Interviews

Interview: Annette Andre – Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased)

In Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) Annette Andre starred as Jeannie Hopkirk the widow of Marty Hopkirk (Kenneth Cope) who worked alongside her late husband’s partner Jeff Randall (Mike Pratt). Their three-way dynamic captured audiences all over the world in a show that remains popular to this day. This was not all that Annette was known for though! She has appeared on the big and small screen in a wide variety of roles and seems to have been involved in a number of key moments of cult film and television. Annette recently took the time to sit down with Cult Faction’s Brett Summers to discuss her career…

Q: Growing up in Australia, did you always want to be a performer?

A.  Yes I did, once I started in ballet I realized very early on that I wanted to be in the theatre.

 Q: As a dancer and singer, were you drawn to theatre and television or was it something that just happened naturally?

A:  From the moment I started ballet I think I was destined to make a career in show business. When I gave up ballet it was the most natural thing to simply take a different road, and acting was the obvious choice.

 Q: Your first appearance on screen was as Anna in 1958’s “If it’s a Rose,” how did you feel having a lead role in your very first appearance? Was there any pressure on you, especially as it was broadcast live?

A:  Actually it wasn’t my first role on screen as I’d done a couple of appearances in an afternoon series, but “If It’s A Rose” was my first lead in a TV drama.  I suppose there was quite a bit of pressure as TV drama was only just beginning in Australia then. But of course I was very young and with my lack of experience in that medium I didn’t realize how many things can go wrong on live television. I soon found out!

Q: The following year you played Isabella in “Wuthering Heights” in another live broadcast. Was it more challenging acting in such a well-known novel? Was there anything you approached differently in preparing for this live broadcast?

A:  Wuthering Heights is, of course, one of the classics and it certainly was much more challenging. By the time I did this I’d had more experience so I certainly prepared for the role much more seriously. And, it was such a joy to work on a more prestigious production.

Q: In 1960 you became a series regular on “Stormy Petrel”, which was the story of Mutiny On The Bounty’s William Bligh. How did this differ from your previous experience up to this point in your career?

A:  I have to admit that I have very little remembrance of this production. Of course I remember the series to a certain degree, I remember the costumes, a few of the actors, but not a great deal else. Obviously, as it was my first series then the experience of doing that was somewhat different to a one-off drama.

Q: Further appearances came in The Slaughter of St Theresa’s Day, The Merchant of Venice, Martine, Consider Your Verdict, Boy Round the Corner, and Whiplash. You were building up a varied selection of TV movies and shows. Did you have a preference at this point? Were there any differences between acting in a movie compared to a tv show?

A:  I have no cut and dried answer to this question. Each production was a completely different experience. “The Slaughter of St.Theresa’s Day” was a very emotional drama and my role was possibly the most demanding  I’d had up to that point. Then “The Merchant of Venice” was an equally, if not more, exacting production. That was my first Shakespearean role and I think made me more nervous. I suppose I felt I had something to prove. All of these were television dramas.  “Whiplash” was my first experience in a filmed series. There is a definite difference between performing in a television studio and on a movie set. I have to say that I prefer movie to television. TV is a more technical medium.

Q: In 1963 you appeared in the Our Man at St. Mark’s episode “Holier Than Thou” alongside Leslie Phillips, Joan Hickson and Edith MacArthur. Had you moved to the UK at this point? What were you experiences like working on that episode?

A:  Yes, I was living in London and I think this followed shortly after a run in the theatre production of  “Vanity Fair.” I really did enjoy this episode, how could I not when working with Leslie Phillips and Joan Hickson. In fact I became quite friendly with Leslie and his then girlfriend, Caroline Mortimer.  Julian Holloway, was working on that show too and I have just recently caught up with him again at a memorabilia show in Birmingham. That’s one of the things I love about show business when you work with people, become friends, then lose touch with them because we are all off working on different shows, in different places and then, quite often meeting up with them again years later, and resuming that friendship seamlessly.

Q: You followed this up quickly with an episode of The Sentimental Agent called Finishing School where you appeared with Burt Kwouk, John Turner, Helen Cherry and a host of others. How did you find your experience on that show?

A:  I have no idea. I remember working with John, I worked with Burt Kwouk several times, but of that episode my memory fails me.

Q: You next appeared in the now sadly lost Emerald Soup as Penny Dalton. It has been said that this show should have a higher ranking in British science fiction tv but due to its episodes being lost has sadly been forgotten. Could you refresh us on what it was about and your experiences working on it?

