Martin Shaw was born on 21st January 1945 in Birmingham, England.
He hated school and found the only subject he enjoyed was English Literature. With his first stage appearance at the age
of three alongside his parents in an amateur production, it was unsurprising that he keenly tackledvarious parts in school plays.
Spurred on to study Shakespeare and playing in a local amateur group The Pied Pipers ("We used to parade through
streets and attract children and perform on bomb-sites. The analogy with the original Pied Piper clearing the city of pests
some truth!") he subsequently won a scholarship for the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA) where he was spotted by Alec Guinness during a performance of "Thunder Rock".
He excelled during his 'apprenticeship' here and soon moved into reperatory work. Theatre parts were quickly offered
(including key roles in plays such as 'Look Back in Anger' and 'Streetcar Named Desire'). His first major television role came in
1967 as hippie student Robert Croft in the long-running soap Coronation Street. But he was still keen on Shakesperean roles, as Roman Polanski's 1970 adaptation of Macbeth reveals.... nevertheless he admitted to hankering after the Special Guest Villain
spot in the crazy "Batman" TV series!
In September 1969, while enjoying a night out, he was viciously attacked by muggers and the resulting injuries led to the insertion
of a plastic plate as a substitute for a smashed right cheek-bone. The attack prompted him to give up alcohol completely.
While filming Macbeth a fellow actor introduced him to Indian spiritual teachings and Martin immediately opted
to take up a strict vegetarian lifestyle. In 1979 he gave up smoking.
Martin's first lead role in television was that of an abusive husband in the 1974 serial Helen - A Woman of Today.
The programme courted controversy... just the sort of exposure a young actor thrived on!
A key role for Martin was that in the 1977 New Avengers episode 'Obsession' where even in this fantasy adventure series,
he put in a tour-de-force performance as Purdey's ex-fiance seeking retribution for the execution of his father. This part
led directly to his casting as Ray Doyle in The Professionals (though, admittedly, only because actor Jon Finch had turned it down).
He came to international stardom with The Professionals, a show which he didn't think would last more than two seasons!
His antipathy towards the programme is, of course, well-known as he struggled to come to terms with a character that,
in his own eyes, was little more than a violent puppet.
Martin has often complained that his career prior to The Professionals has been forgotten but the reality is that much
of his TV work from the 1960s and early 1970s has either been wiped or remained locked in broadcaster's vaults.
During the 1980s he seemed to shy away from television but spent much time in various theatre roles, gaining praise from
the critics. Perhaps his best - and certainly most strenuous! - stage role came in 1985 playing Elvis Presley in Alan Bleasdale's
'Are You Lonesome Tonight?' which examined The King's final twenty-four hours in August 1977.
The play toured and ran well into 1986. Shortly after he was asked to take a role (it's not clear which) in one of the most
successful stage plays ever: 'Phantom of the Opera'. Unfortunately sheer exhaustion from Elvis meant he needed a long
break and he turned down the new offer - a decision which, although unavoidable, he greatly regretted.
As the 1980s rolled on, The Professionals continued to cause problems. Martin claims that London Weekend Television
tried to avoid obligatory negotiations over repeat fees in 1987. A revised offer was unsatsfactory to the actor and ensuing
arguments ended in the law courts in April the following year. Martin won the case but found himself under attack from the
tabloid press who claimed that he wanted to be regarded as a "Serious Actor" and thus simply did not want the series to be rescreened.
The 1990s have seen a return to high-profile television. In 1993 he appeared in the eponymous role of the police
procedural series The Chief. Although this received a lukewarm reception in the UK, it seems
to have done better in other countries.
In 1996 the BBC commissioned one of their most expensive series ever. Rhodes concerned the life of British diamond
prospector and politician Cecil Rhodes, played by Martin (and his son Joe Shaw playing the young Cecil in the first episode).
Unfortunately this series was deemed over-long (a total of eight hours) which rather dampened its dramatic effect and consequently failed to attract the high ratings the BBC were banking on. Interestingly when a six-hour version was screened in other countries, it was far more successful.
In early 1997 plans were formulated to revive The Professionals but Martin was not invited to reprise his role.
In the summer of 1998 Martin was in Prague to film a new version of The Scarlet Pimpernel (A "&" E of America, who
co-produced the series, had insisted on his casting because Rhodes had faired so well in the US) where he played the character of secret policeman Chauvelin. After several unexplained delays, UK transmission started on 24th January 1999 and the series was welcomed by many. Stupidly, however, the BBC scheduled the show against two very popular ITV programmes (Heartbeat and London's Burning), so lost out on ratings again.
Medical dramas have provided a major source of programming since the 1950s and so the news that yet another, Always and Everyone, had been commissioned by ITV in 1999 was met with dismay by many quarters and Martin himself seemed unsure about taking a role he had been offered in it. However the series faired surprisingly well and got three seasons under its belt until Martin decided to leave the show.
In 2001, he took on the title role of BBC drama Judge John Deed. He's also become the new Adam Dalgliesh, starring in
PD James' Death In Holy Orders in 2003 and The Murder Room in 2005.
In 2007 he played Inspector George Gently in the same titled series of the BBC, which continued in 2009.
2008 saw him as Father Jacob in Apparitions, a BBC drama about a priest, who examines evidence of miracles to be used in canonisation but also carries out exorcisms.
In 2009 Martin appeared as Sir Charles Cartwright in an adaptation of Agatha Christie's 'Three Act Tragedy', headed by
the famous sleuth Poirot.
Shaw has married three times. He has three children by his first wife, actress Jill Allen whom he married in 1968:
Luke Shaw an actor, Joe Shaw an actor and director, and Sophie Shaw, an actor and singer.
His second wife was former nurse turned alternative therapist Maggie Mansfield.
Later, he was married for a number of years to TV presenter, Vicky Kimm, who shared his love of flying.
He lives now together with Karen da Silva.