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Category:    Home > Interviews > Interview > Filmmaking > Acting > Industry > History > An Interview with Actress Anneke Wills

An Interview with Actress Anneke Wills



In the 1960s, if you watched British TV or saw British films, you could not escape the presence of Anneke Wills.  The beautiful, appealing actress the camera loved turned up on almost every major series of the decade (especially DOCTOR WHO and THE AVENGERS) wrapping up the decade with her own action series, STRANGE REPORT.  Now, a brief-series she started the decade with is finally arriving on DVD in the U.K., THE STRANGE WORLD OF GURNEY SLADE and we caught up with her to find out about this unique, surreal series and much, much more…



(Questions are from the staff of FulvueDrive-in.com)


1)     THE STRANGE WORLD OF GURNEY SLADE is a series from 1960 with Anthony Newley finally seeing the light of day on DVD and for maybe the first time since its original broadcast.  The show about the title character leaving his TV show and going to the outside world, only to find it is a surreal version of ours was designed to only run six episodes.  What do you remember about making it?


First memory most of all, was of meeting Tony out on an airfield, picking flowers, and cast as his fantasy girl. And of course I fell in love with him! What can you do??


2)     The show is like the original TWILIGHT ZONE, yet is also a bit more of a comedy, including sending up the arrival of TV at the time (the way a film like SIMON & LAURA did).  How do you see the show?


It feels wonderful that now it is being placed in the wheel of British humour. Before GURNEY SLADE, we had THE GOONS, and this was massive, and had a massive effect on the conscious of British humour. It was much easier to be surreal on the radio up to that point. Tony was one of the first to express himself visually on telly. Up to this point, we haven’t seen talking dogs, or conversations with stones or indeed, ants. Don’t forget, the psychedelic hasn’t yet occurred.


3)     Did you see a larger cycle of TV being spoofed like this at the time?


No, this was unique.


4)     What was working with Mr. Newley like?


Divine darling; so talented, and mesmerizing, when he smiled, the whole world lit up.


5)     You have worked in many great TV genres shows as well as some interesting feature films in a golden period for British film and TV production.  Please tell us about what that was like?


At the time, how exciting as a young actress to be in such iconic series as THE SAINT, THE AVENGERS, and working with some of the best directors and talented actors. At the time, we had programs like PLAYS OF THE WEEK, and it basically consisted of one and a half hour long dramas, one a week, created by the best writers, best directors, the best of actors, and it’s NEVER been the same since and we never have the same again. I was so lucky to be in many of them. One of the best plays is called The Primitive and sadly, all of them are lost. So much of my career is actually in the trash bin.


6)     It is terrible how many British TV shows have simply been trashed instead of stored, though we have had incidents in the U.S. where many taped shows were lost because the cassettes were so expensive that the networks used them over and over until they wore out as on our THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JOHNNY CARSON.  Charles Lloyd Pack was an alumnus of SLADE that worked on about seven episodes of STRANGE REPORT.  Tell us more about him.


He is the father of my friend Roger Lloyd Pack (Trigger from ONLY FOOLS & HORSES), who at the time I hadn’t yet met. But working with Charlie was a treat because he was one of the old-school gentlemen who had trod the board for many years. And one of the silly memories I have of Charlie, he used to always hum a little tune during the endless waiting during filming, it goes like this “flippety flop, they’re over the top, and they’re all after me…!” it always made me laugh though of course, it’s actually about the trenches of the First World War.


7)     Roger Lloyd Pack (the father of the also very talented Emily Lloyd of A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT with Brad Pitt) was recently in the highly underrated and underseen MADE IN DAGENHAM and Network U.K. just released his great lost spy series SPYDER’S WEB in DVD (reviewed elsewhere on this site) from Network U.K. DVD.  You recently participated in THE AVENGERS 50TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION at the University of Chichester last June 2011.  Tell us about how much fun that event was?


