The Bill remembered
Some 33 years on from its debut, stars Trudie Goodwin and mark wingett tell us how the ITV cop show changed television…
The Bill mon-fri / drama / noon
It has been over 10 years since Trudie Goodwin and mark Wingett worked together on ITV cop drama The Bill. But time hasn’t dimmed their happy memories of starring in the popular, long-running police drama, which is being shown from the very beginning on the Freeview channel Drama this week.
Both are original cast members, appearing in the pilot episode Woodentop in August 1983, and played two of the show’s most iconic characters – WPC, then Sergeant, June Ackland, and Pc, later Detective Sergeant, Jim Carver.
Here, the former TV coppers chat to TV Times about their time on the beat…
The Bill ran for 26 years. Why do you think it lasted as long as it did?
Trudie: Actually, the first series wasn’t massively successful and, nowadays, it would have been taken off. But they stuck with it and that allowed it to get over its teething problems and improve.
mark: We all got better – the writers, directors and actors.
Trudie: Once viewers got to know the characters, they started to look forward to seeing them. There was always a comedic strand through each episode, which usually involved Pc Reg Hollis [played by Jeff Stewart] and people loved him.
It also had some quite hard-hitting storylines…
Trudie: We did an episode on homophobic crime and did a lot on prostitution. Paul O’grady was on the show, playing a transvestite for quite a few episodes. Back then, those sorts of issues weren’t being
covered in other TV dramas.
mark: We’re talking more than 25 years ago now, and it didn’t always show the police force in a favourable light. In fact, in some ways, it was quite subversive.
What are your abiding memories of making the show?
Trudie: I remember the fun we had, not just among the actors, but with the crew as well. You had to have a sense of humour, because you were out on the streets filming for long hours in all weathers.
mark: It is definitely the people. At least once a day we would all be in hysterics. I did 787 episodes and, because the subject matter was often quite dark, you needed to have a gallows humour.
How did you feel when your characters became lovers?
Trudie: It was quite difficult, because we had been working together for years and June and Jim hadn’t been romantically involved in any way, and then suddenly they were. It was all a bit strange. I think we made it work as best as we could, but it wasn’t easy.
mark: We weren’t too keen to start with – that’s when it became more like a soap opera.
When did you decide to leave?
Trudie: When the storylines became too sensational. The bottom line was when, out of nowhere, June had a son [Pc Gabriel Kent, played by Todd Carty]. It was so ludicrous and complicated! [It was later revealed that Gabriel was actually June’s son’s adoptive brother].
mark: The end for me was when it stopped being The Bill I knew. How do you feel about being forever linked to the series?
Trudie: I’m absolutely fine with that. It gave me and my kids a very nice lifestyle, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was a really lovely job.
mark: I don’t mind at all; it is part of my history.
The Bill was quite subversive
Civvy street: Out of uniform 33 years later
Sun Hill: The cast when they were still in law enforcement