Afterwards, Robert returned to the stage where he has starred in everything from Shakespeare and Agatha Christie to 12 Angry Men. Cornwall-born Robert, 65, lives in Hertfordshire with his partner Jean.
He is on tour in Ruth Rendall’s A Judgement In Stone.
“I started as a journalist on The Cornish Guardian and worked my way up from cub reporter. I got two front pages and stories in the national press.
“I was always keen on acting, though, and the advice was to get a second string to my bow, so I trained as a teacher in the West Midlands.
“I later begged, borrowed and stole my way through drama school and just before I finished in 1981, I got my first TV role in the drama series For Maddie With Love starring Ian Hendry. Ian took me under his wing and taught me a great deal.
“Among my early stage roles were A Deep Man and a favourite, Mr Rochester in Jane Eyre. Alongside theatre, I did TV and my most high-profile role was Gus Hedges in Drop The Dead Donkey. “Gus was a shy and hopeless newsroom boss who was bereft of people skills.
He was a blundering idiot who talked a lot of rubbish! The writers had the strength to flesh out the narrative of every character as each series progressed, combined with topical news stories.
“Despite the popularity of Drop The Dead Donkey and its raft of awards over nine years, I think the writers decided to stop because they couldn’t go any further with it.
“I later got offered several roles that were simply clones of Gus and it boils down to the fact that I was a victim of the show’s success and I took that on board. The irony of Drop The Dead Donkey was that I’d been cast as the person who’d never been a journalist in his life, yet in reality I had been!
“I returned to the stage and took on roles in TV shows such as London’s Burning, Where The Heart Is and a regular character in Casualty.
“In recent years I’ve done less TV and more theatre, like long tours of Agatha Christie thrillers, Ladies In Lavender with Hayley Mills and Belinda Lang, and Rehearsal For Murder last year. I also do radio drama – particularly Old Harry’s Game, written by Drop The Dead Donkey’s Andy Hamilton.
“I’ve worked on many productions for Bill Kenwright, too, who is the producer of the whodunnit I’m currently touring with, called A Judgement In Stone.
“When I’m not acting I teach English, history, creative writing and a bit of drama. I think I’d describe my life as an actor as a work in progress.”
A Judgement In Stone is currently touring the UK. Visit kenwright.co.uk.