John Woodvine

John Woodvine (born 21 July 1929) is an English actor who has appeared in more than 70 theatre productions, as well as a similar number of television and film roles.

John Woodvine
Born (1929-07-21) 21 July 1929
Spouse(s)Lynn Farleigh
Children2 including Mary Woodvine

Early life

Woodvine was born in Tyne Dock, South Shields, County Durham, England, the son of Rose (née Kelly) and John Woodvine.[1] He was educated at Lord Williams's School, Thame, Oxfordshire and trained for the stage at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.


Woodvine worked with the Old Vic company in the 1950s. In 1957, along with Russell Napier, John Carlisle and Edgar Lustgarten, Woodvine appeared in an installment of the Scotland Yard film series ("The Silent Weapon", 1961). Woodvine also had a long career with the Royal Shakespeare Company, having appeared in 1976 opposite Ian McKellen and Judi Dench as Banquo in the acclaimed Trevor Nunn production of Macbeth, which was later recorded for television. He also appeared in the RSC's 1980 landmark production of The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby, starring as the story's primary antagonist, Ralph Nickleby.

Woodvine frequently played police officers from early in his career, including a regular role in the seminal British drama series Z-Cars as Det. Insp. Witty (1968–69) and guest appearances in Softly, Softly in the 1970s. He re-created his role of Inspector Kingdom in the 1970s police drama New Scotland Yard. He is also particularly remembered as the disgruntled former policeman who took the lead character hostage in a 1983 episode of Juliet Bravo. His role as a policeman even extended to playing the traditional village 'bobby', as Constable Tedder in the BBC television adaptation of Arthur Ransome's Big Six and Coot Club. Further, it extended to the comedic police role of Sir Malachi Jellicoe in The New Statesman. In 1969, he appeared as the Manchester cleansing depot inspector, Mr. Sinclair, referred to as "Bloody Delilah" by his subordinates, in first season of The Dustbinmen.

Woodvine played Macduff in the Play of the Month television broadcast of Macbeth on 20 September 1970, Union convenor Les Marrow in series 1 of When the Boat Comes In in 1975, the Marshal in the 1979 Doctor Who serial The Armageddon Factor and Chief Superintendent Ross in Edge of Darkness and appeared in several episodes of the 1985 television adaptation of The Tripods. He also played a memorable role as Prior Mordrin in the 1987 ITV series Knights of God. More recently he played Frank Gallagher's father, Neville, in the Channel 4 offbeat drama Shameless, and PC Tony Stamp's father Norman in The Bill. In 2008, he appeared in the BBC2 comedy Never Better and as Joe Jacobs in the ITV1 soap Emmerdale. In 2010, he appeared as Alan Hoyle in Coronation Street. In December 1987 he played Dr .James Shepherd in "The Murder of Roger Ackroyd", one of a series of Agatha Christie novels broadcast on radio by the BBC. In 2016, he played the role of the Archbishop of York in 4 episodes of the Netflix series The Crown.

His film roles include the 1981 John Landis film An American Werewolf in London (he later re-created his film role for the BBC Radio One adaptation of the film). He also appeared in the Oscar-nominated 1972 Richard Attenborough film Young Winston. Woodvine also starred as "Arthur Birling" in the BBC World Service radio adaptation of An Inspector Calls and as "Dr. Byron Caligari" in the BBC Radio 4 macabre comedy series The Cabaret of Dr Caligari. Most recently, he voiced the role of "Prospero" on 6 May 2012 broadcast of The Tempest on BBC Radio 3.


Woodvine made apprentice appearances with James Cooper's Renegades Theatre Company in Ilford, where he played such parts as the Conjur Man in Dark of the Moon and Claudius in Hamlet (a role he repeated with Prospect Theatre Company). In 1954 he played Caspar Darde in Captain Carvallo on a tour of service establishments.

He joined the Old Vic company in September 1954, 'walking on' in Macbeth. Later in the same season he played Vincentio in The Taming of the Shrew (November 1954); Duke (Senior) in As You Like It (March 1955); Vernon in Part 1 and Lord Chief Justice in Part 2 of Henry IV (April 1955); Flavius in Julius Caesar (September 1955); Rugby in The Merry Wives of Windsor (September 1955); Cleomenes in The Winter's Tale (November 1955); and the Bishop of Ely and Macmorris in Henry V (December 1955).

In 1956 his roles for the company included Roderigo in Othello (February); Calchas in Troilus and Cressida (April); Murderer in Macbeth (May); Tybalt in Romeo and Juliet (June); and Lord Scroop of Berkeley in Richard II (July). These four last-named productions toured, including a three-week season at the Winter Garden Theatre in New York in December 1956 and January 1957. Returning to the company in September 1959, he played Careless in The Double Dealer (William Congreve); Mowbray in Richard II; and Nym in The Merry Wives of Windsor.

Personal life

Woodvine is married to actress Lynn Farleigh. His daughter is the actress Mary Woodvine. On 11 May 2012 Woodvine collapsed offstage during a Grand Theatre, Leeds, performance of the musical Carousel, shortly after his appearance as the Starkeeper. Although the reason for the collapse was unknown, he was admitted to a local hospital. He made a full recovery, and as of November 2013 is appearing in Series 2 of Hebburn.[2]


His roles have included:




  1. "John Woodvine Biography (1929–)". Retrieved 6 June 2009.
  2. "Actor John Woodvine collapses on stage in Leeds". Yorkshire Post. 13 May 2012. Retrieved 13 May 2012.
  • Ian Herbert, Christine Baxter and Robert E. Finlay, ed. (1981). Who's Who in the Theatre (17th ed.). Detroit: Gale. ISBN 978-0-8103-0234-1.
  • The Nicholas Nickleby Story: The making of the RSC production by Leon Rubin, Heinemann, London (1981) ISBN 0-434-65531-7
  • Theatre Record and its annual Indexes
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