"Noah's Ark, ITV, Mondays"
by Tina Ogle
When Anna Ford calls you a four-letter word on national radio you
must really know you've arrived. For actor Peter Wingfield,
it was a bizarre experience he only heard about third-hand. Of course
she wasn't referring to him directly, merely to Simon Pemberton,
the dastardly character he played in The Archers for three
years. But the fuss it caused was enormous. "I was getting
phone calls and being asked to do radio interviews about what it
was like to be the most hated man in Britain," says Wingfield,
"it was very strange but I didn't really mind. It's actually
nice to have your work taken that seriously."
Now fans of The Archers will have a chance to see what their
monster looks like, as Wingfield stars in ITV's latest cosy Monday
night drama. Noah's Ark is about father and son vets from
the Malvern Hills, struggling to get on with very different approaches
to their profession. Anton Rodgers and Angela Thorne play the parents
and Wingfield is Tom Kirby, the progressive son who doesn't want
to follow his father's methods. Hands will go up cows bottoms and
sick kittens will be tended to, but there was no time for veterinary
training. The actors relied on watching a real vet at work before
each take and trying to look as natural as possible.
There are parallels in the plot to Wingfield's own life. The son
of a Cardiff medic, Wingfield trained as a doctor for five years.
Always an enthusiastic amateur actor, he had a sudden revelation
before his final exams. "I didn't take them because I realised
I wanted my identity to be that of an actor, not a doctor who acted."
It's a gamble that has paid off. His first job was playing a student
in Medics and he's since appeared in Soldier Soldier,
Martin Chuzzlewitt and a host of other TV and radio projects.
But it is his ongoing role as Methus [sic], the oldest living immortal,
in fantasy series Highlander that has given him international
fame, including an American fan club the handsome actor already
has a calendar dedicated to his image in the USA and taken
him away from Ambridge.
With the series being filmed in Paris and Canada, schedules became
too tight for regular trips back to Pebble Mill. So will Noah's
Ark turn him into Britain's answer to George Clooney? "I
think I'd like that. He seems like a pretty cool guy."