Thursday, 18 November 2010

WHO’S THE DADDY?

Another interview from the archives ... this time an interview with John Jardine from about five years ago:

Mark Llewellin chats exclusively with actor John Jardine

John Jardine will be instantly recognisable to long-standing Coronation Street fans for his portrayal of Randolph Taylor, affectionately known as ‘daddy’ by his wife. They were the parents of Curly’s former girlfriend Kimberley – ‘Daddy’ fond of slinking off, pipe in hand, to the greenhouse where he’d lecture ‘Norman’ on the blissful married life he had ahead of him! Despite it being some 14 years since John left Corrie he is still recognised by fans, including hundreds of Canadian ones who urge him to go into character and perform his most famous line: “That Battenberg cake is just the right side of moist mummy!” But John is now established as a member of the Hollyoaks cast – where he has been reunited with Kimberley’s alter-ego, the actress Suzanne Hall, as his daughter-in-law. “It was a wonderful surprise,” he tells me. “On my first day I was in the Green Room and Suzanne walked through!”

We were sat in the sun-dappled gardens at the Jardine’s pretty home, set at the foot of the beautiful Pennine hills, in his adopted home county of Lancashire. John told me that the charming cottage had been the butler’s accommodation for the adjacent large mill owner’s property and he and his Irish wife Kay have lived there for a number of years.

John was born in Harrow, west London, his parents running the nearby Swan Hotel in Northolt. Although none of the family worked in showbiz his parents were keen theatre-goers and John vividly recalls the weekly outings to either the Harrow Coliseum or the Watford Palace. “I remember gazing up from the car park, up at the back wall of the theatre where the windows of the dressing rooms were, and thinking I’d like to be inside there – maybe that’s where it came from.” But his parents were horrified when he later announced his hopes of becoming an actor. “I had an A level in religious studies and they rather harboured a hope that I’d go into the clergy so years later when I was playing the Archbishop of Canterbury I had a picture taken in the full robes and sent it home with a note saying ‘I got the top job!’,” he chortles.

Whatever his parents hope, he ended up in the RAF, with who he served until 1955. It was during this time that John got his first experience on the stage, taking part in shows and plays for the services – and he proudly showed me an award he won for his work. “My Oscar,” he beams. Aged 21 he left the RAF and needed work and although he did try to break into acting he ended up working in an outfitters in Harrow. “I was very good at the selling but I couldn’t wrap the clothes and as we were all on commission my colleagues weren’t best pleased that they had to wrap all my sales for me.” He landed an audition for the Central School of Speech and Drama, which he passed, but before he could accept the place someone advised him that he would be better off getting experience working in repertory theatre. So, he wrote off to, and got a contract with, the Harry Hanson Court Players in Swansea.

It was a time John confesses to having enjoyed greatly – appearing in some productions, working backstage on others, and some weeks, doing both. From Swansea he moved to Leeds (where the leading man was Leonard Pearce, now remembered as Granddad in Only Fools and Horses), which is where he first met Kay: “We met in a darkened room,” he says. Kay was a friend of his landlady and in the days when people watched television in the dark, he returned home to find the ladies watching the box. They were married in 1959. John continued to work in rep theatres all over the country and eventually he, Kay and son Terry found themselves residing in York. Then John landed parts in two plays in Oldham.

In those days – until just a few years ago in fact – Oldham Coliseum was widely regarded as a repertory theatre of distinction and one at which many household names began their careers. “I went, leaving the family in York, to do these plays and there seemed a possibility of more but I went to Carl Paulsen who ran it and told him that I’d have to have a proper contract because we’d all have to move to Oldham,” John told me. “It seems that he told his second in command that he wanted me to stay because I learnt the lines. So we all moved down.”

John found himself appearing in a different play every week and playing to packed houses. “Oldham audiences were very loyal and we got a bit spoilt there.” Comedy is John’s favourite medium and he recalls working with several co-stars who would go onto to join the Corrie cast – Peter Dudley (Bert Tilsley), Barbara Knox (Rita), Roy Barraclough (Alec) and many more. When John took over running Oldham in the early 70s he invited many of them back to star in his productions. After Oldham he joined the Library Theatre in Manchester under the direction of David Scase who also played Corrie’s Dr Lowther (the man Hilda Ogden left to look after).

But John isn’t only known for his theatre work of course – in the early 70s he was cast as the court foreman in the long-running daytime drama Crown Court. “It was wonderful because they filmed it at Granada in Manchester and you finished by 5pm so I could rush back to Oldham and appear on stage at night. I did that for a few years.” Being at Granada he was also able to make an impression on the Corrie casting directors and he landed a few Weatherfield roles over the years. “I think I’ve played four different people – I was Martin Platt’s dad, a press photographer, a solicitor. Then in 1990 John Stevenson created the Taylors and Marlene Sideway and I were cast. They were wonderful parts – I really enjoyed playing ‘Randy’ as Vera called him.”

Since the Taylor’s left in 1992 he’s appeared in shows including A Bit of a Do, Last of the Summer Wine (he jousted with Bill Owen’s Compo whilst the pair were dressed in full armour on bicycles: “It was so hot we literally roasted!” and he recently appeared as a supermarket manager), Brazen Hussies with Julie Walters, and the cult comedy The League of Gentlemen. One role which he is particularly proud of is in the series The Courtroom, made by Mersey TV: “It was a more modern take on Crown Court and I was asked to play a man accused of murder. He had carried out a mercy killing on his terminally ill wife, she’d asked him to do it.” Then last year he was offered the role of Grandpa Bill in the soap Hollyoaks. A new family, the Ashworths, had been created and the idea was that they had a granddad in a retirement home who they would go and visit – in fact, John’s portrayal was so funny that he’s now left the home and he’s moved in with the family (his son is played by former Emmerdale actor Jim Melia and his daughter-in-law by Suzanne Hall). “It’s a teenage soap and one of the lads playing my grandsons said to me on the first day: ‘We’ve never had anyone as old as you in this before!’”

“I’m enjoying doing Hollyoaks – and the new producer Bryan Kirkwood asks me to do Daddy’s ‘moist’ line every time I see him – so I’m hoping to be in the show for a while. I’ve just completed by second stint and I’m hoping to be back in towards the end of the summer. Other than that, as all actors know, you just wait and see what comes along……we’re well used to it in this family – my son Terry is a director of Autograph Sound who do the audio side of lots of big West End and international musicals and one of my two grandsons has already done a long stint in Les Miserables in the West End.”

Text and picture: The Author

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