Episodes returns for second series on BBC Two

Michael Brandon plays Elliot Salad

Michael Brandon’s career has spanned both sides of the Atlantic, so he is well aware of how brutal the US TV system can be – which is one of the reasons he has chosen to work so much in the UK.

So it’s ironic that he is playing Merc’s boss, Elliot Salad, the network corporate head and the most powerful of the hatchet men.

He says: “Working in the UK, I find the money might be less, but the respect is more. Some of the scenes in Episodes were so scarily real they gave me goose bumps.”

The last time he went to an audition in front of studio executives, he accidentally ended up sitting in on the studio executives’ discussions about the actress up for the role opposite him.

“She was a big star and we had to beg her to go in front of the network executives to audition. I read through lines with her in front of this room of people and when they asked her to step out they forgot I was in there. It was gruesome. They started to talk about what she would look like in five years time.“

It also gave him a taste of how fickle the system could be. The show was commissioned by one network president, but when he left the one who replaced him rapidly ditched it.

“We had all put so much work and love into that show, but it’s a bitter business.”

Rather than a hard-boiled power-crazed brute, he decided to play Elliot as a fatherly axeman, explaining the realities of Hollywood life as he callously plans to give Merc the sack.

“He comes over from New York when the board decides the ratings are down and Merc has to go. In business terms, he’s out to assassinate him. But he is fatherly about it. He explains it happens to all of us. It’s the circle of life, it’s The Lion King!“

Michael and his wife, fellow Dempsey And Makepeace star Glynis Barber, were both big fans of Episodes when the part of Elliot Salad came up.

“We both loved it. I had been living the opposite of Episodes for so long – the American living over here in a funny place. I first came here to do Dempsey And Makepeace. I thought it was going to be ten episodes and it ended up as three years being watched by 20 million people.

"I had a house with a really good cook and people like Michael Douglas and Al Pacino and Mel Brooks would call up and ask what she was making for dinner, then invite themselves over if they were working here. It was a lot of fun.”

While young children recognise him as the narrator of Thomas The Tank Engine in the US and older kids remember his role in Doctor Who, it’s Dempsey And Makepeace that still gets him the most attention.

He says: “I can’t get into a black cab without the driver going, ‘You’re him, that one with the blonde, whatever happened to her?’ So I just say, ‘I married her’.”