A:  “Emerald Soup” was done much earlier on, I think in 1963, and possibly even before “Our Man at St. Marks,” so forgive me and my memory it’s a little too far back. Of the story itself I have almost no memory, and I don’t think I even saw more than a couple of episodes. What I do remember is that it was an eight part series, we rehearsed each episode in London during the week then went to Birmingham for two days to record it.  It was a super cast with the actor William Dexter and and the three kids, Janina Faye, Greg Phillips & Karl Lanchbury, who were wonderful.

Brett, if you ever come across that series I beg you to please send me a copy.

Q: Then came The Avengers! What was it like appeared with Patrick Macnee and Honor Blackman?

A:  Well this I do remember, because I loved working with Patrick. I have since seen the episode and I could see how well we worked together. My scenes were only with Patrick. Unfortunately I never did get the opportunity to work with Honor as well.

 Q: Was the show as a big a deal at that time compared to how it is viewed now?

A:  I think it was considered quite big because it was so different for that time. For a woman to have such an active role was out of keeping with the norm. But over the years it has become far bigger than anyone back then could have imagined. I don’t think  anyone of us who were involved in some of those series could foresee the future for this Golden Age of British TV.

Q: In the episode you were in “Mandrake” there is a story about Honor Blackman and the wrestler Jackie Pallo who also appeared. Apparently during their fight scene in a graveyard which was done in one take, Blackman inadvertently kicked Pallo in the face much too hard and pushed him into an open grave. Pallo then lay actually unconscious for several minutes before anyone realised. The incident can be seen at 13:12 in the video above.

A:  I believe I heard about that, but of course, I wasn’t there.  However I did work with Jackie Pallo at a later date, it may even have  been in Randall & Hopkirk. It was an interesting experience when Jackie proceeded to tell me how pro wrestling worked. I shall not elaborate on that at this moment.

 

Q: Over the next few years it looked like you didn’t have time to sit down, racking up appearances across the UK television market from Emergency Ward 10, Crossroads, the Mill on the Floss, and Adam Adamant Lives. You seemed to appear in such a wide range of roles and shows. Was this intentional on your part?

A:  No, of course not, we, normally as actors, do not have the privilege of choosing our roles. We rely on agents, casting directors and which parts are available. Certainly back then the aim was to simply “keep working!”

 

Q: Do any particular roles stand out for you at that time?

A:  Yes, not so much for the part but for the make up and a particular situation. It was in “Emergency Ward 10” I was playing the role of a burn victim. I had to have scaly make up applied to look like flaking skin. Not my most attractive appearance. The situation occurred in an episode where the recording equipment had broken down and we had to do that episode ‘live’. It had been several years since I’d done ‘live’ drama. I had to be lying on a hospital bed on my stomach and I was shaking so much with nerves that the bed was creaking with every shake. After a couple of minutes I was able to control the nerves and perform as rehearsed. Naturally, it caused some hilarity among my co-actors.

Q: You had a number of appearances on The Saint between 1964 and 1967. What was it like working with Roger Moore? What was it like returning each time?

A.  I think The Saint went up to 1968 , I can’t remember, anyway I made five episodes , more than any other guest actress, & each time was new experience but always we had such fun.  That was the main thing really, that Roger was a great friend, a lovely man and a generous co-actor.  We both loved to laugh & there were lots of those when working with Roger.  Then, of course, in ’71 I did “The Persuaders” with him & Tony Curtis.  Two totally different types of actors, Roger with his  charm and humour, & Tony who was very serious.

Q: You appeared as Samantha Ballard in The Baron episode “Roundabout”where in a famous scene you educated The Baron on French customs. Do you have any memories from working on that episode?

A:  I remember very little, except when I had a scene climbing through a skylight built in the studio, & the wooden sill had been left unfinished & I ended with my arse full of splinters.  It was very painful, but I ‘bravely’ finished the scene., with Steve Forrest not knowing why I was looking a bit uncomfortable ! 

Q: That same year you played the Watchmaker’s Daughter in The Prisoner episode It’s Your Funeral. Did you ever find out what the show was about? What was it like working with Patrick McGoohan?

A:  Oh no!  I never found out what it was all about.  I asked some of the actors & they didn’t know either.  In fact, it’s only in the last two years that I finally worked out what it did mean.  Patrick was no help, he expected you to know exactly what it meant and would never discuss it with you anyway.  I found him almost impossible to work with, cold, detached & prone to rages.  I didn’t enjoy working on that at all.

