Graham Cole OBE, A Biography
by Dot (biohazard)
GRAHAM COLE-THE MAN
He was born, Graham Coleman-Smith on March 16th 1952 in Willesden. He came from a happy, stable family and took no interest in any school subject apart from English and sport. He played a lot of rugby which resulted in him breaking his nose on several occasions, and he later took up rallying, which was one of the reasons he got the part of area car driver in The Bill. He used to drive for team Vauxhall in various races a few years ago. He hates football as a direct result of spending long hours stuck in a car on the Bill set with Andrew Paul who is an Arsenal fanatic!
Graham left school and got a job as an orthopaedic technician in a hospital, spending his time applying plaster casts onto the broken limbs and digits of patients. He soon became bored with this and spent a lot of his working hours impersonating his colleagues and writing scripts for the hospital’s medical revues. A friend spotted his obvious talent for comedy and acting and suggested that he was in the wrong career. Graham’s life-long interest in “good causes” began about this time when he joined the St. John’s Ambulance Brigade, following in the footsteps of his parents who were both very active in the charity.
Graham left the hospital job to become a Redcoat at Butlins, Cambersands, and it was here that he met his future wife, Cherry. She had won a beauty contest at the holiday camp and he fell in love with her. She was 16 and
he was 21. Four years later they married and subsequently had 2 children – Matthew and
Laura. Graham’s quoted as saying that Matthew inherited his father’s love of war films and John Wayne and that Laura has ambitions to play the trumpet professionally and wants to be a marine biologist. He describes himself as being “totally selfish” towards his family at this time in his pursuit of an acting career but at the same time, describes them as his “comfort zone” and his wife as his “rock and his Best Friend”
The family live in a modest house in Bromley, Kent which has featured in the T.V. programme “Through the Keyhole”. They attend a local church. Graham has always been a religious man, and tells of a time he was attending a church rally with a production assistant from TB when he experienced the phenomena of “speaking with tongues”.
Graham and his wife try to live ordinary lives in their community but he is often approached by fans in the local supermarket, much to his wife’s annoyance! He is a sponsor of Bromley hospital radio and other local good causes.
Graham Cole and Jeff Stewart (Reg Hollis) in The Bill- Playing a football match against local villains
After his marriage, Graham made a living as an entertainer. He did loads of stage shows and revues and was a member of a group called the Belle Canto Singers. He also began to do bit-parts and extra work in various T.V. shows, including working as a straight man for comedians Kelly Monteith and Kenny Everett. He also appeared in several episodes of Dr Who, usually totally unrecognisable, playing either a Cyberman or a Marshman. He was an extra in the episode called “Kinda” which also had both Simon Rouse and Jeff Stewart in it! (ed: I’ve watched this episode several times and I think I spotted him in the background near the end, but I’m not sure-He was wearing a long skirt and nothing else!) He made a 2 second appearance in the “Only Fools and Horses” episode “It Never Rains”-playing a Spanish customs official.
While he was appearing in a stage production of Jesus Christ Superstar he was spotted by a casting director of TB who suggested he write to Pearson TV and ask to audition for the part of Tony Stamp, which he did, and the rest is history! Graham is quoted as saying that he didn’t know how the casting director knew he would be ideal for the part because he had a long beard at the time and was only singing in the musical!
Interviewing a suspect in The Bill
THE BILL YEARS
Tony Stamp made his first appearance in TB around 1985 as a “Trev”-type background copper. He spent several years in this role and then in 1988 became a full time member of the cast with a proper speaking part. Between 1985 and 1988 Graham provided the show with a good driver, some muscle for the fight scenes etc, and some one to make Sun Hill station look authentically occupied. He says he found out about his 1988 “promotion” when he saw his picture included in the press flyers for the upcoming season of TB.
Over the years, Stamp has had many adventures and girlfriends and Graham has been described by the TB powers-that-be as being a solid, reliable, no-nonsense member of the cast. He is said to learn his lines in the peace of the upstairs toilet of his house when everyone else has gone to bed!
Graham has had only 3 major disagreements with the programme makers. Once, when they tried to marry Stamp off, he didn’t think it should happen. Secondly, when the writers changed the script in an episode where Tony was to have been seriously wounded in a stabbing incident. (The producers felt the scenes were too shocking for a family audience and Graham thought they ought to be shown as a reminder of what the ordinary policeman is faced with in his job). Finally, whenever the present trend for “bedroom” scenes occurs in the show, Graham is totally disapproving! He’s quoted as saying that driving the area car on camera is extremely uncomfortable. Apparently the driver has to balance on one buttock to accommodate the camera into the car!
Graham and Andrew Paul had one near disaster during the filming of a TB episode. The speeding Sierra 1 skidded on a patch of mud and the 2 actors and crew nearly crashed into another burning vehicle. Andrew says that it
was only Graham’s driving skills that saved them all from being burnt alive.
Graham was the subject of “This is Your Life” in 1996. He’s also been in 2 “Police-Stop!” shows on TV and narrated several others in the series. He’s done various advert voice-overs, including some for ATS Garages recently. In 1998 he made a half-hour drama for TV called “The Usual Children”, in which he plays a father trying to get his 2 children to go to sleep on Christmas Eve.
Graham Cole in The Bill
Graham suffers from quite a few both major and minor health problems. He is partially deaf and is therefore an accomplished lip-reader. He had
an operation recently to try to overcome the problem which was fairly successful.
He has sinus problems, tinnitus and recurrent cold sores, which have been so severe at times that they have affected his ability to film some close-up TB scenes. He has a serious, chronic back problem. This is bad enough to affect his movement and it is obvious on screen sometimes. He injured his back filming a scene in TB where Stamp had to throw his shoes at an escaping prisoner. Graham slipped in his stocking feet on the “cell” floor and his injuries were bad enough to necessitate him being taken to hospital. He is short-sighted and wears glasses off-screen. Graham has to put in
contact lenses to drive on the show.
Graham is a very approachable, caring man who is involved with lots of charities and is always willing to give up his free time for a good cause. He’s always been involved with TB charity events like the cricket and football teams and is usually seen at the football games running along the touchline giving a commentary to the spectators as well as helping the TB team to cheat!!
He occasionally does “stand-up” stage routines (again-for charity) and has done numerous guest appearances on TV shows. One of the best known of these was probably “Noel’s House Party” where Graham and Andrew Paul
appeared every week as comedy coppers. Even though their part in the show was very popular with viewers, Pearson TV (who own The Bill) objected to the 2 actors making fun of their policeman personas and banned them from taking any further part in Noel Edmonds highly rated show.
Graham was awarded the OBE in 2012 for services to the Voluntary and Charitable Giving Sector in the United Kingdom.
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