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Heal be a hero; ALWAYS AND EVERYONE.

Martin Shaw's careers advisor told him to become a librarian, but he makes a great doctor, says ROB DRISCOLL

HE'D rather take a herbal remedy than any pill, but that didn't make alternative-medicine fan Martin Shaw any less keen to play a traditional hospital consultant in ITV's new medical drama series Always and Everyone.

"Once we got those scrubs on and the stethoscopes around our necks, all the cast transformed and just became doctors and nurses - it's that ultimate actor's fantasy," smiles 54- year-old Martin, who stars as consultant Robert Kingsford (complete with George Clooney haircut) in Granada's six- part series set on the front line of the accident and emergency department of a modern city "super" hospital.

In another life, Martin - still best known as one half of the cult '70s action-series The Professionals - would have loved to have been either a doctor or a vet.

"Or gone into the RAF," he adds. "But you had to be good at science to get into any of those. I was only good at English and drama and, by the time I left school, the careers advisors were not very imaginative, and the only job they could envisage for mewas a librarian! We're a lot more enlightened these days ..."

Cynics might baulk at the idea of yet another medical drama on the box, but Martin fiercely defends Always and Everyone.

"I think this is the best piece of British TV writing I've seen in years," says the Birmingham- born actor, last seen as the villainous Chauvelin in BBC1's The Scarlet Pimpernel. "I really enjoy ER, and I'd say this is in the same league, but with a tad more realism. I talked to a consultant at the Hope Hospital in Manchester and his main criticismabout ER is that its doctors are omnipotent - and it isn't like that in real life.

"The script provided me with all the research I needed, but it was still valuable to meet my real-life equivalent because I always thought consultants were in their 60s and wore pinstripe suits.

"It was also handy just to find out about the day-to-day minutiae, like what does a consultant wear on his feet? The answer is trainers. We'd thought he'd wear Timberlands because he might be rather upmarket, but the consultant howled with laughter and said that would cost him pounds 100 a day, as you get every kind of bodily fluid sprayed all over you on an hourly basis ..."

Always and Everyone is not the first time that Martin has played a TV medic. "I was a medical student in the very first series of Doctor in the House, LWT's sitcom in 1968," he recalls. "So it's been fun to get back into the hospital gown."

Yet, despite his secret childhood fantasy of being a doctor, could Martin have made the grade in real life? "Well, I find it very easy to experience compassion - that's probably the most important thing a doctor needs - and I feel compassionate by nature," he says. "As far as studying is concerned, I'm not so sure."

But Martin certainly seems to have had enough experience on the patients' side of hospital life over the years - especially as a youngster. "I was incredibly accident- prone as a lad; I seemed to go through a phase of accidents from about the age of 12 to 15. Every time I stumbled, something would break. I shattered my elbow doing gymnastics, I broke my collar bone playing football, and I cut my hand open diving into a tent. I got terribly used to the inside of casualty!"

Martin's own interest in alternative medicine ("We tend to call it complementary medicine these days," he says) began some 30 years ago, but he insists that he adheres to no particular regime.

"It's just vigilance and self-prescribing. I'm not a hypochondriac, but I like to think I'm tuned in. I take a pragmatic view; I try things and, if they work, I stick to them.

"I'm a very loyal customer to a well-respected herbal company in Brighton which has been making compounds and remedies from centuries-old recipes, and I've been an advocate of flower essences and remedies for about 25 years."

The lifestyle of a jobbing actor is not, alas, always conducive to the healthiest of eating programmes, something of which Martin is aware.

"If you're working on a TV series like Always and Everyone, you might have some early calls and have to be up at five in the morning, and then you might not get back home until eight at night, and yet you've not moved a muscle all day.

"You've been standing around waiting for your scene, and that's not healthy. You're still exhausted. Then I'll take vitamin supplements and eat carefully.

"That's not always easy with location caterers, which tends to be two or three people at most cooking in the back of a Dormobile for 70 people, and it's never going to be haute cuisine.

"Fortunately, I can make reasonable requests for things like vegetarian sandwiches."

Martin's three grown-up children have all followed his footsteps into acting, something he could have been worried about in terms of their security, but he never dissuaded them from the profession. "Naturally, I worry about their future in a career that's so unreliable," he says.

"Personally, I know I've been very lucky. For every good actor who gets a part, there are another 10 good actors who could play it better. I try to get that across to my children; that they've only ever seen me be lucky. Luke, my eldest, is now 30 and bythe time he was born I was already doing very well."

Luke is out of work, having just finished playing Macbeth on stage, a performance of which is father is obviously very proud.

"The best thing I can say about his Macbeth, in all sincerity, is that if I ever get to play it, I shall use a lot of Luke's ideas," says Martin.

"He loves experimental theatre, working in the sharp end of the fringe, whereas my other son Joe, 25, inhabits a different area. He's very cool, very handsome, very self- possessed, and he goes from job to job."

Joe is appearing in ITV's Bad Girls as a woman's prison officer; he also shared the title role of Rhodes with father Martin in BBC2's costume epic.

As for Martin's daughter Sophie, she left drama school last year and played Diana Dors' nurse in the closing sequences of ITV's The Blonde Bombshell opposite Amanda Redman.

"Sophie is doing wonderfully," he says. "She's currently in The Importance of Being Earnest at the Haymarket, Leicester."

Meanwhile, after several years in the TV wilderness, it looks like Martin himself has re- entered the fray, and has already been optioned for a second series of Always and Everyone. "I'd also like to be able to say that we'll be doing a second run of The Scarlet Pimpernel, but that's up to the powers- that-be at the BBC, who have more bureaucrats than Brussels. I would love to do some more of it though, because it was great fun.

"I've been in the business for 30 years, and one's sense of ambition does become slightly blunted.

"All you tend to think is `What I really want to do now is be happy', and the jobs I'm doing make me very happy.

"That's all you can ask for."
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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Driscoll, Rob
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jun 5, 1999
Words:1238
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