Q: Then came what some would say is your most famous role – the role of Jeannie Hopkirk in Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased). How did that role come about?

A:  R&H happened with a phone call from my agent when I was on location filming  “The Detective”.  I wasn’t sure I wanted to do a series, so I said I’d think about it.  But then I heard that Mike Pratt was doing it & I’d worked with him twice before & liked him very much, so that made my decision.

Q: How was your first meeting with Mike Pratt and Kenneth Cope?

A:  As I said I already knew Mike, but not Ken.  From the first moment I was instantly welcomed by both the actors & it became one of the happiest companies I’d worked with.

Q: How did you find working a three-way dynamic throughout the episodes?

A:  The three of us worked together extremely well from day one.  And it proceeded to get even better as time went on.  Mike & Ken were instrumental in making my character “Jeannie” bigger & more interesting, & the creator, Dennis Spooner , who liked my work, was very helpful.  In those days women in a series were usually just “dressing” not integrated into the story lines, but my role did become much more interesting.

Q: In the episode “The House on Haunted Hill” your character Jeannie was replaced by her sister Jennifer (played by Judith Arthy). Where were you for that episode? Also, was it ever discussed that Jennifer might appear again in the future?

A:  Judith came into it because I became ill suddenly & was off for at least a week or more, ( I go into this in some detail in my memoir “Where Have I Been All My Life?) so they needed a fill-in & obviously had a story line in hand about my having a sister.  I don’t recall if her appearance was ever discussed again, but I’m sure the character was a good stand-by. 

Q: A lot of the guest cast of Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) – such as Peter Vaughn, Juliet Harmer, Brian Blessed, Bernard Kay, Nicholas Courtney, Roger Delgado, Andrew Sachs, David Jason, Terrence Plummer, and Michael Sheard – would all go on to stardom. Was there anyone you appeared with in the show who really stuck out to you at the time?

A:  Peter Vaughan I worked with many times, and I remember Brian Blessed, Nicholas Courtney, David Jason, but it’s hard to keep track of the actors when you go from one episode to the next repeatedly for over a year.  

Q: What are your favourite memories from working on the show?

A:  I’m asked this question always but there were so many instances which were memorable, sometimes happy, sometimes sad, etc. When you work on a series you’re doing the current episode, plus sometimes having to re-shoot some footage from a previous one, and also there were scenes with the second unit out on location for a forthcoming episode.  So memories get quite confused, & I’m left with maybe two or three which have stayed with me.  I remember that Ken, Mike & I would sometimes stay late at the studio & work on the script.  We were always trying to add ideas, particularly more comedy & then we’d talk to Dennis Spooner about them & quite often he’d allow us to use them. When we’d be shooting on location & it was cold, our caravan had no heating until one day, we got really upset about it & said we wouldn’t work until we were warm.  A heater appeared magically quite quickly then.  There’s a lot more detail in the memoir.

Q: What did you think of the Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) remake in 2000 with Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer? Did they ever reach out to you about appearing?

A:  “Reaching out” didn’t happen then, they would simply ask, and No! I wasn’t asked, thankfully.  I thought it a sad attempt.  They should never have done it.

Q: Why do you think Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) remains popular today across the world? Have you heard anything about the fact that a movie may be in development?

A:  I believe it remains popular, mostly because it had comedy mixed in with the drama.  It was a different concept to have a ghost partner in an actual detective series.  There was a modicum of fighting & the odd gun appeared, we got tied-up from time to time but it was not violent.  That’s what the fans seem to love about it.  Also, I get many great comments about the clothes I wore.  I had worked with Laura Nightingale, the wardrobe mistress, in other productions so she & I had a good rapport.  I got to choose most of my wardrobe & I was lucky that I had two designer companies who supplied many of my costumes.

Q: In 1971 you were reunited with Roger Moore in The Persuaders episode Powerswitch. How was that for you?

A: It was wonderful, we filmed in Nice in South of France.  But I mentioned this movie earlier on, and again there’s considerably more detail about Tony Curtis in the memoir.

Q: You have the distinction of appearing in The New Avengers and The Return of the Saint. Two follow up shows to now legendary TV shows. How did you find appearing in each? What was the same/different? Do you think they measured up?

