4 June 1930 |
|Spouse(s)||Katherine Kessey (1971 - present)|
Bill Treacher (born 4 June 1930) is a retired English actor. He is best known for playing Arthur Fowler on the BBC soap opera EastEnders, for 11 years from 1985 to 1996, He was also the first person on the show to be cast.
After graduating from the prestigious Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art, he made his West End debut in 1963 with the comedy Shout for Life at The Vaudeville Theatre. Several successful West End roles followed.
Treacher then moved into television drama, making guest appearances in a number of classic series of the 1970s including Grange Hill, Dad's Army, Minder, The Sweeney, The Professionals, Dixon of Dock Green, Z-Cars and The Agatha Christie Hour.
In late 1984, he was the first actor to be cast in the BBC soap opera EastEnders, appearing in the first episode on 19 February 1985 as Arthur Fowler, a role he played for the next 11 years. In fact the co-creators, Tony Holland and Julia Smith, had scripted the character with Treacher in mind. Treacher admitted in 2015 that he was initially relucant to sign up for the show as it meant long hours and a sizeable commute to his family home in Suffolk but that he relented due to the chance of a steady income. He received much critical acclaim for the role, especially for his portrayal of his character's mental decline and subsequent nervous breakdown. The character also endured a succession of misfortunes, a persistent struggle with unemployment, his daughter Michelle's pregnancy at the age of 16, his son Mark's diagnosis with HIV, and a midlife crisis where he had an affair which led to the breakdown of his marriage.
By 1995, he had requested to be written out of the series, stating "By the time I finished, even the sound of the theme music was making me feel ill. I felt depressed." He also stated in a 2003 BBC documentary interviewing past stars of the show that he was forced to leave with advancing age and the stress of such a gruelling schedule working the long hours on the show was affecting his health and that the doctors told him that if he didn't leave the job soon and relax it would kill him.
Although it was his decision to leave the soap, Treacher was shocked that the show's bosses chose to kill Arthur off. He has said: "I certainly didn't ask them to kill him. Oh no, because you never know, you might need to come back and earn a few grand." In 2015, Treacher criticised the show for having taken a bad direction since its inception and branding it "A load of rubbish". "I watched the odd thing when I left," says Bill. "Even then I could see it changing. In my day the storylines were bang on. I was lucky to be part of that. The BBC put everything they had behind it. They had the very best writers working on the show. Now they just get cheap ones." Despite this, he said he enjoyed his years in the show "It was solid work all the time. But it was very exciting and that gave you the energy to keep going. As the show went on, everything slotted into place ... EastEnders was a good job. We had fun and I made some money but eventually it became a bit of a bore. That's when I decided it was time to leave."
Despite press rumours, Treacher also admitted in a 2015 interview that he got on very well with his on screen family. He says: "Wendy and I worked together for 11 years and in all that time never quarrelled, Todd was a very nice man and Sue was lovely too. We became a family. It was a good job really, because I was with my stage family more than I was with my own. It would have been a nightmare if we didn't get on."
Other television appearances
Treacher is also an accomplished radio actor, and has appeared in a BBC Radio 4 Play of the day "Bringing Eddie Home" by John Peacock, based on a true story of the fight by Eastend couple Edna and Jack Wallace to get their son's body brought home from Aden, and the ensuing fight for the rights of British Service service personnel. Treacher played the role of the older Jack Wallace and the play also included other ex EastEnders actors Tilly Vosburgh, Edna Doré, Todd Carty and Joe Absolom.
In 1973, Treacher starred in a British television commercial for the Austin Allegro motor car. In 1983, he also appeared in a British television commercial for Colgate toothpaste where he played a grocer.
Treacher is married to the Australian actress Katherine Kessey and they have two children: Jamie, also an actor, and Sophie, a production assistant. They live in Suffolk. In 2015, Treacher admitted to the press he is suffering from ataxia, a degenerative disease that hinders balance and the ability to walk. Treacher said as a result he was fully retired: "I'm not doing any work now. I can't bloody well walk."
- Kingsley, Hilary (1990). The EastEnders Handbook. BBC books. ISBN 978-0-685-52957-7.
- Smith, Julia; Holland, Tony (1987). EastEnders - The Inside Story. Book Club Associates. ISBN 0-563-20601-2.
- "D'Arthur to D'Artagnan" The Sun, URL last accessed 21 October 2006
- Manger, Warren (2015-02-15). "Bill Treacher on leaving role as Arthur Fowler and his illness since EastEnders - Mirror Online". Mirror.co.uk. Retrieved 2015-06-21.