Waterman has the distinction of being well known to the British
television public, somewhat known in Australia and almost completely
unknown to the North American audience. As a screen character, Waterman,
whether playing in dramatic series or in comedy, is intimately dependent
on a strong partner and in comedy especially mostly acts as a straight
figure to the comic excesses of his partners. When he plays solo
as in a recent feature film, the thriller Circle Of Deceit (1993),
he shows himself to lack colour and charisma.
was born in London in 1947 and became a child actor, appearing in
the feature film Night Train To Inverness (1958) and in a
West End production of the musical The Music Man. In 1961
he landed the title role of William in the children's television
series William, produced by the BBC. This 13 half-hour episode
series was based on the very popular series of childrens' books
by Richmal Crompton, adapted by writer C.E.Webber.
spent the following year in Hollywood working on the CBS situation
comedy Fair Exchange. He was one of four British actors imported
for the series, which concerned two families, one from New York,
one from London, who arranged to swap teenage daughters. Waterman
played a younger boy in the London family who suddenly had to contend
with a teenage American "sister". The series was unusual only because
it had extended the situation comedy format to hour-long episodes.
However it only provoked lukewarm interest and was dropped after
three months. It was briefly revived in half-hour episodes but fared
Waterman's voice broke, his appearance changed and the child actor
faded. In 1976 he landed the role of Detective Sergeant George Carter
in the British police crime series The Sweeney produced by
Thames Television's Euston Films. The Sweeney was premised
on a fictional version of Scotland Yard's Flying Squad, a police
car unit concerned with major crime such as arned robberies and
getaways.(The series title came from Cockney rhyming slang: Sweeney
Todd-The Flying Squad). The Sweeney was the best British
police series of the 1970s. It was well made, carrying excellent
action scenes, good stories and fine acting from leads John Thaw
as Detective Inspector Jack Regan, Waterman as his assistant and
Garfield Morgan as their boss, Detective Chief Inspector Hoskins.
Sweeney offered Waterman not only considerable fame but also
a second career. As a child actor his accent had been middle-class
and he had projected sensitivity and vulnerability. In The Sweeney
he conveyed energy, toughness, and a gritty Cockney sense of how
the world really worked. Although his character was second-fiddle
to John Thaw's Jack Regan, Waterman still managed to infuse Carter
with considerable colour and guts.
career was boosted even further by his next series, the enormously
popular Minder. This series, which introduced the character
of Arthur Daley, a shady London car dealer, and Terry McCann, his
ex-convict bodyguard and partner, has been described as a perfect
blend of dark humour and colourful characterization. Minder was
built around inspired casting in partnering George Cole as Arthur
with Waterman as Terry. Cole was a vetern of British cinema who
had created a memorable forerunner to Arthur Daley in the figure
of the Cockney spiv, Flash Harry, in three very funny St. Trinian
films in the 1950s and 1960s. Drawing partly from the figure of
Carter in The Sweeney, Waterman's Terry was tough and Cockney street-wise.
What was new was the fact that Waterman was playing comic straight-man
as the often hapless Terry who was usually no match for Arthur.
Although Minder was named after the figure of Terry, it was Cole/Arthur
who was the mainstay of the series, a fact underlined by the revival
of Minder in 1991, some six years after Waterman's departure,
with Gary Webster filling the minder role.
1986 Waterman's on-screen woman troubles began with the four hour
miniseries BBC 2's The Life and Loves of a She Devil. A gruesome
black comedy which combined outrageous fantasy with close-to-the-bone
social comment, She Devil was an enormous popular success.
The series concerned an unfaithful husband (Waterman) whose ex-wife,
the figure of the title, wreakes a truly memorable set of punishments
on the by-now hapless male. In portraying Waterman as a womaniser
who is finally unable to control the feminine forces that he had
unleashed, She Devil added an interesting new dimension to
the actor's screen persona.
In 1989 Waterman returned to comedy-drama with the series Stay
Lucky for Yorkshire Television. The title, which referred to
nothing in particular, was somewhat indicative of the series' problems
as a whole. Like The Sweeney and Minder, Stay Lucky
concerned a partnership, although in this instance one that was
romantic as well as professional. Set aboard a houseboat, the series
concerned a set of predictable oppositions between male and female
leads--Waterman as Thomas and Kay Francis as Sally. He was a Cockney,
nuggety, street-wise and realistic; as a Northerner, she was glamorous,
sophisticated and headstrong.
Lucky attempted to mix the comedy of the sexes with the darker
world of London crime and poverty but the mixture did not quite
jell. However the series was at its strongest when it gravitated
to the former theme, with Waterman usualy generating solid comic
exasperation, not at the outrageous schemes of an Arthur Daley,
but at the outlandish stratagems of a willful,attractive woman.
most recent series has been the BBC 1 situation comedy serial, On
The Up. Altogether 18 half-hour episodes were made between 1990
and 1992 and the comedy/drama blend was much more successful. The
series concerned a Cockney self-made millionaire Tony (Waterman)
who is less successful running both his marriage--to a beautiful,
headstrong, upper-class woman--and a household of servants/friends.
Photo courtesy of British Film Institute
WATERMAN. Born in London, England, 24 February 1948. Attended
Corona Stage School. Married 1) Penny (divorced); 2) Patricia Maynard
(divorced); children: Hannah and Julia; 3) Rula Lenska. Stage debut,
at the age of 11, 1959; by the age of 16 had spent a season with
the Royal Shakespeare Company at Stratford-upon-Avon and worked
in Hollywood; star, William series and other productions, 1962;
star, The Sweeney and the Minder series; later appeared mainly in
comedy parts; has also had some success as a singer. Address: ICM,
76 Oxford Street, London W1N 0AX, England.
1962 Fair Exchange
1974-78 The Sweeney
1979-85, 1988-91 Minder
1986 The Life and Loves of a She-Devil
1989-93 Stay Lucky
1990-92 On the Up
1995 Match of the Seventies (presenter)
1996 Circle of Deceit
1985 Minder on the Orient Express
Member of the Wedding
1960 All Summer Long
1982 The World Cup--A Captain's Tale (also co-producer)
of Blood River, 1961; Up the Junction, 1967; My Lover,
My Son, 1969; A Smashing Bird I Used to Know, 1969; A
Promise of Bed, 1969; I Can't... I Can't/Wedding Night,
1969; The Scars of Dracula, 1970; Fright, 1970; Man
in the Wilderness, 1971; Alice's Adventures in Wonderland,
1972; The Belstone Fox, 1973; The Sweeney, 1977; The
Sweeney II, 1978; A Dog's Day Out; Cold Justice;
Could Be So Good for You, 1980; What Are We Gonna get 'er
Indoors, 1983; Down Wind with Angels; Waterman.
Night Train to Inverness; The Music Man; Windy City; Cinderella;
Same Time Next Year.
See also British