Rodney Bewes is not afraid to talk about his most famous role, as snobby Bob Ferris to James Bolam's laddish Terry Collier in the classic BBC comedy series The Likely Lads. ''Anyone who doesn't want to talk about their best-known work deserves a swift kick,'' he told the Daily Record several years ago when asked about Bolam's reluctance to talk about the programme which, at its peak, was watched by 27 million viewers. ''Martin Shaw has the same attitude towards The Professionals. But that doesn't mean he and Jimmy send back the cheques after repeat runs. I bet they don't.''
The man's got a point, you might say, but the truth is, while The Likely Lads served as a launch pad for Bolam's career - his subsequent roles included Jack Ford in When the Boat Comes In, as well as parts in The Beiderbecke Affair and Only When I Laugh - Bewes didn't fare as well.
At the height of his fame in the mid-sixties Bewes was reportedly earning #250,000 a year and drove around in an #80,000 Bentley. When The Likely Lads ended in 1966 he wrote and starred in Dear Mother - Love Albert which was based on his letters home when he was a teenager living
Loading article content
At the prospect of a sequel to The Likely Lads in 1973, Bewes took a break from Dear Mother for two years. When Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads ended in 1975 he produced and presented Basil Brush.
He has done much theatre work since then, recently appearing in a one-man show which he took to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe - an adaptation of Jerome K Jerome's Three Men In A Boat in which he played all the characters. It involved him driving around Britain in an 11-year-old Vauxhall Nova with a coathanger for an aerial, lugging a 24ft boat from venue to venue, and being his own road manager, producer, director, and backstage crew. At the end of the performance he would invite the audience on stage, or maybe have a drink with them in the bar. You can just hear him stealing a phrase from Terry Collier: ''I'm not proud.''
The son of Horace and Bessie Bewes, he was born on November 27, 1937, and although he does a word-perfect impersonation of one, he is not a Geordie.
His father worked in electricity showrooms in Bradford and his mother taught mentally-handicapped people. Bewes was a sickly child who spent most of the first 12 years of his life in bed, suffering from asthma. The theatre fascinated him from a very young age and he would spend endless hours contructing stages out of shoeboxes in between reading Greek tragedies and Dickens to fill the time when he should have been at school. When he was 12 he saw an advert in his father's newspaper for the BBC Children's Hour television plays. He applied, auditioned, and was cast. His asthma diappeared there and then.
He left Bingley, West Yorkshire to go and live alone in London, in a basement flat in Belsize Avenue, when he was 15. He attended Rada and worked nightshift in the kitchens of the Grosvenor Hotel in Park Lane.
He ended up sharing a flat with Tom Courteney and the two were cast in the John Schlesinger film Billy Liar, as well as Saturday Night and Sunday Morning. It was in the latter that he was spotted by Ian La Frenais and Dick Clement for the part of Bob Ferris. ''They picked us and didn't pick anyone else. We weren't on a shortlist,'' he told the Guardian in 1995.
He has been married to Daphne for nearly 30 years and they have four children, including triplet boys.
n Rodney Bewes appears in another episode of Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads? BBC2, 7.30pm