PRODUCTION DIARY #9: Derek Fowlds – At the Heart of British Telly, from Basil Brush to Heartbeat

Derek Fowlds has been at the heart of British film and television since the 1960s, not least of all when he entered our homes on the BBC as Mr Derek, the side-kick to the irascible Basil Brush. It’s a role he admits that he was not keen to continue after the first series. He was a serious actor, after all. A graduate of the prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. But the pressure to find work persuaded him to take-on the second series and he never looked back.

We had the absolute pleasure of spending a wonderful afternoon with Derek at his home recently, recording an interview for our upcoming documentary, PETER CUSHING: In His Own Words. Here’s another part of the special interview that Derek recorded for our behind the scenes PRODUCTION DIARY series.

Derek worked with Peter on the Hammer Films Gothic shocker, Frankenstein Created Woman in 1967, and it was an experience he never forgot. Peter’s warmth and generosity as a fellow performer and as a friend struck Derek from day-one and stayed with him all his life. One of his most treasured possessions is a ‘fan letter’ he received from Peter in December 1986, in which Peter expressed his admiration for Derek and his work with Yes, Minister.

Derek was born in Wandsworth’ London on 2nd September 1937 and spent most of his youth in and around Berkhamsted in Hertfordshire, where he attended Ashlyns School. After graduating from RADA he made his acting debut on the West End stage in a production of William Gibson’s play The Miracle Worker. Film appearances soon followed with Tamahine in 1963 and with Anthony Quayle in East of Sudan the following year.

Today Derek is best known as Mr Derek in the BBC’s children’s series The Basil Brush Show, as the wonderfully calm Bernard Wooley in Yes, Minister and Yes, Prime Minister opposite the irreplaceable Paul Eddington and Nigel Hawthorne and as Oscar Blaketon in ITV’s long running period drama set in Yorkshire, Heartbeat.

In 2015 Derek published his autobiography, A Part Worth Playing, a wonderful companion to his life and career. We’re luck enough to have a signed copy. This year Derek returned to the stage and certainly has no plans to retire, with further stage appearances in the pipeline for 2019.

Our up-coming documentary, PETER CUSHING: In His Own Words is currently in production. Our weekly PRODUCTION DIARIES go behind the scenes of some of our productions and meet some of those who are taking part.

Look out for some of our other diaries, which include former Hammer stars and Bond-girls Valerie Leon and Madeline Smith, as well as Elstree Studios’ chairman, Morris Bright MBE and Hammer Runners Phil Campbell and Brian Reynolds.