Measure fun from 1-10, it scores 11. Such a gathering of old faces and reunions. Honor Blackman and Linda Thorson looking beautiful; lovely Baron Ray Austin telling great stories, and Paul O’Grady was interviewing and did the charity auction, which raised a lot of money. The filmed interview with Patrick Macnee was very moving. At the end, Paul O’Grady flew away in his helicopter and the Chichester University who had planned the whole event, repaired to the bar and a grand night was had by all… We none of us wanted to come down for a week. 


8)     I know you had to see some of your DOCTOR WHO episodes reconstructed due to loss of videotape footage, but other works of yours (THE PLEASURE GIRLS) are now on Blu-ray, slowly coming out on Blu-ray (STRANGE REPORT) or (THE AVENGERS, THE SAINT, THE SENTIMENTAL AGENT) seem to be heading there.  How does it feel to see your work being preserved in the digital High Definition era?


Wonderful! And thank you very much! Hurrah for Network [U.K. Home Video], because without these wonderful companies preserving the past series, then they too would be lost in the midst of time. And what a wonderful job they’ve done in the cleaning up of the original.


9)     Was it difficult to transition between William Hartnell's Doctor and
Patrick Troughton's on DOCTOR WHO?


No it wasn’t difficult, because the weeks leading up to Will Hartnell leaving, was fraught. So when Patrick Troughton walked into the rehearsal room in his little grey cardigan and his Greek bag, a great cheer went up because we knew that the series would now really take off. He was the absolute, perfect person to do the first re-generation because he was so lovable, the audiences couldn’t but accept him as the new Doctor.


10)  Do you feel like the hundreds of stories and many years worth of
continuity hamper or help the current series of DOCTOR WHO?


In my travels around “WHO world”, meeting up with all the new and old fans, it’s the new fans that actually really love the old series! When I ask them why this is, “because they have good stories!” And it was the loyal Dr. WHO fans who kept the magic alive during those dark times, when there was no Dr. WHO. So now most of us have launched ourselves happily into the new and exciting series. Don’t get me on David Tennant!!!


11)  A new toy company called BifBangPow! just licensed the rights to the entire DOCTOR WHO series and have the rights to make any character into an 8” action figure (Palitoy/Mego did this in the U.K. in the 1970s for the Tom Baker shows in 9” form) including yours, Polly Wright.  How does it feel that your WHO character may soon be produced as an action figure?


I LOVE IT!! Send me one!


12)  If they create one, we’ll let you know and tell the company about it since they are doing some great licensing.  Please tell us what it was like to work on THE SENTIMENTAL AGENT, the interesting, short-lived spin-off of the British series MAN OF THE WORLD?


I haven’t seen it since I worked on it, but Network is going to send me some! But what I do remember was that my character, was a Jazz Xylophone player. So as my preparation for the role, I took myself off to Humphrey Lyttleton’s jazz club in Soho and got together with Tubby Hayes, and he showed me how to do the movements so that it would be authentic (in retrospect, how CHEEKY was that! To go to the best jazz xylophonist in the world, and ask him to help me; the cheek of youth)!


Here’s the link to our review of the Network U.K. DVD set of the series:




13)  You said in an interview that is was fun to work with Roger Moore on THE SAINT in “The Helpful Pirate” episode along with Vladek Sheybal and Ray Austin?  What were they like to work with?


I had seen Vladek Sheybal in an extraordinarily disturbing film, and he was a luminous actor, so it was an honour to work with him. And Roger Moore, was one of those wonderful, British gentleman with intelligence, good looks and a wonderful sense of humour which had the whole studio chuckling and made working with him a total. And that was the first time I met Ray Austin.


14)  You did two very different AVENGERS years apart?  Did you know your later work in “The 50,000 Pound Breakfast” was a remake of an earlier show?


No I didn’t. Who played my part then? Curious, how curious…


15)  That 1962 Second Season episode is called Death Of A Great Dane and apparently, there is no equivalent to your role in the earlier version, so the great Roger Marshall slightly shook up the older teleplay he co-wrote with Jeremy Scott and there you were.  I read you enjoyed working with Patrick Macnee and Honor Blackman.  Any more on them?  What about working with Diana Rigg on the later show?


