In Trevor Eve's new incarnation, the clean-cut actor, yet another in the long list of alleged
sex symbols to the nation's ladies of a certain age, plays a good cop. Superintendant
Albert Tyburn, formerly of the Yard, transferred to Kenya in the 1930s to set up a criminal
investigation unit which brings him into conflict with fogey-ish colonial mentality.
"I don't really think of it as playing a policeman, more as someone who was basically
good in the world," he says. "It's refreshing not to be destroying a rival, or covering up
something. I find it much more fun to read a script saying, 'Tyburn saves boy from
burning building' rather than 'Tyburn faces wife after being discovered with mistress'. I
wanted to do action adventure. It's nice to get on a motorbike, ride a horse, and dive into
rivers. More positive. 'Uplifting' is the word."
Our meeting takes place in the surreal, dim-lit and self-consciously "interior designed"
setting of suite 409 of Balke's Hotel, South Kensington (at a special rate to the film
company of £350; normally it cost £475), a brisk stroll form the house he bought recently
having fled the country idyll he and his wife, actress Sharon Maugham, embarked upon
when they returned from nine intermittent years living in Los Angeles.
His father, a drinks wholesaler, was 50 when Trevor was born, married to a woman 15
years younger, and I read they scrimped to pay for his education, although he denies they
suffered any hardship. "I can only describe my father as the most frugal man I have ever
known. He wasn't remotely extravagant and didn't indulge himself with any luxuries - no
holidays, never eating out - so maybe that was his form of saving. You have to remember
he was born in 1900, a whole different era.
The biggest upset was that he lost his chance to become captain of cricket [at school].
"I'd been in the first XI for five years, since I was 13, and was certain to be captain. I
never contemplated taking up the game professionally because I don't think I was good
enough to play for England. If you are, there isn't a choice. People make sure you do.
My most satisfying time during four months filming Heat of the Sun in Zimbabwe was a
cricket scene when Paul Strang [a world class spinner, playing for Notts this year] bowled
against me. I don't play any longer but it's nice to look back and think, 'You were probably
a bit better than you thought.'"
His real ambition was to be an artist but his father disapproved. "he was an extremely
practical man and said I'd make no money, so suggested I pursue design in three
dimensions and become an architect. That's what I did, but I was disillusioned very
quickly. I thought it would be a wonderful opportunity to build my fantasies all over the
world, and then found myself doing cross-sections of toilets and sewage pipes in
Birmingham. I have no patience…I want an airport, and I want it now! Basically, I
realised I wasn't a potentially competent architect."
After three years he dropped out and thought of becoming a ski instructor in Austria, until
he saw the "impossibly difficult" test. "Friends knew I wasn't keen on architecture and
suggested I did something that interested me, which is fairly logical. I went to the cinema
and theatre a lot and it consumed my spare time, but I never imagined I'd become an
actor. I'm not one of those who was always tap-dancing as a child and going, 'Mum, I've
got to sing.' I thought I might become a director because it seemed a more academic
approach to the entertainment business. The leap to acting was extreme."
He looked in the Yellow Pages one day under D for drama, and applied to Rada. At the
audition he was told he had five minutes. It was the first time he had ever acted, yet he
was accepted immediately. "It was a flippant way to find a drama school, but the
consideration to go there wasn't, nor was the determination. I'd done English A-level, so I
recited some Richard II. I knew within the first week it was an environment I wanted,
although I couldn't have done a job more alien to my family. They were shocked, but they
stuck in there and were as supportive as they could be." After Rada he joined Liverpool
rep for his first professional part as Paul McCartney in John, Paul, George, Ringo…and
Bert, by Willy Russell, which led to Filumena in London's West End in 1977, and his first
meeting with his wife Sharon who was also in the cast.
