John Nettles

John Vivian Drummond Nettles,[2] OBE (born 11 October 1943)[3] is a British actor and writer. Nettles is perhaps best known for playing the lead roles in the long-running television series Bergerac and Midsomer Murders.

John Nettles

Nettles in Hamburg, March 2015
John Vivian Drummond Nettles

(1943-10-11) 11 October 1943[1]
Years active1969–present
TelevisionThe Liver Birds (1972-1976)
Bergerac (1981–1991)
Robin of Sherwood (1985)
Midsomer Murders (1997–2011)
Joyce Nettles
(m. 1966; div. 1979)

Cathryn Sealey
(m. 1995)

Early life

Nettles was born in St Austell, Cornwall, in 1943. His birth mother was an Irish nurse who came to work in Great Britain during the Second World War. He was adopted at birth by carpenter Eric Nettles and his wife Elsie. As a youth he attended St Austell Grammar School.[4][5] In 1962, he studied history and philosophy at the University of Southampton. There he first performed as an actor, and after graduation he joined the Royal Court Theatre.[6]

Acting career

Nettles played Laertes to Tom Courtenay's Hamlet in 1969 at the University Theatre for 69 Theatre Company in Manchester. From 1969 to 1970, he was in repertory at the Northcott Theatre in Exeter, and in the latter year had his first screen role in the film One More Time. The following year he played Dr. Ian Mackenzie in the period drama A Family at War, a role he continued until 1972. Following that he had small parts in many TV programmes including The Liver Birds, Dickens of London, Robin of Sherwood and an episode of Enemy at the Door called "Officers of the Law", first broadcast in March 1978.[7] The latter was set in Guernsey during the Second World War German occupation and Nettles played a police detective ordered to work for the Germans and anguished over the conflict between his duty and collaborating with the enemy. He played fraudster Giles Sutton in ITV's Heartbeat.

In 1981, Nettles won the role that made him a household name in the UK, that of Jim Bergerac in the Jersey-set crime drama Bergerac.[8] This ran for 87 episodes until 1991. Following the end of Bergerac Nettles did five seasons with the Royal Shakespeare Company,[5] appearing in The Winter's Tale, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Julius Caesar, Richard III and The Devil is an Ass.[9] In 1992, he appeared in an episode of Boon, and in 1993 appeared as Jim Bergerac in the spoof police comedy The Detectives.

In 1995, Nettles was approached by Brian True-May to play Tom Barnaby in a new murder mystery series he was to produce called Midsomer Murders.[5] This was to be the second major role of his career, again playing a policeman. Midsomer Murders made him a household name across the world. In 2003, he played Barnaby in the Boxing Day episode of French & Saunders. Nettles appeared in a 2001 episode of Heartbeat. In 2007, he appeared in the BBC Radio 4 comedy series Will Smith Presents the Tao of Bergerac alongside comedian Will Smith about an obsessive fan of the series.

In February 2009, it was announced that Nettles had decided to leave Midsomer Murders after two further series were made.[10] His final appearance on-screen was on 2 February 2011, by which time he had appeared in 81 episodes.[11] About his departure, he commented, "It’s always wise to leave people wanting more, rather than be booed off the stage because you bored them."[12]

In 2016 and 2017, Nettles had a recurring role as Ray Penvenen in the second and third seasons of the popular historical drama Poldark.

Other television work

Nettles narrated the BBC documentary series Airport from 1996 to 2005.

In 1987, Nettles was Raoul (the 4th man) in the Agatha Christie Hour's story The Fourth Man.

In the 90's, Nettle narrated the BBC documentary “X Cars” following Greater Manchester Police's stolen car squad during the height of the UK wide joy riding crime wave.

In early 2010, Nettles wrote, presented and produced a three-part documentary, Channel Islands at War, to mark the 70th anniversary of the German invasion and subsequent occupation of the Channel Islands.[13] He received threatening letters from some residents of Jersey, accusing him of implying that islanders were collaborators. He defended the documentary saying: "There is no possible way you could have avoided collaboration with the occupying power who had power over the civilian population. If you had not toed the line you would have been shot."[14] This view was supported by local historians and members of the Channel Islands Occupation Society.


During the filming of Bergerac, filmed on the island of Jersey, he wrote Bergerac's Jersey (BBC Books, 1988; ISBN 0-563-20703-5), a travel guide to filming locations in the series. He followed up with John Nettles' Jersey: A Personal View of the People and Places (BBC Books, 1992; ISBN 0-563-36318-5) about the island's landscape, personalities and history.

In 1991 he wrote the semi-autobiographical Nudity in a Public Place: Confessions of a Mini Celebrity (Robson Books; ISBN 0-7451-1961-1) about becoming a "reluctant heartthrob" to female viewers of Bergerac. This was re-released as a Kindle version on Amazon in 2014 following the reruns of Bergerac on BBC2 as part of their afternoon nostalgia collection.

In 2012 Nettles wrote Jewels and Jackboots (Hardback ISBN 978-1-905095-38-4) about the German occupation of the Channel Islands. It sold out in a matter of weeks, and was republished in 2013 as a paperback and on Kindle.

Personal life

In 1966, Nettles married his first wife, Joyce. Their daughter, Emma Martins, was born in 1970 and later moved to Jersey together with her father.[15] After they divorced in 1979, Joyce Nettles later became a casting director on 23 episodes of Midsomer Murders. He married his second wife, Cathryn Sealey, in July 1995 in Evesham, Worcestershire.[16]


Nettles was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2010 Birthday Honours.[17] On 21 September 2012 he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Plymouth. He also agreed to be patron of Devon charity The Mare and Foal Sanctuary in July 2014.[18]


  1. "John Nettles – Biography". Retrieved 8 May 2011.
  2. " – UK Company and Company Director Reports". Retrieved 8 May 2011.
  3. "John Nettles Biography". 11 October 1943. Archived from the original on 30 August 2010. Retrieved 8 May 2011.
  4. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 28 March 2015. Retrieved 2015-03-02.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  5. "John Nettles". Archived from the original on 15 April 2009.
  6. "John Nettles".
  7. "Officers of the Law" on IMDb
  8. "Bergerac actor John Nettles given an OBE by the Queen", Daily Telegraph 10 November 2010
  9. "Archive Catalogue – John Nettles". Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. Archived from the original on 28 September 2007.
  10. Holmwood, Leigh (12 February 2009). "John Nettles to quit Midsomer Murders". The Guardian. UK. Retrieved 7 May 2010.
  11. "Nettles to leave Midsomer Murders". BBC News. 12 February 2009.
  12. Morgan, Clive (17 July 2009). "Interview: John Nettles on Midsomer Murders". The Telegraph. UK. Retrieved 21 February 2018.
  13. "Slavery and pain: the Nazis on the Channel Islands". The Telegraph. 21 June 2010.
  14. "John Nettles: I'm Jersey's most famous son but now I am being vilified simply for speaking". Daily Express. UK. 26 November 2010.
  15. Sunday Mirror Feb 21, 1999: Bergerac's fair cop; John Nettles' daughter joins Jersey police, accessed March 17, 2019
  16. "BMD Indexes 1984–2004".
  17. "No. 59446". The London Gazette (Supplement). 12 June 2010. p. 12.
  18. "Midsomer Murders star John Nettles takes on new role". ITV. 22 July 2014. Retrieved 26 August 2014.
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