These people were so professional, so you up your game and that produces a special energy, and of course, the lovely Leonard Rossiter in Dressed to Kill [a 1963 episode of the series]; I was aware of Diana Rigg’s works and it was a fabulous experience playing a scene with such a shining actress.


16)  The earlier show was done live, the later shot in 35mm color film.  Were there more or less differences than you expected?


Working in the 50s, I was used to doing things live, so that presented no problems. And filming simply felt rather luxurious, although the waiting around could be boring.


17)  Are there any TV shows or feature films you turned down that would surprise us, including once you left the business?


As far as I remember, I didn’t turn anything down, always grateful to have the work. Once I have made the decision to go to the country and grow vegetables, I stubbornly refused to return to London to work on anything else again. No regrets, life goes on.


18)  Were you ever approached to do a Bond film?


No because I didn’t have the tits! Producers couldn’t imagine that you could be sexy and NOT hugely endowed.


19)  But the camera loves you and you always looked great!  On STRANGE REPORT, tell us about how much you enjoyed the show and working with both Anthony Quayle and Kaz Garas?


We became a family in the end; and because it was months of very hard work but of course, very rewarding and once again, to be working with such talented directors and actors. Really nice for me to be treated at last like a star, I had my own suite of dressing room, a stand-in, a chair with my name on it (but being me, I had written “and anyone else who liked a bit of a sit down”). Kaz Garas was a cutie pie and I was so lucky that many of my scenes were with Tony Quayle, once again, one of our very best and such a sweetheart… it’s the same story, Roger Moore, Pat Macnee, Patrick Troughton, Anthony Quayle, all English gentlemen, with beauty and talent and intelligence. And my husband was jealous of everyone!


20)  STRANGE REPORT is considered one of many shows that was said to be in the mode of THE AVENGERS.  To what extent do you agree?


It never occurred to me, in fact I don’t see the similarities at all, watch them again!


21)  We will!  Believe it or not, the show is still not available on DVD or Blu-ray in the U.S. market.  It is commonly suggested all the “team U.K. action series” of the time were inspired and influenced by THE AVENGERS, with the similarity in this case being unusual cases.  I understand all three leads of your show STRANGE REPORT decided they did not want to continue the show if they had to move to the U.S., which I think killed what would have been a big hit.  Are there any scripts you saw that you never shot?


No… we completed that group of episodes and then Tony and I were asked, would we be prepared to move with the show to L.A. and make the next 26 episodes from Hollywood. And searching souls, we both came up with a no. He wanted to spend time with his wife, go down the canals of France in his boat; I didn’t think I could hold onto my marriage if I was work in Hollywood. And my children were more important to me at that time. So though we knew that this was devastating to the producers, we nevertheless stayed with our truth. So sorry folks.


22)  On the Retro-ACTION Blu-ray and the RETURN OF THE SAINT DVD box set, the STRANGE REPORT episode “Kidnap: Whose Pretty Girl Are You?” was used to show how good the show was in both cases.  Is this a favorite episode of yours?


Each episode was fun to do for different reasons, unless being nearly poisoned by a witch!


23)  You have written books about your professional and personal life.  Please tell us about them so people can find out even more beyond our interview.


In 2003, I was persuaded by the WHO fans to tell my story. So on January 1st 2003, I sharpened my pencil, lit my candle and I went back to the very beginning to find the early voice. It was quite an experience. I found that memories came flooding back that’s long since forgotten. And later on to write about the painful things was hard but necessary to tell the tale. For me personally, it’s been a really rewarding thing to do, and to share the journey of my life with so many people has been nothing short of an immense gift, for which I am very grateful.


SELF-PORTRAIT is the story of the 60s, and NAKED brings us up to now with all the tragedies and comedies in between. Get on the website, have a look, order it all quick because they’re going out of print!


Thank you very much everyone, I send you lots of love from my little cottage from deep in the woods of South England, and I wish you all the very best.


We thank you as well and appreciate answering our questions!!!



You can visit Miss Wills' website at this link:





You can read more about the new release of THE STRANGE WORLD OF GURNEY SLADE at this link:





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