Ronald Allen. An online interview combined from a couple of interviews the man behind David Hunter did over the years.
How did you get into acting?
I’ve been acting for about thirty-nine years I started off in the classic way that actors of my age started off: You go to drama school, which in my case was RADA. You then spend six months in a good repertory company – I was in Salisbury – and then you go to do Shakespeare at the Old Vic. Then along came some film parts which are very difficult to refuse you know.
You also worked in Hollywood, but only for a couple of films, why was this?
I was offered a three-year contract with 20th Century Fox films, but it didn’t really turn out to be what I wanted or expected. After making three films I returned home to England. Theatre has always been my first love, though I’d be scared to go back [to the theatre] now. In the 1960s, television was the place to be, however; I was lucky enough to be offered some interesting parts in television drama. Compact was the first show that brought me to masse audiences.
This series was created by Peter Ling and Hazel Adair for the BBC, they, of course, went on to devise David Hunter for me. [Compact was a twice-weekly serial based in a womans magazine office.]
Could you tell us a little of how David Hunter came to arrive at the Crossroads Motel?
David came from a family of hoteliers and he had been, prior to arriving at Crossroads, running his own hotel in Bermuda. It seems that although the business was a success, his dedication to the job affected his private life. His wife Rosemary, feeling neglected, had an affair with David’s business partner. He sold up his share in the Bermuda hotel and came back to England hoping that would bring the marriage back together again. At that time there were a whole lot of shares going in the motel so he bought a block and started co-directing Crossroads Motel with Meg Richardson.
You said that theatre was your first choice for acting, so why have you now decided to base yourself firmly in television drama?
I enjoy television very much, I very much enjoy the feeling of contact with the audience, really knowing who your audience is. I really do enjoy it. David Hunter is often topping the polls of ‘sexiest male’ on television, how do you feel about this? David’s got a very strong relationship going at the moment, but there is a tremendous problem – many of our female viewers never wanted David Hunter to ever get married! It’s this special popularity that leads to such problems with the storylines.
Female fans are often getting jealous of David’s relationships! In fact when David was having an on-off relationship with the journalist Kelly, played by Justine Lord, a very lovely actress and beautiful girl. When things with Kelly looked like they were coming to a romantic conclusion, many viewers wrote in complaining.
The marriage to Rosemary.. ..arriving at Crossroads didn’t help really.. for the first few months Rosemary was pretty much locked away in David’s cottage, in fact, no one at the motel knew he was married… Unfortunately, even the change of location and his many attempts to set things on an even keel didn’t save his marriage. Things went from bad to worse, and in the end, David Hunter was divorced. Ever since then, Crossroads Motel has served as his home and as a sort of surrogate family.
What kind of feedback do you get from the fans?
Viewer involvement with the programme is very important. Although sometimes it can be rather worrying. What with people writing in for secretarial jobs at the motel, or they try to book the Banqueting Hall for a Christmas party! Sometimes it really is quite a frightening responsibility.
Do they ever tell you off for things you’ve done as David?
Oh dear, oh yes. Particularly when David strays from the straight and narrow, having affairs and the like.
Do you think you’ve added some of yourself to the character of David Hunter?
I think that is inevitable. If you work in a show for five or more years an awful lot of your own personality goes into it. Then the people who write the scripts watch what you’re doing and say to each other “Oh yes, Ron does that..” and then they write in what I do. Because of this attention by the scriptwriters certain elements of my personality do form the character of David Hunter.
But there must be parts of David Hunter’s character that are not Ronald Allen in any shape or form?
Yes, some parts of David Hunter have absolutely nothing to do with me in any shape or form. David is meant to be a whiz-kid businessman, but I could never run a motel. I think I could put on a performance of greeting people at the door and making sure everyone was comfortable, but as to the massive technical side of things – VAT, ordering food and so on – I haven’t a clue.
What do you like most about David?
What I particularly enjoy about being David Hunter is the way that the character is continually changing and developing. What I mean is that when you do a one-off play you rehearse and rehearse just to define a particular character. Once that’s done, there is no changing him. But in Crossroads the character can do anything. He’s developing all the time, you know, and new facets are being revealed all the time.
Crossroads underwent a recent revamp, which was brought on by a new producer. This change has also seen “The Hunters” written out of the show how did you find out you and Sue would no longer be required?
Phillip Bowman the new producer, took both Sue and myself out to lunch where he told us how great we were, then sacked us. He did say that I should go west; he seemed to think that I’d be great in Dallas or Dynasty.
Would you like to do an American soap opera?
I’d love to, love to! Mainly for the money! You don’t get rich doing British serials.
Was your sackings a surprise?
Er, yes and no. I’ve done enough soap to know that when a new producer takes over anything could happen. So I’d worked out that one of his new plans could be for Sue and I to go. I didn’t say anything to Sue of course.
Your on-screen wife Barbara Hunter is played by Sue Lloyd, who you also live with as partners. Are there any plans to follow in David and Barbara’s steps with a real-life wedding?
Yes eventually, certainly. If we marry we will certainly marry each other, that’s why we’re engaged. (laughs)
When Noele Gordon was sacked, the character of Meg was thought to have been burned to death, they pretty much burned the motel down around her…
Yes Meg was in bed at the time, (laughs) I had this wonderful speech where I had to say she was in her bedroom and she went down through the reception and finished up in the basement. (laughs) I had this terrible mental image of Nolly going down, and down and down.
Barbara and David had a far happier ending..
Yes, we spend the rest of our lives driving up to the motel in the red car. No, we drove off into the sunset for a new life in Bermuda. [People at first thought it was Ronnie and Sue in the red MG car in the 1985-87 opening titles.]
Was it difficult filming your final scenes, saying goodbye to all your friends at the studios?
Horrendous, horrendous. We had to say things like ‘we want to go, its the best thing that’s ever happened to us.’ And of course, we were leaving so many people, I mean all the people in make-up, the boys on the studio floor, they were great chums. The tears were real.
You sang a song on the Wogan chat show about your departure from the Crossroads Motel, how did that come about?
Well, we were asked to sing something for a concert, it was ‘A Night of 100 Stars’ in fact they called it ‘A Night of 98 stars and those two from Crossroads‘ (laughs) It was for Unicef.
What are your future plans?
Well, I’ve done another movie as part of the Comic Strip series, Supergrass. In this Comic Strip, I start off as a vampire, then turn into a policeman who in turn wants to be a priest. (laughs)
A mix of interviews from Crossroads Monthly Magazine, Central Press Office and Wogan.