Colin Jeavons

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia
Colin Jeavons as Professor Moriarty in the episode The Adventure of the Winged Scarab of the TV series The Baker Street Boys (1983)
Colin Jeavons as Inspector Lestrade in the episode The Norwood Builder (1985)
Colin Jeavons as Inspector Lestrade in the episode The Empty House (1986)

Colin Jeavons (born 20 october 1929) is a British actor who played Inspector Lestrade in 6 episodes of the TV series Sherlock Holmes between 1985 and 1992 with Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes.

He also played Professor Moriarty in one episode of the TV series The Baker Street Boys with Roger Ostime as Sherlock Holmes.



From an early age, Colin Jeavons proved to be cut out for acting. At the age of fifteen, while playing a tramp at the West Bromwich drama Festival, he was spotted by the head of the Birmingham Drama School and offered a scholarship. Later on, he was trained at the Old Vic School, in London.

Colin Jeavons is best known as a prolific and particularly reliable television actor. Pete Stampede and Alan Hayes wrote of him as one of those under-rated, ever-present supporting actors, who never turn in a bad performance. Ever present he was indeed, for he appeared in an impressive number of series (Doctor Who, The Avengers...) during the 1960s and the 1970s and in a great many adaptations of Dickens' novels, such as Bleak House (1959), Great Expectations or David Copperfield (1966), where his definitive portrayal of the ambitious, hypocritical and snakelike Uriah Heep earned him unanimous praise. But though he often took on supporting roles, Colin Jeavons also assumed leading ones: in The Life and Death of Sir John Falstaff (1959) he embodied the play's protagonist and hero, Henry V, recently crowned King of England, brilliant and fearless, and in Epitaph for a Spy (1963), hard-up young language teacher Joseph Vassady, who faces surprising adventures. Anyway, when Colin Jeavons played supporting roles, they never appeared insignificant, for his talent made them memorable. For example, his role as Donald, the abused boy, in Denis Potter's Blue Remembered Hills (1979), where children are played by adults, met with great critical acclaim. The Guardian wrote: « The greatest performance is from Colin Jeavons as the horribly put upon Donald, brutally called Donald Duck. » During the nineties, in the British political television drama House of Cards, he gives a chilling performance as Tim Stamper, junior whip of the Conservative Party and ruthless henchman of the ambitious, amoral and manipulative politician Francis Urquhart.

But for Sherlock Holmes' enthusiasts, Colin Jeavons is, above all, the best Inspector Lestrade of his generation and the most faithful to the original stories. In Starring Sherlock Holmes, David Stuart Davies declares: « Lestrade was played with great panache throughout the Granada series by Colin Jeavons, who humanised and enhanced Doyle's sketchy portrait of the Inspector. » The actor happened sometimes to be unavailable for the series. But when he appears, in episodes like The Norwood Builder, The Second Stain or The Six Napoleons, his performance make them still more enticing, for he conveys in the most expressive and funniest way the Inspector's self-confidence, vanity and exultation each time he thinks he has outwitted Holmes. And when he listens to Holmes' often incomprehensible views, his flabbergasted face is a real treat. Yet, Colin Jeavons' energetic, honest and upright Lestrade is not a clown. He deserves respect, and carries on with Holmes a prickly but affectionate relationship.

In 1993, Colin Jeavons retired from acting. He explained his eyes were getting worse and he was having real trouble remembering lines. But we will have none remembering his stunning performance as Lestrade.

  • Credits: Monique Claisse (text), Granada (photos).