Actor and star of The Professionals.

Born: May 27, 1946 Died: November 27, 2013

LEWIS COLLINS, who has died of cancer in Los Angeles aged 67, was an actor with all the attributes of the archetypal leading man, but who came to be associated in the public mind with one role: that of Bodie in the television action series The Professionals.

Shown on ITV between 1977 and 1983, the series paired Collins, as William Bodie, with Martin Shaw (Ray Doyle) as members of the fictitious CI5, a crime-fighting unit supervised by Cowley, played by Gordon Jackson. Though the programme had an obvious antecedent in The Sweeney, CI5's more ambiguous brief enabled Bodie and Doyle to tackle a wider range of villains than straightforward police procedurals - their targets also included terrorists, spies and assassins.

Similarly, the programme gave the duo licence to employ unorthodox - often downright illegal - methods. It was a rare episode in which the pair did not challenge authority, and unusual for 10 minutes of the show to pass without a gun being drawn.

Another staple of the programme was the car chase, usually featuring the Ford Capri Mark III (both Bodie and Doyle drove one) which had the advantage, for dramatic purposes, that its terrible handling meant it always looked as if it was going much faster than it actually was when cornering.

Lewis Collins was born at Bidston in Birkenhead, the third child of a shipyard worker and part-time musician. Young Lewis put down a marker for his later awards as the Daily Star's Sexiest Man on TV (back-to-back victories in 1983 and 1984) by winning 1948's Most Beautiful Baby in Liverpool contest.

He attended Bidston Primary School and then Grange Secondary Modern, both of which he remembered as rough, but he was not a natural scholar. His childhood enthusiasms were motorcycles, the Scouts, and - usefully for his later roles - shooting, for which he won prizes at his rifle club, and martial arts.

When he was 11, his parents separated, and Lewis stayed with his father, who encouraged him musically by buying him a drum kit (though he had initially hoped his son would become a pianist). Within a couple of years he was playing with his father's dance band, but had also joined Liverpool's embryonic pop music scene, playing with a rock band. He left school at 15, intending to become a musician but, because of his age, had difficulty securing gigs.

Instead, he became an apprentice at André Barnard, a hairdressing salon where he was once called upon to do Helen Shapiro's hair. He worked alongside Mike McCartney, who suggested that Collins audition for the drumming slot in his brother Paul's band, after Pete Best's departure from The Beatles. He declined, preferring to stick with hairdressing.

But the growth of the Merseyside music scene, in which Collins was already very experienced, convinced him to join a band as bass guitarist. Like The Beatles, he headed to Hamburg, though he returned home early, exhausted by the long hours and constant fights in the clubs. He then joined The Mojos, for whom his father was the roadie, and enjoyed modest commercial success. He moved to London in 1965 and enjoyed a year or so as a pop star, but the Merseybeat craze passed, and Collins became disillusioned with music. In 1967 he quit for good and took a series of menial jobs before deciding, almost on a whim, to try his hand at acting.

He was accepted by the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts, where his contemporaries included David Suchet and Patricia Hodge, and graduated in 1971. He went briefly to New York, where he was offered work but - mindful of the brevity of his success as a pop star - concluded that he needed more experience, and returned to Britain, where he joined Chesterfield Rep before moving, the following year, to the Citizens'.

Collins later said his year in Glasgow was amongst the work he most enjoyed. He appeared in several productions, including Ulysses in Troilus and Cressida, for which he won praise, and, as part of the Citz's Close Theatre Group, as Alan Martin, the lead in Marat/Sade, which he described as intense. After accompanying the director Giles Havergal to a summer school in Canada, Collins then headed for the Royal Court in London, making his West End debut in The Farm, by David Storey, in November 1973.

The next year he made his first TV appearance, in an episode of Z-Cars. He had a few more small roles, including a policeman on Crown Court, before he gained wider public notice for his role in The Cuckoo Waltz, a successful sitcom which ran for four series (though Collins left after the third) between 1975 and 1980.

His stage work continued with the Prospect Theatre Company at the Old Vic, and included roles in Derek Jacobi's Hamlet and Christopher Logue and Donald Fraser's musical adaptation of Homer, War Music (1977). Thanks to The Cuckoo Waltz, however, he was now a well-known television actor and appeared in an episode of The New Avengers as a villain, alongside Martin Shaw. The two were said not to have got on particularly well.

Shaw had already been recruited as the world-weary ex-policeman Doyle in The Professionals, which Brian Clemens was developing for LWT. The part of Bodie, a former SAS man, in a startlingly unlikely casting decision, had originally gone to Anthony Andrews, but it was decided that the necessary friction between the leads was missing. Remembering The New Avengers, the producers called in Collins.

Despite their former encounter, Shaw and Collins quickly became good friends, and their on-screen chemistry made the series wildly successful. It ran for 57 episodes, and is still repeated more or less continuously on ITV4.

While it ran, Collins cultivated his action-man persona, working on martial arts and joining the Paras as a reservist; his ambitions to join the SAS branch of the TA were stymied when it was pointed out that he was far too famous. After the show finished, he took the role of an SAS officer in the film Who Dares Wins (1982). The film's producer signed him to a three-picture deal, and there was talk of him taking over the role of James Bond from Roger Moore, but over the next couple of years these prospects fizzled out.

Collins appeared in panto and in a couple of TV programmes, including Robin of Sherwood, and in forgettable action films such as Code Name: Wild Geese (1984) and the following year's Commando Leopard. He startled audiences by playing a gay man on stage in the thriller Deathtrap (initially in Australia), and then in 1988 landed a part in a major US television adaptation of Jack the Ripper, opposite Michael Caine.

He moved to America on the strength of it, but found little other work. He returned to Britain from time to time for small parts in Cluedo (1991-92) and The Bill (2002) but had little other success. He even lost out on the part of Cowley, to Edward Woodward, when The New Professionals was being cast in 1997.

Thereafter, he spent his time in Los Angeles, where he had set up home with his wife Michelle, whom he married in 1992, and their three sons.

He kept active, getting a pilot's licence and parachuting, keeping up his martial arts and shooting. Last year he almost got a part in a historical film about 1066, but it fell through.

He is survived by his wife Michelle and three sons.