As fans of Inspector Morse will know, Liz Kettle played a WPC in five episodes: Last Seen Wearing (episode 5), The Settling of the Sun (episode 6), The Sins of the Father (episode 13), Second Time Around (episode 16) Happy Families (episode 22).
I wrote to Liz and she very generously agreed to answer my questions. I hope I have asked some questions that you, the fans, would have asked yourself.
1 – What was it like working with John Thaw?
WORKING WITH JOHN THAW WAS A JOY,ALBEIT SOMEWHAT NERVEWRACKING AT FIRST AS HIS RESERVE COULD BE MISTAKEN FOR A SORT OF DISAPPROVAL AND COULD FEEL QUITE INTIMIDATING – BUT I LIKED HIM ENORMOUSLY – HIS DRY FORMALITY AND WRY SMILE WERE VERY APPEALING TO ME.
2 – Was there any difference to working on a scene with John Thaw and Kevin Whately?
WITH JOHN I MADE SURE I KNEW MY LINES, PAID ATTENTION, AND WAS FULLY PREPARED – I’D GOT THE FEELING HE DIDN’T SUFFER FOOLS GLADLY.
WITH KEVIN I COULD HAVE MORE OF A CASUAL PASSING-THE-TIME-OF-DAY CHIT CHAT, WE COULD IMPROVISE A LITTLE, AND I DIDN’T MIND MAKING SUGGESTIONS.
WITH JOHN, WHO WAS SO COMMANDING, I STUCK TO THE SCRIPT AND LET HIM BE THE ONE TO JOKE WITH ME OR THE CREW, WHICH HE DID OFTEN, AND LIT UP THE ROOM WITH HIS JOKES AND HUMOUR.
The Sins of the Father (episode 13),
3 – Did you have to audition for the part of the WPC and if you did what did that involve?
I THINK MY FIRST CASTING WAS WITH MICHELLE GUISH,(who later cast me as Natalie Cochrane in THE TV FILM The Murder of Princess Diana in 2007) – THERE WERE VERY FEW LINES AS I REMEMBER, BUT WE PROBABLY DID THEM A COUPLE OF TIMES THEN HAD A TALK
4 – Have you watched either of the TV series spin offs, Lewis and Endeavour and if yes what are your thoughts about them?
I USED TO LAUGH ABOUT THE POSSIBILITY OF APPEARING ALONGSIDE KEVIN WHATELY IN LEWIS – IT WOULD HAVE FELT ENTIRELY APPROPRIATE – AND WOULD LOVE TO WORK WITH HIM AGAIN.THE WPC CHARACTER NEVER DID GERT PROMOTED…JOHN USED TO JOKE WITH ME AFTER A WHILE, AROUND MY FIFTH APPEARANCE, THAT I’D HAD THE SAME NUMBER OF STRIPES ON MY UNIFORM SINCE WE’D STARTED AND WHAT WAS GOING ON?….!
5 – Are you surprised about the level of interest that still surrounds the Inspector Morse series?
THE SERIES WAS HIGH QUALITY STUFF, THE DIRECTION, AND PRODUCTION VALUES WERE VERY HIGH, AND EVERYONE GAVE 100% – IT DOESN’T SURPRISE ME IN THE LEAST THAT THE SERIES STILL HAS LEGIONS OF FANS.
6 – Do you remember where you were when you heard about the sad and premature death of John Thaw?
I WAS REHEARSING THE RUSSIAN PLAY ‘PLASTICINE’ WITH DOMONIC COOKE FOR THE ROYAL COURT WHICH OPENED ABOUT THREE WEEKS LATER.
7 – In Morse you are always credited as WPC. In the episode Happy Families, Lewis refers to you twice as Lydia during the scene of the Police Fete. Was this your character’s actual name or was it a joke name Lewis gave to you as you were calling him ‘The Wheelmaster’ during that scene?
HAPPY FAMILIES WAS I THINK THE ONLY EPISODE WHERE THE WPC GOT OUT OF UNIFORM, AND YOU HAD A GLIMPSE OF THE COLLEAGUE/WOMAN/FRIEND/ – LEWIS AND SHE OBVIOUSLY GOT ON, AND THEIR FUNDRAISING OR WHATEVER IT WAS, AND THE LARKING ABOUT WAS NOT UP MORSE’S STREET AT ALL, – I ENJOYED PULLING HIS LEG EVER SO SLIGHTLY ON CAMERA ABOUT THE SCENE.
