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GENTLY DOES IT; Exclusive Actor Martin Shaw faces vintage motorbike ban in his new TV detective drama.

Byline: By Rick Fulton

MARTIN Shaw relived his biker past in new period detective drama George Gently - but on the other side of the tracks.

The new BBC 1 Sunday prime time show, which the actor hopes will be made into a series, is centred on a Sixties biker gang.

And Martin, star of The Professionals and Judge John Deed, admits he was a teenage biker at that time.

The 62-year old said: "George Gently is set in 1964 and I'd have been 19.

"I was a biker and was riding an old BSA, so it was lovely to see these beautiful bikes.

"I wasn't in a gang. For me, it was a means of transport. There was no cult about it.

"It was nice to relive the time as an adult rather than a teenager especially as, after shooting, I could return back to the 21st century."

In the title role of Inspector George Gently, Martin gets to drive a gorgeous old Rover but he admits all he wanted to do was have a go on the bikes.

He laughed: "They wouldn't let me near them of course. Every time I approached one and started to sling my leg over it, someone would say, 'Don't even think about it'

"The whole show was terrific. It was complete nostalgia city.

"One of the cars was the type my dad had as a kid, an Old Zephyr 4."

In the drama, Gently's old-school personality contrasts with the youthful rebellion of the film, including the bikes and drug running.

During the Sixties, Martin was well aware he was living in a time of change.

He explained: "If you had any kind of sensitivity, you'd be aware there were great changes happening.

"You could feel it everywhere in the Sixties, that people were moving away from the austerity of the Fifties and wartime."

It was only later - in his mid-20s - that he became a bit of a rebel.

Martin said: "When I was young, the badge of your trade was to be a hellraiser.

"There was Peter O'Toole, Richard Harris and Nicol Williamson.

"Drinking was a way of fitting in with whatever environment I was in."

His drinking stopped and he became tee-total after a vicious mugging, which left him with the scar on his right cheek and a cheekbone replaced by a plastic plate.

Now, also a vegetarian, his new role as George Gently and the promise of a series if the viewing figures are good, sees Judge John Deed hanging up his wig for at least the foreseeable future.

Speaking for the first time about what the future holds for the show he has starred in since 2001, Martin said: "It's on sabbatical. We are taking a step backwards and reflecting on what we want to do next.

"Whether we do want to do it again, that will be a decision taken between myself and the BBC.

"It's always good to end something on a high. The programme was incredibly popular and still is popular.

"If the public want it back they'll get it back but we have to be certain they get the sort of quality they deserve." Popular with viewers, such is its impact that it has also been a must-see for real-life judges and solicitors.

George Gently, based on the novels by Alan Hunter, has been adapted for television by Peter Flannery, of Our Friends In The North fame.

Martin is joined by Phil Davis, Richard Armitage and Lee Ingleby, who plays Gently's side-kick Detective Sergeant Bacchus.

As well as being a study of the hippy era, when Britain stood on the brink of a social and sexual revolution, the show also looks at corruption within the police force.

Gently's wife is killed by gangster Joe Webster, played by Phil Davis.

While there is something of Heartbeat about the vintage cars and the period costumes, this drama has a grittier edge, with more violence and bloodshed than ever seen in Aidensfield.

While Martin admits he'd never previously heard of the Inspector Gently books, he was attracted to the script because of Flannery's work on Our Friends In The North.

And Martin's double act with Lee Ingleby could prove as popular as Bodie and Doyle in The Professionals.

Of his new partnership, Martin said: "There was no rivalry between Lee and I which can sometimes come up when people work together as a double act.

"We make each other laugh and I can see the partnership working as well as say Morse and Lewis.

"Lee and I liked each other straight away and we had a lot of fun."

Unfortunately, all mentions of the 70s series The Professionals, in which Martin played Ray Doyle to Lewis Collins' William Bodie, were strictly off limits during the interview.

He and Collins famously didn't get on, which was one of the reasons the latter was picked to replace the original Bodie, Anthony Andrews, who was dropped after just three days of shooting.

The dad of three notoriously hates giving interviews but proves to be charm personified, especially when we get on to the subject of his beloved Scotland.

Martin, whose third marriage reportedly ended last year, has an enduring love affair with Scotland.

He has owned a Highland croft for more than a quarter of a century and admits he comes north as often as he can to get away from it all.

He also has a home in Norfolk and said: "I don't like cities. I divide my time between Norfolk and Scotland.

"Whenever there is space, I am up there. Friends of mine had it for 10 years. It was changing hands and I went up to look at it and fell in love with it.

"It's in a very remote part and I do like wilderness. I love Scotland and the Scottish people."

The Shaw family originally came from the Kirkcudbright area and were part of clan McIntosh.

"My love of Scotland must be a Karmic thing," Martin added with a laugh.

His other great passion is planes and last year he presented Discovery Real Time's six-part series, Martin Shaw: Aviators.

Having been a plane fanatic for as long as he can remember, Martin is also an honorary member of 6 Squadron and has flown both RAF Jaguars and Harriers.

His most treasured possession, however, is his 1940s Boeing Stearman two-seater bi-plane, which he has owned for a decade. The Discovery series followed his restoration of the Stearman, which was nearly destroyed in an air show aircrash in 2004.

When I ask if he's been able to fly it since, the actor's frustration is evident.

He said: "Sadly, it's still not able to fly because of the bureaucracy of the CAA.

"It is still stuck in a hanger waiting to fly. What you saw on the programme was it's test flight but since then they haven't issued a certificate."

Martin added: "Flying has been a life-long obsession of mine. Ever since I was a kid, I've been interested in planes.

"I have had a licence since 1991 and fly quite often. I have lots of friends in the flying community."

But what about those real-life judges and fans of Judge John Deed? Hasn't he asked them to help?

Martin laughs, rather tellingly: "Yes it has been considered, believe me."

George Gently is on this Sunday, April 8, on BBC One at 9pm.

LAW UNTO HIMSELF

MARTIN SHAW'S new role is just the latest in a long line of lawmen the actor has played over the years. He appeared as Raymond Doyle in The Professionals in the Seventies, then played a number of senior lawmen, including Chief Constable Alan Cade in The Chief and a Chief Superintendent in a one-off drama, Black and Blue. It focused on police corruption and was directed by Scot David Hayman. Shaw then took on the role of Commander Adam Dalgleish in the adaptations of two PD James novels for ITV. These days he's best known as John Deed, the maverick judge with a tangled private life.

'I love Scotland and the people... when there's space I am up here'

CAPTION(S):

A FEW GOOD MEN: Martin Shaw and co-star Lee Ingleby on the set of new BBC 1 police drama George Gently, top, and actor Richard Armitage, who plays a biker gang leader, left
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Apr 6, 2007
Words:1390
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