Sunday Express

On a romantic the real world


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gg banging his big ham hock knuckles on the table, reaches Stagg, smiles and... and the next thing Malcolm is in the air and on the floor. ‘I’m the toughest guy in this class’, says Stagg.

“Today that teacher would probably be sacked for child abuse but that day he was a hero.”

Stagg read Brandon’s work and said,

“You’ve got a brain, you’ve got a chance.”

Says Brandon: “He kept me behind every night after school and let the class think it was because I was a bad ass being punished.”

Brandon got his high school diploma and won a scholarshi­p to study law. But shortly after starting college, he was crippled by back pain.

“My mother said, ‘Yeah, the doctor said this might happen’. She told me I was born with a little tail, an extended coccyx and I had to have an operation to take a chunk out of my back. It was six months before I could walk.”

When he could, he limped along to a blind date with a cane and told her what had happened, “She laughed so much and said, ‘You should be an actor or a comedian’.”

After getting a dramatic arts diploma, he waited tables while auditionin­g for acting jobs. Brandon worked throughout the 1970s and 80s, building from bit-parts to decent roles (including Max in the infamous mile-high love scene with Jacqueline Bisset in 1981 movie Rich And Famous).

Along the way, he dated Kim Novak and was married to Lindsaywag­ner. But it took crime drama Dempsey And Makepeace to make him a household name as “a streetwise cop from Manhattan’s 9th Precinct” who carried a .357 Magnum even in the Home Counties.

Viewers loved it. Fifteen million regularly tuned in and the electricit­y between the leads was inescapabl­e. Michael directed the final episode where Dempsey and Makepeace finally confront their feelings for each other.

But after 30 episodes, ITV dropped it for no apparent reason. “It was a great experience. We were like a family and every film I do there seems to be someone who worked on it.”

And he has worked on a lot. Brandon has 15 movie credits this century, including a part in Captainame­rica:the Firstaveng­er. He first ventured into musicals in 2003 with Jerry Springer:the Opera.and he has developed a one-man show, which he performed at Edinburgh in 2017.

Disrespect and bad service rattle Michael’s chain, and he’s increasing­ly conscious of his mortality. “A lot of friends are dying,” he says. “Terry O’neill just died. Mickie Most. Errol Brown. I’m halfway there...”

So how does he relax? “Relax?” he explodes. “I never switch off. I keep on!

When you get older you don’t want to switch anything off. Everything begets everything.”

● White Christmas runs at London’s Dominion Theatre until January 4

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