A:  “The New Avengers” was not the same as working on the original one.  I don’t think the new series worked as well as the originals.  Same really, with the “Return of the Saint,” but I knew Ian Ogilvie & I’d worked with Ian Hendry and liked both of them, so I enjoyed doing that.

Q: In 1984 you brought the character of Camilla Wells into Wentworth Prison in Prisoner: Cell Block H. She was a radio talk show hostess jailed for not paying a parking fine. How did this role come about?

A:  I went to Australia with my daughter, Anouska, to visit my family and was offered quite a lot of work.   “Cell Block H”  was offered to me just before we returned home to London.

Q: Wells upset a lot of the other women telling them they were in prison and shouldn’t expect any better treatment, but she later makes up for it when she tricks the officers into letting her phone her own talk show to tell the world Mo Maguire’s story. She later helps Mo by giving her a job and a place to live. How much say did you have in the character’s development?

A:  I had no say in it whatsoever.  I’d have liked to but I wasn’t given the opportunity. 

Q: How did it feel playing such a hated character in the premise of the show initially?

A:  It didn’t worry me at all, I was playing that character, & it didn’t affect anything off-screen. But  I really disliked working in that show, not the actors, it was the oppressive atmosphere.  The set was built as a prison, drab walls & drab clothing, & there was a definite sense of punishment and grimness. Even when you were on a break having coffee in the greenroom there was no feeling of lightness or humor.  Working constantly in that atmosphere actors tend to respond to their surroundings. I certainly did!  I really think that the actors who worked regularly on that show must have been affected. I found during the times I was not working and had the opportunity to chat with some of the cast that it lacked the normal camaraderie that happens between artists.

Q: Wells lived on after her release (and when you left the show). She is mentioned by several prisoners in storylines where they want things leaked to the press. For instance, Judy Bryant tries to phone her and Joan Ferguson’s appointment as Deputy Governor is blocked by Wells writing about her in a newspaper column. What was it like playing a character that left a legacy in the show?

A:  I have no idea. Thank you for telling me that I had a legacy, I certainly had no idea about that. In fact, I have never seen the episodes. If you have a copy could you send one to me?

Q: I know that you are now described as semi-retired from acting and have become heavily involved with Animal Welfare. Could you tell us a bit about that?

A:  I have no idea where this ‘semi-retired from acting’ began. I am not retired, and probably never will be. I’m not currently working and haven’t for sometime because my husband and I have been living in upstate New York and now in Southern California, a bit out- of- the- loop!  But any opportunity for work I’m up for it !  In fact, I did a short film in London a couple of years ago, & for the last two years I’ve twice appeared at the Museum of Comedy in London.  Animal Welfare did take up my time for a number of years working as a hands-on volunteer with The Born Free Foundation in England & the Amanda Foundation in LA.  I still support  animal welfare as much as possible.

Q: You recently completed your life story in the book “Where Have I Been All My Life?” How did that come about? What was it like writing it? Where can we get a copy?

A:  Yes I did recently complete my memoir after many years of thinking about it. At first I intended it just as a journal for my daughter and her family but it gradually grew into a real book. Luckily over the years I had saved a large amount of magazine articles, programmes, photographs and memorabilia which induced my memories. Actually writing it was very hard work. The most difficult was deciding what pieces of my life I should put into the book and what should be left out. You naturally feel that everything should go in but of course, that would lead to a very boring memoir. And there were memories where I struggled to decide if I should tell that particular story. I started the book with the intention of honesty and I stuck to that throughout. One of the biggest headaches was keeping the stories reasonably short and to the point. I have a habit of wanting to put in too many of the little details so my editor was always saying “You don’t need that, just cut to the chase!”

The book is published and is easy to buy directly from the publisher HERE.

But also from any UK bookstore, Amazon, or eBay UK

And I’m happy to say if you go to my website HERE. There are some very favourable reviews.  Including one calling it “The showbiz memoir of the year.”

Q: For someone who has been involved in so many iconic moments of cult television what would you say is your most memorable?

A:  Naturally I have to say “Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased)”; “The Avengers” and “The Prisoner.” “The Prisoner” because, although I didn’t enjoy working on it I think I gave a very good performance, probably due to my dislike of Patrick.  But in retrospect, I’ve come to think of the two intense scenes I did with Richard Harris in the TV film “Maigret” as an example of my best TV performance.

Q: Where can fans keep up with what you are up to?

A:   You can keep with me by going to my website & to my Facebook page 

 

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