Happy Families (episode 22).
8 – Was there any reason you didn’t appear in any further episodes after Happy Families other than your character wasn’t written into any further episodes?
I DON’T THINK THE CHARACTER WAS EVER WRITTEN IN AS SUCH, IT WAS JUST A ‘WPC’ AND I GOT TO DO SEVERAL OF THEM. TO ME IT WAS A CHARACTER, BECAUSE I REVISITED THE MORSE SET OFTEN, AND HAD SCENES WITH LEWIS AND MORSE.
I WOULD HAVE HAPPILY GONE ON AND DONE MORE JUST TO WORK WITH THOSE TWO…BUT I GUESS THERE’S A TIME WHEN YOU HOPED THERE’D BE JUST A LITTLE BIT MORE TO SAY AND DO.
9 – In three episodes of the wonderful series Jeeves and Wooster starring of course Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie, you starred as the formidable Honoria Glossop. In the P.G. Wodehouse books Bertie Wooster described her as having a voice “like a lion tamer making some authoritative announcement to one of the troupe” and P.G. Wodehouse described her laugh as “a laugh that sounded like a squadron of cavalry charging across a tin bridge.” Did you take descriptions like this on board when deciding how to play the character?
HONORIA HAS TO HAVE BEEN ONE OF MY FAVOURITE CHARACTERS TO DATE, AND SOME SAY WAS AN OPPORTUNITY TO JUST DEVELOP LATENT CHARACTERISTICS OF MINE TO BE HONEST!!!! LOUD AND WITH A JOYOUS ‘HOORAY’ ABOUT LIFE IN GENERAL IS PROBABLY HOW FRIENDS WOULD DESCRIBE ME ANYWAY! SO YES OF COURSE I TAKE ON BOARD DESCRIPTIONS FROM THE ORIGINAL WODEHOUSE BUT THEN YOU HAVE TO TAKE IT ONE STEP FURTHER TO MAKE IT YOUR OWN FOR CAMERA.
I WOULD HAVE LOVED TO REVIVE J AND W JUST TO SEE THE THREE OF US IN LATER YEARS!
10 – You read History of Art at Essex University. Did you go straight into acting after university or did you first pursue a career utilizing your degree?
I HAD THE FANTASTIC OPPORTUNITY OF SEEING AND EVENTUALLY WORKING FOR NEIL BARTLETT AND THE 1982 THEATRE COMPANY WHILE I WAS STILL AN UNDERGRADUATE , ON CONDENSED SHAKESEARES FOR SCHOOLS AND NATIONAL TOURS, WHERE WE WOULD DEVISE THE PRODUCTIONS AND WORK ON THE CASTING COLLECTIVELY – I GOT TO PLAY CAESAR,CALIBAN,LADY MACBETH, HERMIONE , AND LATER IN MISTERO BUFFO .IT WAS PHYSICAL, ENERGETIC, POLITICAL THEATRE AND AT THE TIME OPENED MANY DOORS.THE DEGREE AND WORKING WITH NEIL RESULTED IN MANY ‘PERFORMANCE’ MOVEMENT/DANCE BASED ‘VISUAL’PRODUCTIONS, WITH THEATRE DE COMPLICITE FOR INSTANCE, AND IT WASN’T UNTIL I MET KATIE MITCHELL THAT MY SENSE OF VISUAL THEATRE MET TEXT HEAD ON.
11 – If you have children would you encourage or discourage them if they wished to pursue an acting career?
I WOULDN’T MIND WHAT THEY DID, AS LONG AS THEY WERE HAPPY THOUGH MY SON GULLIVER HAS A KEEN SENSE OF SLAPSTICK WHICH I’M ASSUMING HE GETS FROM ME! AND SHOULD SEE HIM IN GOOD STEAD FOR LIFE IN GENERA
12 – Personally, I couldn’t stand the uncertainty of an acting career. How did or do you deal with the uncertainty?
