Martin Shaw: I made four and a half series of The Professionals under duress

The actor claims he was locked into a contract to continue making the ITV cop drama – against his will

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If you’re a younger viewer, you might know Martin Shaw for his roles in Judge John Deed or, more recently, Inspector George Gently, but those who sought their entertainment in cop dramas in the 1970s probably remember him best as Ray Doyle in ITV’s The Professionals. 

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Shaw has made no secret of his dislike for the role, previously describing tough guy Doyle as “a one-dimensional character in a one-dimensional show”, as well as claiming the drama “disenfranchised my career… it was like being an Action Man doll. No humanity. Just a function.”

Asked in this week’s edition of Radio Times whether he disrespects the character, he doesn’t disagree. “Well, with George Gently and John Deed, I was there willingly throughout.” 

Is he saying he worked on The Professionals against his will? “I foolishly signed a contract that I thought they would let me out of. It’s completely my own fault.” 

How many series did he make under duress? “Four and a half. After the first one, I thought I’d graciously be able to say, ‘Thank you very much, but this is not for me.'” Instead, he claims, the producers insisted he make more. Rightly or wrongly, he believes that they deliberately timed the shooting schedule in such a way as to prevent him from taking on other (more high-brow) work. 

“I don’t think it was spite. I think it was proprietorial,” he says.

However, Shaw says he has since made his peace with the series that helped to make his name. “Let me round this off. Because it’s been a long dissertation on the down side. All the antipathy has faded away.” 

Why? Because a few years back, a younger actor explained to him how important the show was as part of their childhood. “And I suddenly got it.”

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Read the full interview with Martin Shaw in this week’s edition of Radio Times 

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