John Thaw, the star of ABC-TV’s “Redcap” series, established himself rapidly as a top television personality. His role of Sergeant Mann of the Special Investigation Branch of the Royal Military Police won him a large slice of fame.
From Television Stars 1966, published by Purnell
Like many young men of school-leaving age, John did not have the slightest idea what he wanted to do for a living. Then one day, this son of a lorry-driver took a job as a porter at a fruit-market on the suggestion of a friend.
“For three months,” he said, “I slogged away between four in the morning and two in the afternoon doing jobs like piling sacks of potatoes one on top of another.”
After getting rather bored and tired doing this sort of thing, he decided to become a baker’s apprentice. He stayed at this job for two months before making up his mind that he would like to become an actor.
Having an intense and keen interest in dramatics, he was encouraged by the elocution teachers with whom he was studying to further his drama work at a local youth club in Burnage, Manchester.
The next giant step he took was the trip to London and to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. He confesses that his first term there was somewhat of a disaster in that he found it difficult to grasp the things that were being taught. He says he flopped in the end of term exams, and went home to Burnage feeling very unhappy. But the next term at RADA was more successful. He went on to give a prize-winning repertory season at Liverpool between July, 1960, and January, 1961.
The next step was television, when he was invited to appear in a season of Granada’s “Younger Generation” series, and in an exciting role in the TV version of “Sergeant Musgrave’s Dance”. From then on the acting career of John Thaw was never in doubt. One role followed another. He appeared at the Royal Court Theatre in “The Fire Raisers”, in the film The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, which starred Tom Courtenay, a former flat mate of his, at the Arts Theatre in “Women, Beware Women”, and so on.
He was chosen to understudy Sir Laurence Olivier in the West End production of “Semi-Detached”. He also played the part. Working alongside Olivier, proved an invaluable experience for him.
After this came four appearances in “Z Cars”, which was then followed by three months repertory work in Dundee, and by roles in TV plays, including one in “The Avengers”.
“It was through that role in ‘The Avengers’ — the former series, with Cathy Gale, who was involved in a plot to put her on the throne of Britain — that I was noticed by ABC, who were looking for an actor to play Sergeant Mann in ‘Redcap’.”
Just before he started work on the series John, who had married actress Sally Alexander, spent a one-week honeymoon in Corsica. After this he got down to the part which has made him popular throughout the country.
He says his greatest weakness is that he worries about everything. But one thing he need have no worries about — is his future in television.