By John Smith •
Published: 25 Oct 2023 • 15:04
Actor, writer and all round nice guy Simon Williams
Credit: Simon Williams
It was in 1971, that a suave young actor set many a heart racing when he first appeared as James Bellamy in the popular series Upstairs Downstairs which was to run for five seasons.
Now, 52 years later, Simon Williams remains a handsome and very friendly figure who is still emersed in most aspects of show business and is about to make a flying visit to the Costa del Sol.
He was a pleasure to interview, as escaping from his much loved grandchildren he spoke to me on a video call from the garden of his home in Henley on Thames.
That deep warm cultured voice is still the same, although there are understandably some signs of age as he is now 77 but he is still working and we chatted about his career and the pivotal roles that he has played.
As an actor Simon has appeared on stage, in films, tv and radio but he is also an author and playwright as well as having two film scripts which await development.
He is coming over specially to give a talk to the Arts Society of Benahavis on Halloween Night, October 31 about the Upsides and Downsides of Upstairs Downstairs and promises to share some secrets with the audience.
When I tried to prise an early secret from him, Simon smiled and simply said “When I was about to record the elopement with Sarah the maid, played by Pauline Collins, Pauline completely threw me by leaning forward and whispering something in my ear.
“If you or readers want to know what she said, then you’ll have to come to the event!”
Clearly this successful TV show kick-started the young actor’s career and since then he has appeared in more than 100 films and TV shows as well as theatre and radio.
One franchise that has been close to his acting career is Dr Who and he appeared as Group Captain Gilmore with Sylvester McCoy as Dr Who in the 1988 four episode series Remembrance of the Daleks which then spawned numerous radio stories starring his character, better known as ‘Chunky’ Gilmore.
Although he isn’t whisked around the world to fan conventions like the surviving Doctors, he regularly attends these Comic Cons in the UK and is always impressed, yet a little embarrassed, that the fans seem to know more about his character than he does.
Asked of his experience and feelings towards Spain he said ”My brother-in-law had a place near one of the Alhaurins on the Costa del Sol and we were regular visitors to that beautiful part of the world.
“I was proud to have one of my plays, Nothing is Perfect translated into Spanish and I enjoyed seeing it in Madrid as it toured much of Spain starring the incredibly successful Josema Yuste.
“I jumped at the chance to make this flying visit to Marbella when invited, even though I’ll only be there for one night!”
As many will know, Simon plays the character of Justin Elliott in The Archers and has been that character since 2014 but still thinks of himself as a ‘new boy’ although he enjoys the role considerably.
For those of us who don’t know about how this daily radio soap is produced, every month the cast get together in Birmingham for no more than five days when either 24 or 26 episodes are put to bed and each takes about two and a half hours to record.
The actors only get paid if they are appearing in an episode and there is no retainer so if they are mentioned they receive nothing and are only paid when they record but Simon says the proceedings are quite fun as they don’t have to dress up, don’t have to learn the script and any sound of kissing is the actor or actress kissing their own hand.
When asked about appearing in his own plays, Simon explained “It’s sometimes a bit difficult as one hat can dominate the other and whilst acting, I might be thinking about how the words could have been different and indeed, one night, my daughter who was appearing with me suggested that next time I should turn up as the actor rather than the playwright!”
Simon enjoys all aspects of his art but admits that he does worry about appearing on the stage in case he his memory lets him down and fears that because he worries about this, his subconscious thoughts could work against him.
A modest man, he brushed over the fact that he is closely associated with charities connected with actors and suggested that most of the artists he knew did what they can to help those in the profession who may be suffering hard times.
You can’t help coming away from a chat with Simon Williams feeling as if you have been lucky to spend some time with such a true gentleman.
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Married to Ophelia in Gibraltar in 1978, John has spent much of his life travelling on security print and minting business and visited every continent except Antarctica.
Having retired several years ago, the couple moved to their house in Estepona and John became a regular news writer for the EWN Media Group taking particular interest in Finance, Gibraltar and Costa del Sol Social Scene.
Currently he is acting as Editorial Consultant for the paper helping to shape its future development.
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