Ian McShane on turning down Strictly Come Dancing and his love for The Great British Bake Off

Lovejoy says GBBO makes him want to "lick the screen" and while he "sneakily" catches a bit of Strictly, he admits he didn't want to sign up

It’s 20 years since Lovejoy retired from our screens. Would you ever don his leather jacket again?


Sky talked about it last year. I said: “If you’re serious about it, why not make it about Lovejoy’s daughter this time?” And maybe I could do guest appearances on an antique Zimmer frame. That’d be terrific.

Did playing him for eight years turn you into an antiques lover?

It was fascinating the amount of people who thought I knew something about antiques and would ask me questions; I couldn’t tell a Chippendale from a chip pan!

Have you kept in touch with your Lovejoy co-star Phyllis Logan?

Yes, I love Phyllis and I’m very happy for her about Downton Abbey [she plays housekeeper Mrs Hughes]. It’s not my kind of show, but she’s such a marvellous actress. She’s good in everything.

Why’s Downton not your kind of show?

I don’t think it’s well written. Upstairs Downstairs was better.

In America you’re known as a cussing cowboy in Deadwood – why isn’t the show better known here?

Because they put it out at 10pm. They were scared of the language. Yet if you watch it you’ll see it’s very Dickensian: Dickens taken to the Wild West.

Is it true your childhood dream was to be a football player?

Yes, my dad, Harry, was a soccer player for Manchester United and I loved it. I played for Stretford Boys, but I knew early on I didn’t have the physical capabilities to be professional; the body was a second behind the brain.

So how did you end up acting?

When I was 17, the geography teacher who put on our school plays suggested I try for drama school. I thought there was only one and applied for Rada. Anthony Hopkins was a term behind me and John Hurt – my oldest friend – was a term ahead. We shared a flat and Johnny suggested me for the lead in my first movie.

Have you and John Hurt ever auditioned for the same part?

Never. It’s one of the reasons we get on! We just finished shooting the Hercules movie – he plays the bad guy and I’m the good guy.

You’re also to play a salsa dancer in an upcoming film. Could you be tempted onto Strictly?

They’ve asked me. I said: “Don’t be ridiculous. That’s for D-list people who want to be recognised again.” I’ll sneakily watch it now and again though because I can’t resist.

While you were playing Lovejoy you made an album that went gold. Do you still sing?

No! I made that record for my wife [American actress Gwen Humble] when she had breast cancer 20 years ago.

When you’re back home in LA, what British TV do you miss?

Great British Bake Off. I usually loathe reality shows, but GBBO makes me want to lick the screen. Although I thought all that bitchy social media s**t this year was really ridiculous.

Are you a social networker?

No. People tweet before they think and it becomes obsessive. Whenever there was a pause on the Hercules set, everybody whipped their Blackberries out of their skirts – are you texting the King of Thrace to tell them we’re on our way?

Even John Hurt?

Johnny came to me with his phone: “Have you any idea how to turn this bloody thing on?” You’re on Twitter and Facebook and you can’t work your mobile? “Yes, but my wife does it.”

You’re 71 – will you ever retire?

You don’t retire. You just lose your script.

Quickfire Q&A

Borgen or Homeland? My favourite drama at the moment is justified

EastEnders or Corrie? Corrie

Radio 4 or Radio 2? Radio 4

Question Time or Newsnight? Newsnight

Nigel Slater or Nigella? Nigel Slater, though Simon Hopkinson could give him a run for his money

Deadwood is on Friday at 10pm on CBS Action