The director, Franco Zeffirelli, had an interesting auditioning technique. He told Trevor,
"Turn around darling," whereupon the designer, a large lady called Raymonda Gaetani,
grabbed his testicles. He didn't move. Zeffirelli, impressed, shouted, 'Bravo!' and hired
him. "It was part of Franco's delight, to shock and see how you react," he recalls, wincing
Although he assumed he'd have to spend several years in the theatre "working myself in"
he was soon cast as private eye, Eddie Shoestring, on BBC1 in 1979 which initiated his
career as a "sex symbol". "Oh God! Talk to my family about that. They'd just laugh." But
Laurence Olivier was a fan, and cast him as the lead in Hindle Wakes, part of a series
Olivier was directing. "He was an immense support and guide, and helped me get a
green card when I went to America in Shadowchasers, which was a forerunner of The X
"It didn't last beyond a season, but I made a lot of money and stayed in America for a
while. Both my sons [Jack, now 12, and George, three] were born there." Maybe he
would like the enormous wealth generated by a long-running American series? He
pauses, yet again, for a long time. "You can become quite disposable there. Put it this
way: I don't have any regrets, whatever that means"
I try, a little desperately, to squeeze an opinion from him about the self-delusion of actors
who convince themselves a mediocre but lucrative series is high art. "I know those who
are living it up and earning a lot in crappy series," he says. "It's conviction money. 'Ah',
they say as they count it, 'I see why this is so brilliant.' I'm not very good at working in stuff
I have no respect for. That doesn't make me any better or worse."
He and Sharon lived in Los Angeles between 1984 and 1989, and again for two years in
the early nineties. "The classic thing is that when I was there I became a huge admirer of
all English work, so I'd travel back to act at the National Theatre." They finally returned
three years ago when their daughter, Alice, was 12, and bought a farm on the
Sussex/Hampshire border because it was near the school - Bedales - they chose for her.
Rural existence soon palled, however. "Sharon realised it was wrong from the beginning.
If you've lived in a city all your life, you come up against a different set of people and
values. The country is wonderful in many respects - we had horses, and the children
were free to run around and swim - but not with me and Sharon. We'd be away. Now
we're in London I'm home in 20 minutes, see more of them and feel closer. Also I lost
touch. Do you know there isn't a proper cinema between Guildford and Portsmouth?
They've all been closed down. It's desperate."
His last big television series was Channel 4's The Politician's Wife, as Juliet
Stevenson's husband, an apposite drama about the hypocrisy of adulterous politicians
playing the "family values" card. "Our intention was to show the deficiencies in the Tory
party at the time. The reflective powers of drama are huge - theatre was conceived in
ancient times as a place to 'come and see what you're all doing'. I'm fascinated by
politics, and there is no more compelling drama than conflict in high places, but I wouldn't
like to have been a politician, except for one reason - if I was able to sort out the traffic
problems in London. Whatever party you're in, you have to become part of the
Establishment, and I wouldn't sit very comfortably in that. Anyway, as an actor you get to
speak in the House of Commons, and bat against a Test cricketer."
Actors also face being "labelled". Sharon has played many serious roles but is doomed
to be best known for her Gold Blend coffee ad, and he is still remembered as Eddie
Shoestring, 20 years later. "People put hooks on you and if that helps you remain in
some state of recognition it's all right. What should I do? Lie in bed at night and shout
[he screams, modestly] 'I wish the audience thought I could play nice people'? I don't
think so. So long as it's complimentary that's OK, and they were obviously convinced by
me being horrid. I hope they'll enjoy it as much now I'm Mr Nice Guy." OK, Mr Nice Guy,
what is the secret of a successful marriage?
"As soon as you talk about relationships, the clichés pour out, and when you read them in
black and white it sounds so simplistic. Let's put it down to good fortune." He was
brilliant as Bill Maitland in John Osbourne's Inadmissible Evidence, a three-hour
monologue by a man undergoing mid-life crisis, and although he looks as if his biggest
crisis is deciding what shirt to wear, I wonder if, at 46, he has experienced similar
"I don't know that crises come at a particular time. There are crossroads and confusion
at any age. You mean buying a red sports car syndrome? I've heard of that. Going off
with young girls? Is that a mid-life crisis? Could be. Or it could be just having a lot of fun.
If you're not hurting anyone I wouldn't see that as a crisis."RT
1998 RADIO TIMES
THE ANDREW DUNCAN INTERVIEW
The pictorial overview below of some of Trevor Eve's career highlights accompanied this interview
Dene & Nick: These are highlights of an interview which originally appeared in the Radio
Times edition dated 24 - 30 January 1998. It provides a nice overview of Mr Eve's
thoughts on his career both pre and post-Eddie Shoestring.
This article © Radio Times, 1998 and reprinted with kind permission by
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