I KEEP BUSY.I DEVELOPED A PARALLEL CAREER IN PRODUCTION, FREELANCING FOR THE BBC, WORKING IN RUSSIA, ETHIOPIA, ON SETS, BEHIND THE CAMERA ASSISTANT DIRECTING, OR CHOREOGRAPHING, , CATERING FOR FILM CREWS AND MUSICIANS, WORKING BACKSTAGE, STAGE MANAGING WITH JULIAN CLARY, …THE LIST GOES ON – I DON’T MIND THE UNCERTAINTY – I’VE NEVER HAD TO WAIT TABLES! – THOUGH I HAVE OFTEN WISHED THAT SUCCESSFUL PRODUCTIONS AND PARTNERSHIPS WOULD GO ON AND LEAD TO MORE COLLABORATIONS, RATHER THAN JUST STOPPING AT THE END OF A RUN OR CONTRACT – THE EXPERIENCE OF MY EUROPEAN COLLEAGUES IS A MUCH MORE NUTURING, DEVELOPING ONE, BUT I THINK A LOT OF THAT HAS TO DO WITH INVESTMENT AND FUNDING – IN THE UK ITS TENDED TO BE EVERY PERSON FOR THEMSELVES, AND THE CASTING ADFRIFT AT THE END OF SOMETHING CAN LEAD TO A DIP IN SELF CONFIDENCE, – CERTAINLY THE UNCERTAINTY CAN LEAVE YOU PARALYSED, WAITING AROUND IN CASE YOU MISS SOMETHING – I’VE NOT BEEN A GREAT ONE FOR HANGING AROUND – SO DOING SOMETHING – ANYTHING – HAS USUALLY AT LEAST LED TO UNFORGETTABLE EXPERIENCES, WHILE NOT NECESSARILY FURTHERING THE ACTING CAREER!!!
(Liz Kettle’s reading starts at 4m59s)
13 – John Thaw did and still does have a huge female following. Many men don’t understand why. From playing alongside him did you get any sense of why so many women adore him?
LESS IS MORE MAYBE?
TO SEE IF YOU COULD GET BEYOND THE APPARENTLY GRUFF EXTERIOR ? –
HE WAS A VERY CLEVER, BRIGHT, FUNNY AND UNASSUMING MAN AND THAT CAN BE HUGELY ATTRACTIVE.
I LEARNT AN ENORMOUS AMOUNT FROM HIM.
Last Seen Wearing (episode 5)
14 – Of the three directors you worked with, Peter Hammond, Adrian Shergold and Stephen Whittaker who did you enjoy working with the most?
THEY WERE ALL GREAT
15 – I’ve read elsewhere that John Thaw could be a difficult actor to work with due mainly to his sense of the need for perfection. Did you sense this at all when working alongside him?
ABSOLUTELY, AND HIS ATTITUDE MADE YOU UP YOUR GAME AND DO EVERYTHING TO THE BEST OF YOUR ABILITY- BUT HE WASN’T DIFFICULT IN THE SLIGHTEST – HE JUST DIDN’T MESS AROUND.
16 – Did you watch the Morse series before, during and after you were a part of it?
Second Time Around (episode 16)
17 – In your very first ever scene in the series, episode five ‘Last Seen Wearing’ you are seen handing an envelope to Morse who is out of shot. Was John Thaw and Kevin Whately in the room when your scene was filmed?
18 – In scenes, like that of the episode Sins of the Father, set in the police station was it filmed on location or in a studio?
OOH I CANT REMEMBER – A MIXTURE OF BOTH I THINK
19 – Did you ever work with John Thaw or Kevin Whately outside of the Morse series?
The Settling of the Sun (episode 6)
20 – I read that you were working on a show in 2014 with composer Helen Chadwick and choreographer Stephen Hoggett on war correspondents. How is that progressing?
THAT HAD TO GO AHEAD WITHOUT ME, IN THE END, (DESPITE THE YEARS OF RESEARCHING AND DEVISING IT TOGETHER!) , BECAUSE IT CLASHED WITH THE PRODUCTION OF ‘CATCH 22’ THAT I WAS TOURING WITH PHILIP ARDITTI AND THE NORTHERN STAGE THEATRE CO – BUT HELEN AND I CONTINUE TO SING TOGETHER AND SHE’LL WORK ME INTO THE SHOW IN SOME FORM SOMETIME IN THE FUTURE
I HOPE THESE ANSWERS WERE OK AND USEFUL
ALL THE BEST
A huge thank you to Liz for taking the time to answer my questions. I’m sure, like me, you not only hope her well in the future but that she may yet appear in an episode of Lewis.