The Big Interview: Still Madoc for It; Philip Madoc Is an Actor, a Traveller, a Dancer and a Linguist Who Likes His Life to Be as Full as Possible. Jo Manning Managed to Pin Down One of Wales' Greatest Character Actors at His Hertfordshire Home
Byline: Jo Manning
PHILIP MADOC has played some of the greatest roles ever written for the acting profession. But in spite of his acclaimed Macbeths, Iagos and Prosperos, there will always be one performance which everyone remembers him for - the Nazi officer in Dad's Army.
And even if he finds himself in the middle of nowhere, he still can't get away from that one day's work he did around 30 years ago.
``I was sat on a camel in the middle of the Gobi Desert in Mongolia a few years ago just before going on a trek when someone in our group tapped me on the leg and asked me if I was Philip Madoc,'' chuckles the Merthyr Tydfil-born thespian.
``When I answered yes, he looked delighted and said `I knew it was you. I loved you in that Dad's Army episode when you ask for names and Captain Mainwaring says `don't tell him Pike!'. ``I couldn't believe that of all places, I'd be recognised there for something I did such a long time ago. Obviously lots of people have talked to me about that particular Dad's Army episode, but I never thought it would come up in Mongolia!''
It's just one of the many anecdotes Madoc has tucked up his sleeve for occasions such as these. His wife Diane tells me he's brilliant at Christmases and dinner parties where he keeps his guests entertained for hours with tales about his extensive travels. And with a life as full as Philip's there's never going to be a shortage of interestingtales to tell. If he's not acting, Philip is generally exploring some far flung corner of the world, or learning a new language, or volunteering for an international cause or windsurfing, meaning his life is as busy as it can be - something which is clearly very important to him.
``I object to the theory that there is an arc of life, meaning that things begin and end in a small way,'' explained Philip, whose latest portrayal of the dour Detective Chief Inspector Noel Bain of A Mind To Kill fame, was seen on Channel 5 last night. ``I prefer to think of life as an upward line, where you just go on learning and experiencing things until the day you die. That is the way I would prefer my life to be, or else I would feel as if I'd wasted it.
``But the show business lifestyle doesn't bother me very much. A lot of actors talk so well and entertainingly about the business because it is their life, but that is not to my taste. My lifestyle and my acting life do notoften clash. ``In fact, if I was to have my time again I wouldn't be an actor. There are so many possibilities in which you feel you might have something to offer and for me that would be in the international world.'' Indeed, before acting took a hold of his life, Philip was a devoted linguistics student and he can speak seven different languages - English, Welsh, German, French, Italian, Swedish and Russian - with a working knowledge of several more including Huron Indian and Mandarin Chinese. After completing his degree at Cardiff University, Philip worked as a government translator in the then occupied Vienna, before returning to Wales to take a teacher training course.
But in 1957, his career took a dramatic turn when he was accepted into Rada.
Considering where he's ended up, the gamble appears to have paid off. Not that Madoc had any major ambitions in his youth to become an actor.
``I've no idea where I got it from because there was no-one in my family who did any acting,'' said the 68-year-old. ``I suppose it was chance really. I also remember the excitement in our last year at school when the new English teacher came in and formed a drama society. I got to play Macbeth in the school's first production and I can recall feeling thrilled by the experience.
``But coming from the Valleys it was not practical to think of acting as a career. I thought I would be a teacher, so playing Macbeth had no effect really on what I thought I would do. …