2 November 1968
Epping, Essex, England
|Spouse(s)||Judith Hurley (m. 1991–99)
Zerlina Hughes (m. 2002–10)
|Partner(s)||Emma Lowndes (2012–present)|
|Children||2 (with Judith Hurley)
2 (with Zerlina Hughes)
Jason Scott Merrells (born 2 November 1968 in Epping, Essex) is an English actor, who is best known for his roles as receptionist Matt Hawley in Casualty, stylist Gavin Ferraday in Cutting It, Head Teacher Jack Rimmer in Waterloo Road and most recently as Home Farm's most recent owner Declan Macey in Emmerdale. Even more recently Jason plays the role of David in ITV's Safe House
Merrells has an elder brother Simon Merrells (born 1965) who is also an actor. Merrells studied at the Buckhurst Hill County High School from 1980 to 1986 and later at the Chichester University, where he studied fine art. Jason lives part-time in London the rest of his time in the North East of England. He is divorced from his second wife, Zerlina Hughes, with whom he has a son, Jackson, and a daughter; he also has two daughters, Camille and Gina, from his first marriage, to Judith Hurley.
Merrells got his first role in 1994 with an appearance in the film To Die For, in which he played a small part. However, he soon established himself as a successful television actor with his role as receptionist Matt Hawley in the medical drama Casualty, a role which he maintained for three years between 1994 and 1997, during which time he also appeared in other television shows including Thief Takers and The Bill. In 1999 he had a prominent role as homosexual Phil Delaney in the television series Queer as Folk, in which his character appeared in three episodes and ended up dying after accidentally snorting heroin. He continued to appear in more prominent roles for years to come including in films such as Do Not Disturb (1999). His television appearances also became more frequent, and he had a recurring appearance as Martin Leach in Clocking Off between 2000 and 2001. Also in 2000 he appeared as Carl Whittaker in two episodes of Fat Friends, and re-appeared as the same character for a third episode in 2002. He also appeared in The Inspector Lynley Mysteries opposite Nathaniel Parker and A Touch of Frost opposite David Jason.
However it was his portrayal of stylist Gavin Ferraday in the BBC television drama series Cutting It that brought him wide notice. The show ran for three years and in the show Merrells' character Gavin is jealous of his wife Allie's (Sarah Parish) affair with Finn (Ben Daniels), and so plots with Finn's wife Mia (Amanda Holden), and slept with his ex-wife's daughter (who had been given up for adoption), but later rekindles his relationship with Allie shortly before she died in a car accident. The show spiralled Merrells to fame and has since been remarked as Merrells' biggest success. After gathering public and media attention, Merrells had become a celebrity and appeared as a guest celebrity on several shows including an appearance on Mastermind in 2004, three appearances on This Morning between 2004 and 2011 and three appearances on Loose Women between 2006 and 2013. He also made appearances in television shows such as The Afternoon Play, Where the Heart Is and Murder City, and a starring role in the 2005 film The Jealous God, as Vincent Dungarven, alongside fellow popular television performer Denise Welch.
Merrells announced that he had been cast in the role of Head Teacher Jack Rimmer in upcoming BBC drama Waterloo Road, making Merrells one of the original stars of the show appearing in the very first episode. The success of Waterloo Road became very appealing to television viewers in the United Kingdom and further increased Merrells' popularity as a dramatic actor. In 2007, after just one year on the show, Merrells announced that he had quit the role, and made his final appearance on the show in Series Three. He was replaced by Eva Pope as Rachel Mason, Merrells later made a guest appearance at the end of Series 3 in Episode 19. In 2009, a year after his departure from Waterloo Road, Merrells appeared throughout series two of Lark Rise to Candleford as James Dowland.
From 2010 to 2014, Merrells achieved popularity through his role as shrewd businessman Declan Macey in the long-running ITV soap opera Emmerdale. Set in the Yorkshire Dales, Merrells' character was introduced onto the show as a new love interest for established character Natasha Wylde (Amanda Donohoe). Upon arrival, the Emmerdale website described Declan as "a shrewd businessman who knows exactly what he wants and how to get it. He's prepared to be unpopular if it's good for business and the people in the village recognise his confidence. He does have a softer side but is not the most attentive husband in the world." At the 2011 British Soap Awards, Merrells was nominated for the "Villain of the Year" award for his portrayal of Declan, and on the show the character has had storylines surrounding the arrival of some unwanted family members including father Dermot Macey (Frank Kelly) and half-sister Megan Macey (Gaynor Faye) and his marriage to long-running character Katie Sugden (Sammy Winward) in 2012. He is the second castmember of Cutting It to also feature in Emmerdale, the other being Siân Reeves, who played Syndey Henshall in Cutting It and Sally Spode in Emmerdale. In September 2014, it was announced that Merrells had decided to quit his role after four years on the soap. Declan left the following month, going into hiding after killing his half-nephew Robbie Lawson and attempting to murder his most recent wife, Charity Sharma, whom he married earlier in the year.
In 2015 Merrells appeared as Stuart Howe in the BBC TV series Death in Paradise episode 4.7
From August to October 2007, Merrells performed with the Royal Shakespeare Company at the Courtyard Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon. He played the role of Orsino in William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, or What You Will alongside his brother Simon Merrells who played Antonio. The Merrells brothers then went on to tour in A Comedy of Errors with the Royal Shakespeare Company from October to December 2007. From March to April 2009 he appeared in the Theatre Royal Plymouth and Thelma Hunt production of Measure for Measure as Angelo alongside Alistair McGowan as the Duke. The production transferred to the Almeida Theatre in February 2010. From May to June 2015, he starred as Juror number 8 in Bill Kenwright's touring production of Twelve Angry Men, alongside Andrew Lancel, Gareth David-Lloyd, Denis Lill and Drop The Dead Donkey's Robert Duncan.
Directing and writing
He completed his first short film "Le Petit Mort" in 2007 which had festival releases in New York, London and Strasbourg. He began directing "River City" for BBC Scotland in 2008 completing three blocks.
Merrells has continued to write, direct and paint whilst working as an actor. Merrells has just finished the first Guardian/UEA creative writing masterclass, and is working on the completion of his first novel.