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The Murder Room
P.D. James Martin Shaw (A. Dalgliesh) Cast + Credits Dalgliesh Retrospective Links + Bibliography Discussion MYSTERY! Home The Murder Room
Martin Shaw [imagemap with 6 links]

Martin Shaw (Adam Dalgleish)

Martin Shaw was born on January 21, 1945, in Birmingham, England, the son of an engineer and a champion ballroom dancer. He was unhappy at school and claims that he was no good at anything. The only subject he was interested in was English literature and, having made his first stage appearance at the age of three in an amateur production alongside his parents, he enjoyed appearing in school plays.

His life changed when his class read Julius Caesar out loud -- Shaw was the only one who knew what it meant and suddenly realized that he was no longer a dunce. He joined the drama society and studied Shakespeare avidly. After school, his first job was in the sales office of a chemical firm; he continued with the 'Pied Pipers' (a commedia dell'arte group) in his spare time. After two years, in 1963, he enrolled at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA). He then joined Hornchurch Rep before appearing on the London West End stage.

In 1973, he joined the National Theatre Company. "Lawrence Olivier auditioned me and cast me, initially as Dionysus in The Bacchae, then in Saturday Sunday Monday," explains Shaw. "Olivier was fantastic, a proper actor/manager in that he cast and auditioned everybody in his company. He knew everyone and everyone knew him, although it was very clear that he was the boss. He used to come and talk to us in the dressing room at night. It was a magical time."

Shaw's first film role in 1966 as an Irish communist in Love on the Dole was followed by his television debut in 1968 as hippie student Robert Croft in Coronation Street. Several more film and TV appearances followed, including the popular series Doctor in the House; it was his guest role as Purdey's ex-fiancé in The New Avengers that led to his casting as Ray Doyle in The Professionals. That series ran until 1983 and brought him international fame, although he always disliked the violent police series and his role in it.

"Being a celebrity, whatever that means, is something I dislike intensely. I don't like the cult of celebrity anyway. It has its uses but it's not the only reason people should give you work. You should work because you're good at it. The ephemeral side of fame, people's obsession with celebrity and the sense that celebrities are somehow different -- it's all something I neither understand nor like."

In the 1980s, Shaw spent most of his working time in the theatre. His roles included Elvis Presley in the critically acclaimed Are You Lonesome Tonight? and as Lord Goring in An Ideal Husband on Broadway, for which he won a New York Drama Desk Critic's Award.

He returned to TV in the 1990s, taking the title roles in The Chief and in the BBC's Rhodes in which his son Joe played the young Cecil Rhodes. More recently, Shaw's TV credits include The Scarlet Pimpernel alongside Richard E Grant, the medical drama Always and Everyone, and the title role in the BBC legal series Judge John Deed.

In P.D. James's The Murder Room, Shaw again takes on the mantle of Commander Adam Dalgliesh. He first played James's most popular character in the highly acclaimed Death in Holy Orders.

"Dalgliesh's most distinguishing characteristic is that he's a poet and he's artistic. He's one of the hardest characters I've ever had to play because in the novels he's an observer. He is the eyepiece through which the audience sees everything. This is quite hard to translate into a character on screen. He's very bright and he thinks a lot. I've only spent a few hours with P.D. James and that was really fascinating. I didn't ask her much, nor did she volunteer very much about how to play Dalgliesh. I think she wanted to leave that to whichever actor portrays him. Also, there isn't a strong character there. I know that sounds blasphemous, but there really isn't. The good thing about that is that within certain boundaries he could be played many different ways. He is somebody who is very still and if you are really thinking what the character should be thinking, the audience can pick it up.

"Everything that I do has to be a challenge, otherwise there's no point in doing it. But the real challenge is still to come -- more character parts. I'm still being cast in the roles where there is a 'love interest.' That's not going to be for much longer. There is definitely a shelf life with that kind of role and I think it's wise and also more fun to start exploring character roles."

In 1971 Shaw was viciously attacked by muggers and had a plastic plate inserted to substitute for a smashed right cheekbone. As a result he gave up drinking and is now a strict vegetarian. He also gave up smoking in 1979. Shaw has been married three times; his first wife, Jill Allen, is the mother of his two sons and a daughter. He then married Maggie Mandsfield, an alternative therapist. His third wife is Vicki Kimm. Shaw's children -- Luke, Joe, and Sophie -- are all actors.

"It's something I've encouraged. It would be hypocritical of me to tell them not to pursue acting. They ask me to read their scripts and vice versa -- they're very good critics of what I've done."

His hobbies include rock-climbing, motorcycling and flying. He has a pilot's license and owns his own vintage plane, a Boeing Stearman.

"I don't get so much time to fly -- I'm just too busy. My plane is an old, open cockpit bi-plane from the Second World War. My wife has a pilot's license and flies, too. It's a two-seater plane and has dual controls. One of the reasons I went to live in Norfolk is because there are so many disused airfields and the vintage aviation scene is very well looked after." Shaw lives in a house once owned by an ancestor of Abraham Lincoln, and also owns a crofter's cottage in Scotland.


P.D. James | Martin Shaw (Adam Dalgleish) | Cast + Credits
Dalgleish Retrospective | Links + Bibliography | Discussion

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