Chris Ellison (actor)

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Chris Ellison
Christopher Michael Ironside

(1946-12-16) 16 December 1946 (age 75)
Anita Ellison
(m. 1980)

Christopher Michael Ellison (born 16 December 1946 in St Pancras, London)[1] is an English actor. He is best known for his role as DCI Frank Burnside in the ITV police series The Bill and short-lived spin-off series Burnside.


At school his art teacher encouraged him having seen his talent. Art remained his strong subject throughout his school years, and it was a natural progression that Ellison then moved on to art college, firstly at Wimbledon and then Camberwell.[2]


He worked in the merchant navy, trained as a graphic designer and worked as a minicab driver. His first drama job was assistant stage manager at the Richmond Theatre. His first acting role was in the play Woman in a Dressing Gown at said theatre. His first major guest role was an appearance in The Sweeney (1975).

He appeared in many guest roles in TV shows throughout the 1970s, including episodes of The Professionals, Dempsey and Makepeace and Bergerac and in the films Rosie Dixon - Night Nurse (1978), Lady Oscar (1979), Brush Strokes and Buster (1988), based on the Great Train Robbery of 1963. In 1981 he had a notable role as bent DI in the ITV crime mini-series Wolcott, a performance with marked similarities to his later work in The Bill[3]

In 1984, he appeared in Paul McCartney's feature film Give My Regards To Broad Street playing Rath's Minder. In 1986, he played criminal gang leader Charlie Elkin in Running Scared, based on Bernard Ashley's novel.

Having first appeared as Detective Sergeant Tommy Burnside in 1984, he became a regular cast member of The Bill from 1988 to 1993 now with the name Frank Burnside appearing as Detective Inspector. After an absence of five years, Burnside returned on a semi-regular basis from 1998 to 2000 having been promoted to the rank of Detective Chief Inspector during the interim.[citation needed]

He appeared in one episode of the sci-fi police series, Crime Traveller, in 1997.

Although best known for playing tough guys, he also played George, a transvestite, in the radio series The Change from 2001 to 2004.[citation needed]


In 2003, Ellison played the lead role in the revived series of Fort Boyard, which aired on Challenge. In 2005, he guest starred in the Doctor Who audio adventure The Game. In 2007, Ellison played the role of Len Harker in the BBC One soap opera, EastEnders.

He has appeared in Casualty, Judge John Deed, and Minder, among other appearances on Soccer AM, and presenting roles in The World's Most Stupid Criminals and Mousetrapped.

In February 2009, Ellison won Celebrity Come Dine with Me on Channel 4. In 2009, he appeared in the film A Silent Whistle and in 2010 Bonded by Blood and Basement.


In August 2011, he appeared in a New Tricks episode titled 'Half Life' as a prisoner. On 27 August 2015, he entered the Celebrity Big Brother house.[4] He was evicted on 8 September 2015.[citation needed]

In 2017 he appeared on the celebrity version of the television game show Pointless.[5]

Personal life[edit]

Aphasia diagnosis[edit]

In April 2022, Ellison revealed that he had been suffering from aphasia for about 18 months.[6][7] Ellison's decision to publicly disclose his condition was inspired by American actor Bruce Willis's announcement that he too had the condition.[6]

Ellison had been diagnosed with the condition following a stroke in mid-2020 when his wife discovered him lying on their bedroom floor at their home in Brighton.[6] He had to be removed via a skylight due to the ambulance crew not being able to move him down a spiral staircase.[6] Ellison was moved to a rehabilitation centre in Haywards Heath.[6]

When Ellison returned home in November 2020, his wife became his full-time carer but she credits their two adult children and Ellison's former castmate Mark Wingett for providing valuable support.[6] Due to his condition hampering his ability to communicate, Ellison became anxious when leaving the house due to the fear of being recognised and not being able to engage in conversation.[7] Despite having difficulty speaking, Ellison can fully understand what others are saying.[7]

Despite initially being reluctant to publicise his diagnosis, Ellison and his wife hope that by sharing their experience with aphasia it will enable other people to develop an awareness and understanding of the condition.[7]



Year Title Role Notes
1974 Ransom Pete
1977 Blind Man's Bluff Smithy
1978 Rosie Dixon - Night Nurse Dr. Adam Quint
1979 Lady Oscar Maximilien de Robespierre
1984 Give My Regards to Broad Street Rath's Minder
1988 Buster George
1988 The Most Dangerous Man in the World Ipekci
2002 What Larry Says Frank Swire
2004 Griffin Richard Atlas
2010 Basement Lecturer
Bonded by Blood Trent
2011 As You Like It Duke Frederick
2011 The Limelight Max Seymour
2013 Great Expectations Magwitch
2014 We Still Kill the Old Way Roy Edwards
2016 Mob Handed The Father
2016 We Still Steal the Old Way Roy Edwards
2017 Bonded by Blood 2 Trent
2018 Tango One Terry James
2018 The Krays: Dead Man Walking Albert Donoghue
2018 King of Crime Edward
2021 The Ghosts of Borley Rectory Basil Payne


Year Title Role Notes
1967 Emergency Ward 10 Dr. O'Rourke Episode: "The Last Dance"
1975 The Sweeney Phillip Budd Episode: "Queen's Pawn"
1978 The Professionals Paul Coogan Episode: "The Rack"
1983 Widows Tony Fisher
1984 Chance In A Million Mr. Hodgkiss
1984, 1988-1993


The Bill D.C.I. Frank Burnside Regular role
1986 Running Scared (TV series) Charlie Elkin Reoccurring role
1986-1987 Bread Mr. Wilson/D.H.S.S Claimant Mr. Wilson 2 episodes
1997 Birds of a Feather Davey Cooper 1 episode
2016 Casualty Larry Niven Episode: "Bah Humbug"


  1. ^ IMDB
  2. ^ "Loading..." Archived from the original on 1 September 2015. Retrieved 8 September 2019.
  3. ^ "Wolcott (TV Mini Series 1981– ) - IMDb". IMDB. Retrieved 10 July 2020.
  4. ^ Walker, Danny (27 August 2016). "Who is Chris Ellison? Celebrity Big Brother housemate and former star of The Bill's history revealed". Daily Mirror. Trinity Mirror. Retrieved 23 October 2016.
  5. ^ "BBC One - Pointless Celebrities, Series 9, Law and Order". BBC. Retrieved 8 September 2019.
  6. ^ a b c d e f Sansome, Jessica (8 April 2022). "ITV Good Morning Britain viewers saddened as The Bill actor Chris Ellison struggles during interview on aphasia". Manchester Evening News. Retrieved 14 April 2022.
  7. ^ a b c d le Duc, Frank (6 April 2022). "Brighton actor Chris Ellison's wife says he suffers from same condition as Bruce Willis". Brighton and Hove News. Retrieved 14 April 2022.

External links[edit]