Oxo screen family, with Lynda Bellingham as the mother of his three children, hit our TV screens in 1983 and struck a chord with the public.

The family made a poignant departure five years ago, with the final Last Supper commercial showing them moving house. Oxo said that a family sitting down to eat at the same time no longer reflected real life.

'It was very sad to film the last commercial because we did feel like a real family.

'I was disappointed when they brought in a new family in 2002. I think they realised they were wrong in getting rid of us. Their argument was that families don't sit round the table any more, but people still want the illusion of a family.'

CAPTION(S):

Taste For Success ITV1, 5.45pm, Sunday; MEASURE OF TASTE: Michael Redfern spoons out the flavouring in his role as the Oxo Dad
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Mar 28, 2004
Words:626
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