TV Times talks to Bill stalwart Graham Cole about hanging up his truncheon after 25 years of playing Pc Tony Stamp... Talk us through your last day at Sun Hill? “On my last day at The Bill, I woke up at 5.30am, which is the standard time for us and had that same glow in my gut to play him that had been there for 25 years. I have never phoned in sick. I have never not turned up. It was an ideal job, I loved it.” How did you react when told that the character was being written out? “I am yet to realise that I ain’t him any more. When the first taxi driver goes – 'Didn’t you used to be…?' The driver who picked me up this morning was so excited when I walked to his car. The real cops as well. I’ve had more phone calls and emails from policemen than anyone else. I got one last week from a 23 year-old copper who said, .That is the last of the heroes on television.'" It has not been an easy few months then? “It’s tough to know you're not going to be part of probably the most exciting show to work on in television. But I have to move on. They didn’t want to kill him off; they wanted to leave the door open, which is really sweet. I have had serious chats with the producers and once the economy has settled down, who knows? I’d love it not to be the end of Stamp because 25 years costs you.” Do you have any regrets about taking the role in the first place? “No. As an actor there have been loads of jobs that I have had to turn down because you are locked into that contract. But at the same time, my God, it’s given me so much!” Do you think you could have been a policeman? “I couldn’t take the verbals – it would drive me insane! And I’ve also never been able to get my head around domestics. You go up to the eighth floor of a block of flats at 3am and invariably the wife is in the kitchen with a bag of peas or a dishcloth trying to stem the flow of blood and then the guy is drinking a can of lager. I can’t bear blokes hitting the one they supposedly love. I have never been able to cope with that.” When your departure was announced, TV Times was inundated with letters from angry viewers. How do you think your fans, affectionately called Stampers, will react to his exit storyline? “I think Stampers will be happy because it is classic Stamp stuff. It’s a lovely final scene that really shows him doing what he does best and that is care about people.” What happened after you finished filming? “The crew applauded and I looked at Alex Walkinshaw who plays Smithy and we just hugged for two minutes – there wasn’t anything to say. I went into the canteen and everyone was there. They had compiled a tape for me and judging by that it would appear Stamp ate his way through 25 years! There were so many clips of me eating and running.” So what will life after Sun Hill bring? “I quite fancy Pirates of the Caribbean! Or I would love to do I’m a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here! because I love Australia and I don’t mind eating strange things – I’m ready for anything!”
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Patrick McLennan is a London-based journalist and documentary maker who has worked as a writer, sub-editor, digital editor and TV producer in the UK and New Zealand. His CV includes spells as a news producer at the BBC and TVNZ, as well as web editor for Time Inc UK. He has produced TV news and entertainment features on personalities as diverse as Nick Cave, Tom Hardy, Clive James, Jodie Marsh and Kevin Bacon and he co-produced and directed The Ponds, which has screened in UK cinemas, BBC Four and is currently available on Netflix.
An entertainment writer with a diverse taste in TV and film, he lists Seinfeld, The Sopranos, The Chase, The Thick of It and Detectorists among his favourite shows, but steers well clear of most sci-fi.