"I used to dress up as a jungle explorer."
— Peter Wingfield, 1997

Wingfield Dr Helm

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Press kit interview
Carlton TV website for Noah's Ark

Tom Kirby's resistance to follow in his father's footsteps in Noah's Ark is an issue close to home for actor Peter Wingfield.

"When I first read the scripts I immediately saw the parallel between Tom and myself. Tom is tense and ill at ease because of this growing expectation that he will take over the practice from his dad just as Noah had done from his father.

"I can totally relate to that because I started out training as a doctor just as my father had done but I always knew I wanted to act. I was about four weeks away from taking my finals when I decided to leave."

Peter spent more than five years training as a doctor at Brasenose College, Oxford and St. Bartholomew's Hospital Medical College.

Says Peter: "I'd started out with the idea that I would qualify as a doctor and then I would always have something to fall back on. But as it got nearer to the finals I felt if I took the exams I would always be a doctor who 'acted' rather than an actor. So it became important for me not to qualify so that I wouldn't have that option.

"It was a big deal stepping off that planned route and they were tough times. My family and friends were split right down the middle. Half of them felt it was an incredibly brave and exciting decision and the other side just didn't speak to me. My mum had seen it coming for years so she wasn't that surprised and immediately gave me lots of practical support. My father was in the not speaking camp and we remained that way for about two years."

"My father never put actual pressure on me to be a doctor but I was aware of how much he loved doing it and there was just an expectancy there. I think he came around when I got my first TV role and he is now of the opinion that it was the right thing for me to do.

"The difference between the dilemma I found myself in and Tom's situation is that he does genuinely want to follow the same career as his father.

"Tom recognises that for all the frustration he feels with his father's way of practising veterinary medicine, Noah is fulfilled. The crux of the dilemma is that Noah wants his son to be part of the practice but doesn't want him to change anything and Tom wants to be part of the practice but not on those terms.

"Tom's uptightness disguises the fact that he is actually very caring and committed and doesn't want to settle for second best in anything. I think he would like to be emotionally open but he has been dominated by this powerfully emotional father. His reaction to that is to close off and put the barriers up."

Peter was so keen on the role of Tom that he "forgot" to mention his allergy to animals at his audition!

Says Peter : "I am an animal lover but I'm actually allergic to them. I've had asthma for years and cats, dogs, horses, cows, and hay can all start me off. Fortunately my asthma medication kept the symptoms at bay during filming and after working such a lot around animals I think I'm starting to become less allergic to them which would be fantastic news."

Brought up in Cardiff, Peter first developed an interest in acting with the National Youth Theatre in Wales. After quitting his medical training, he went to the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

To finance himself through drama school, Peter worked as a despatch rider in London and also as a children's entertainer.

"I was called Charlie Penknife and I used to dress up as a jungle explorer. If you can keep a roomful of kids entertained for an hour and come out unscathed I reckon you could tackle most jobs in the business. When I first started out I made the mistake of seating the children by the door and after about five minutes the room started to empty. After that I always put myself between the kids and any escape routes!"

Ironically the first TV role that Peter secured was playing a medical student in two series of Medics. Since then he has worked extensively on TV as well as playing the hated Simon Pemberton in The Archers on Radio 4.

For the past two years, he has been playing Methos, the world's oldest man, in the cult American series Highlander. The series is shot in Vancouver and Paris and Peter spends about six months a year working on it. He is due to return to Vancouver later this year to start filming a new series.

Says Peter: "I consider myself extremely lucky to have such an opportunity to travel whilst doing a job I love."

Earlier this year, Peter ran the London Marathon in 3 hours 38 seconds and is planning to run in the Chicago Marathon in October.

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