31 August 1924|
Hoxton, London, England, UK
|Died||2 April 2007
London, England, UK
|Cause of death||Cancer|
Early life and career
The son of a Hoxton printer and a florist; Sewell left school at the age of 14 and worked briefly in the printing trade before switching to building work, specifically the repair of bomb-damaged houses. He then trained as a Royal Air Force pilot, though too late to see action during the Second World War.
Following his demob, Sewell joined the Merchant Navy, serving as a steward for the Cunard Line on the RMS Queen Mary and RMS Queen Elizabeth for their Atlantic crossings to New York. He worked as a street photographer, assisted a French roller-skating team, and was drummer and assistant road manager of a rumba band. He also travelled Europe as a motor coach courier for a holiday company.
Sewell had not considered acting until, aged 35, he met the actor Dudley Sutton by chance in a pub. Sutton recommended that Sewell audition for a production by Joan Littlewood's Theatre Workshop of Fings Ain't Wot They Used T'Be. Sewell did so, and made his acting debut as a policeman in the show both at the Theatre Royal, Stratford East and in the West End. He went on to star in two other Littlewood productions, Sparrers Can't Sing (1962) and as Field Marshal Haig in Oh! What a Lovely War (1963), which later opened in Paris and on Broadway. The experience garnered from stage acting led to a long career in both film and television.
For many years, Sewell was the gritty face of crime and law enforcement in a huge array of television series. Amongst his early roles, he was the tallyman in the television play Up The Junction (1965), a criminal who runs off with a teenage girl in Softly, Softly (1966), a hard-nosed building engineer in The Power Game (1965–66), a cowardly informer in Man in a Suitcase (1967), and a seedy private eye in Spindoe (1968). In 1969 he played an escaped convict called Jansen in the "Randall and Hopkirk" episode called "Vendetta for a dead man". In 1970, he played Colonel Alec Freeman in Gerry Anderson's live-action science-fiction drama UFO.
In 1973, Euston Films re-invigorated the TV series Special Branch, formerly a videotaped series starring Derren Nesbitt. Sewell was brought in to play the lead character of DCI Alan Craven. The show ran for two seasons with Sewell, and served as a stylistic forerunner of crime drama The Sweeney (in which Sewell also appeared, this time as a villain). Sewell was to parody this role as Supt Frank Cottam in the Jasper Carrott/Robert Powell comedy, The Detectives.
Later television appearances include Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (1979), in which he played Mendel, and the Doctor Who story Remembrance of the Daleks (1988), in which he played builder's merchant and fascist leader Ratcliffe. He also appeared frequently in films, notably This Sporting Life (1963), Poor Cow (1967) and Get Carter (1971).
Personal life and death
His brother, Danny Sewell, a former boxer, also became an actor.
|1998||Let's Stick Together||Carter|
|1981||If You Go Down in the Woods Today||Knocker|
|1975||Barry Lyndon||Barry's Second|
|1975||Operation Daybreak||Heinz Panwitz, Chief Investigator|
|1974||Diamonds on Wheels||Henry Stewart|
|1971||Get Carter||Con McCarty|
|1969||The Haunted House of Horror||Bob Kellett|
|1968||The Vengeance of She||Harry|
|1967||Poor Cow||Customer in Pub||(scenes deleted)|
|1967||Deadlier Than the Male||Car Park Assassin||(uncredited)|
|1963||The Informers||Fred Hill|
|1963||Sparrows Can't Sing||Bert|
|1963||This Sporting Life||Jeff|
|1993-1997||The Detectives||Superintendent Cottam|
|1988||Doctor Who||Ratcliffe||Remembrance of the Daleks|
|1987-1990||Home James!||Robert Palmer|
|1982-1983||Andy Robson||Peter Mueller|
|1981||Minder||Frank||episode: Rembrandt Doesn't Live Here Any More|
|1979||Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy||Mendel|
|1978||The Sweeney||Vic Tolman||"Bait", 19 October 1978|
|1975||Rising Damp||Baker||"The Prowler", 10 January 1975|
|1973-1974||Special Branch||Det. Chief Insp. Alan Craven|
|1970||UFO||Col. Alec Freeman|
|1970||Randall and Hopkirk||Eric Jansen||episode: Vendetta For A Dead Man|
|1969-1971||Paul Temple||Sammy Carson|
|1965-1967||Z-Cars||Det. Insp. Brogan/Joe Carter/Harris|