Entertainment & Arts

Profile: John Nettles

John Nettles in Bergerac
Image caption Bergerac made Jersey a desirable tourist destination

John Nettles, who has been appointed an OBE for services to drama, will always be associated with the character of Detective Sgt Jim Bergerac, an officer based on Jersey, whose family always seemed to have some sort of link to the crime he was investigating.

Born in 1943, he was adopted as baby and brought up in St Austell, Cornwall.

His thirst for acting began while he was a history and philosophy student at Southampton University.

He has had two stints at the Royal Shakespeare Company, appearing in productions of The Winter's Tale and Anthony and Cleopatra.

But he will be forever associated with Bergerac and Midsomer Murders, series where crime seems to gravitate towards him.

Bergerac was set in Jersey, and although the island provided an idyllic setting for the BBC drama, as Bergerac drove around its lush landscapes in a 1947 Triumph Roadster, it often dealt with darker issues, including the lead character's alcoholism.

Reluctant heartthrob

Bergerac was a boon to tourism on the Channel Islands, and Nettles even wrote books on the region, including Bergerac's Jersey and John Nettles' Jersey.

At the peak of the show's popularity, its star became a reluctant heartthrob - with the News Of The World running the headline "All The Girls Want To Grasp Nettles".

His female fans send letters that can be "eye-watering in their detail," he told the Daily Mail earlier this year.

"I have one particularly excitable correspondent, in Norway, whose letters have become fruitier as the years have gone by," he noted.

Bergerac ran from 1981 to 1991, after which Nettles rejoined the Royal Shakespeare Company, and took one-off roles in series including Boon and Heartbeat.

Image caption Midsomer Murders started in 1997

He also published the semi-autobiographical book, Nudity In A Public Place, which talked with dry wit about his status as a "mini-celebrity".

In the 1990s he was approached about appearing in another detective series, this time based on the Inspector Barnaby novels by Caroline Graham.

It was set in and around the fictional county of Midsomer (Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire provided the real-life locations) which on the outside gave the appearance of being a quintessentially English region, but harboured a seemingly endless string of gruesome killings.

Midsomer Murders, which began in 1997, has been a huge hit for ITV, and has sold around the world.

Nettles recently announced he was quitting as Detective Chief Inspector Tom Barnaby at the end of 2010. However, the series will continue without him. Neil Dudgeon will step into the lead role as Tom Barnaby's cousin, DCI John Barnaby.

When he finishes the Midsomer tenure, Nettles will have chalked up 75 episodes.

"I never thought when we were filming the pilot, The Killings at Badger's Drift, in 1996 that I would go on to film so many episodes," he said.

"I looked at David Jason when he said he was quitting A Touch Of Frost and I realised that with him giving up the mantle, I would be the oldest detective in the business. My final episode will be the 82nd. That's enough for anyone.

"It has been a joy to be involved in such a long-running series, with so many good actors and great storylines."

Nettles now lives in Evesham, Worcestershire, with his second wife, Cathryn Sealey. He has a daughter, Emma, from his first marriage.

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