I was very saddened to learn of the tragic death of actor Colin Tarrant, who was best known as no-nonsense Inspector Andrew Monroe in the ITV police series The Bill. Colin, who was in the series for 12 years from 1990, was a serious-minded man and this was also true of his character. Monroe was tough but fair, had a calm and understated authority and the character was all the more believable for being that.
In real life Colin was a straightforward unluvvie-ish actor, who had grown up in Derbyshire and had trenchant views, particularly when it came to the Conservative Party and its treatment of miners. I interviewed him when he joined The Bill, shortly after he had appeared with Imogen Stubbs in a BBC One adaptation of the DH Lawrence The Rainbow.
As my 1990 article (reproduced below – update: It isn’t big enough to read at the moment – I’ll fix that ASAP) reported, his contract with The Bill meant he was able to earn a living without filling in between acting jobs supply teaching, where he’d often face classes of pupils who were harsh about actors they didn’t see on television and thus deemed to have failed.
Colin had an idea for a series centring on the day-to-day work of a local newspaper journalist. Colin wasn’t to be the star though. He saw the project as a starring vehicle for one of his co-stars on The Bill, actor Kevin Lloyd, who played DC “Tosh” Lines. Colin asked me, who he knew had been a provincial newspaper reporter, and one of his school friends who was now an executive on the local paper in Derby, to give him some background on being a local newspaper reporter and be ‘technical advisors’ if the programme ever got made. Sadly it never came to anything.
I must admit, I wasn’t sure it would have worked anyway (although the BBC had a moderate success with a series called Harry about a journalist around the same time, with Michael Elphick in the lead role). Like estate agents and politicians, journalists have never had a very good press even (and that was before the phone-hacking scandal which has seen some dodgy practices by a small number of individuals and organisations further besmirch the integrity of the majority of straight and decent journalists) whether a TV audience would have much empathy with the trials and tribulations of a local paper man is far from certain, even with someone as likeable as the late great Kevin Lloyd playing him.
Colin, like Kevin Lloyd, died far too young. My condolences to his friends and family.