John Nettles

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John Nettles
John Nettles Jersey tourism advertisement.jpg
Nettles on a Jersey tourism advertisement in 1987.
Born John Vivian Drummond Nettles
(1943-10-11) 11 October 1943 (age 72)[1]
St Austell, Cornwall, England
Occupation Actor
Years active 1970–present
Television Bergerac (1981–91)
Midsomer Murders (1997–2011)
  • Joyce Nettles (1966–79)
  • Cathryn Sealey (1995–present)
Children Emma Nettles (born 1970)

John Vivian Drummond Nettles,[2] OBE (born 11 October 1943[3]) is an English actor and writer who is best known for playing the lead roles in Bergerac and Midsomer Murders.

Early life[edit]

John Nettles was born in St Austell, Cornwall in 1943. He was adopted at birth by carpenter Eric Nettles and his wife Elsie. His birth mother was an Irish nurse who came to work in England during the Second World War. The young John Nettles attended St Austell Grammar School (now known as Poltair School).[4][5] In 1962, he studied history and philosophy at the University of Southampton. At Southampton he first performed as an actor, after university he started out as an actor at the Royal Court Theatre.[6]

Acting career[edit]

In 1969–70, he was in repertory at the Northcott Theatre, Exeter and in the latter year had his first screen role in the film One More Time. The following year he played Dr. Ian Mackenzie in the period drama A Family at War, a role he continued until 1972. Following that he had small parts in many TV programmes including The Liver Birds, Dickens of London, Robin of Sherwood and an episode of Enemy at the Door called Officers of the Law, first broadcast in March 1978.[7] The latter was set in Guernsey during the World War 2 German occupation and Nettles played a police detective ordered to work for the Germans and anguished over the conflict between his duty and collaborating with the enemy. He played fraudster Giles Sutton in ITVs Heartbeat.

In 1981, Nettles won the role that made him a household name, that of Jim Bergerac in the Jersey-set crime drama Bergerac.[8] This ran for 87 episodes until 1991. Following the end of Bergerac Nettles did five seasons with the Royal Shakespeare Company,[5] appearing in A Winter's Tale, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Julius Caesar, Richard III and The Devil is an Ass.[9] In 1992, he appeared in an episode of Boon and in 1993, Nettles appeared as Jim Bergerac in the spoof police comedy The Detectives.

In 1995, Nettles was approached by Brian True-May to play Tom Barnaby in a new murder mystery series he was to produce called Midsomer Murders.[5] This was to be the second major role of his career, again playing a policeman. Midsomer Murders made him a household name across the world. In 2003, he played Barnaby in the Boxing Day episode of French & Saunders. Nettles appeared in a 2001 episode of Heartbeat. In 2007, he appeared in the BBC Radio 4 comedy series Will Smith Presents the Tao of Bergerac alongside comedian Will Smith about an obsessive fan of the series.

In February 2009, it was announced that Nettles would be leaving Midsomer Murders after two further series were made.[10] His final appearance on-screen was on 2 February 2011, by which time he had appeared in 81 episodes.[11]

Other television work[edit]

Nettles narrated the BBC documentary series Airport from 1996 to 2005.

In early 2010, Nettles wrote, presented and produced a three-part documentary, Channel Islands at War, to mark the 70th anniversary of the German invasion and subsequent occupation of the Channel Islands.[12] He received threatening letters from some residents of Jersey, accusing him of implying that islanders were collaborators. He defended the documentary saying "There is no possible way you could have avoided collaboration with the occupying power who had power over the civilian population. If you had not toed the line you would have been shot."[13] This view was supported by local historians and members of the Channel Islands Occupation Society.


During the filming of Bergerac, filmed on the island of Jersey, he wrote Bergerac's Jersey (BBC Books, 1988; ISBN 0-563-20703-5), a travel guide to filming locations in the series. He followed up with John Nettles' Jersey: A Personal View of the People and Places (BBC Books, 1992; ISBN 0-563-36318-5) about the island's landscape, personalities and history.

In 1991 he wrote the semi-autobiographical Nudity in a Public Place: Confessions of a Mini Celebrity (Robson Books; ISBN 0-7451-1961-1) about becoming a "reluctant heartthrob" to female viewers of Bergerac. This was re-released as a kindle version on Amazon in 2014 following the reruns of Bergerac on BBC2 as part of their afternoon nostalgia collection.

In 2012 Nettles wrote Jewels and Jackboots (Hardback ISBN 978-1-905095-38-4) about the German Occupation of the British Channel Islands 1940–1945 which sold out in a matter of weeks. Due to popular demand it was republished in 2013 as a paperback and kindle.

Personal life[edit]

He married his first wife, Joyce, in 1966, a casting director, who worked on 23 episodes of Midsomer Murders. They had a daughter Emma (born 1970) and divorced in 1979. He married his second wife, Cathryn Sealey, in July 1995 in Evesham, Worcestershire.[14]


Nettles was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the Birthday Honours 2010.[15] On 21 September 2012 he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Plymouth. He also agreed to be patron of Devon charity The Mare and Foal Sanctuary in July 2014.[16]


  1. ^ "John Nettles – Biography". Retrieved 8 May 2011. 
  2. ^ " – UK Company and Company Director Reports". Retrieved 8 May 2011. 
  3. ^ "John Nettles Biography". 11 October 1943. Retrieved 8 May 2011. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ a b c "John Nettles". 
  6. ^
  7. ^ "Officers of the Law" at the Internet Movie Database
  8. ^ "Bergerac actor John Nettles given an OBE by the Queen", Daily Telegraph 10 November 2010
  9. ^ "Archive Catalogue – John Nettles". Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. 
  10. ^ Holmwood, Leigh (12 February 2009). "John Nettles to quit Midsomer Murders". The Guardian (UK). Retrieved 7 May 2010. 
  11. ^ "Nettles to leave Midsomer Murders". BBC News. 12 February 2009. 
  12. ^ "Slavery and pain: the Nazis on the Channel Islands". The Telegraph. 21 June 2010. 
  13. ^ "John Nettles: I’m Jersey’s most famous son but now I am being vilified simply for speaking". Daily Express (UK). 26 November 2010. 
  14. ^ "BMD Indexes 1984–2004". 
  15. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 59446. p. 12. 12 June 2010.
  16. ^ "Midsomer Murders star John Nettles takes on new role". ITV. 22 July 2014. Retrieved 26 August 2014. 

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