Dateline: May 17, 1999
The Phantom Menace, the highly-anticipated "prequel" to the Star Wars trilogy, offers a chance to give wide exposure to a number of fine British actors. But where have you seen them before on TV? Here's a quick guide to British TV appearances the various actors have made over the years.
Liam Neeson ("Qui-Gon Jinn" in The Phantom Menace) technically is Irish, but has made a career in England for many years. He appeared in the 1983 mini-series A Woman Of Substance based on the Barbara Taylor Bradford novel. In 1987 he was in the TV movie Sweet As You Are. And it's worth noting (even though it's not British) that in 1984 he guest-starred in the Miami Vice episode, "When Irish Eyes Are Crying."
Ewan McGregor's ("Obi-Wan Kenobi") television credits are closely linked to writer Dennis Potter. In Potter's 1993 series about the 1956 Suez crisis, Lipstick On Your Collar, McGregor played Mick Hopper. He made a return appearance in another Potter series, 1996's Karaoke. Prior to this, he appeared in the 1993 mini-series Scarlet & Black.
Ian McDiarmid ("Senator Palpatine") is no stranger to the Star Wars universe, having first played the evil Emperor in Return of the Jedi. On television he was in Trevor Nunn's 1979 version of Macbeth (with Judi Dench and Ian McKellen) in the multiple roles of the Porter, Caithness, and Ross. Like Ewan McGregor, he appeared in Dennis Potter's Karaoke, playing "Oliver Morse." In 1998 he played a murder suspect in the Helen Baxendale mystery series An Unsuitable Job For a Woman. And just recently he appeared in the BBC/Masterpiece Theatre version of Great Expectations.
Oliver Ford Davis ("Sio Bibble") first appeared as a priest in the women's P.O.W. series Tenko. In 1987 he guest-starred in the Inspector Morse episode "Second Time Around." In 1988 he appeared in the classic A Very British Coup where he played "Tweed." He was a prosecutor in 1994's Kavanagh QC series, and guest-starred in Steve Coogan's anthology comedy series Coogan's Run playing "Dr. Phillips" in the episode "Natural Born Quizzers." In 1996 he appeared in A Royal Scandal, a dramatization of the 18th Century feud between the Prince and Princess of Wales.
Hugh Quarshie ("Captain Panaka") has a Shakespearean background having appeared in two 1980s BBC productions of the Bard, Titus Andronicus and A Midsummer Night's Dream. In 1988 he was a computer in the Red Dwarf IV episode "Polymorph II: Emohawk." Other comedy appearances include the 1993 Comic Strip Presents episode "Gregory: Diary of a Nutcase," and the 1995 episode of Glam Metal Detectives, "Give Me Your Money." He appeared in 1997's Melissa, and last year in A Respectable Trade with Warren Clarke.
Brian Blesssed (voice of "Boss Nass") is literally the man who has been in everything. He first starred on TV in Z Cars (pronounced "zed cars"), a landmark 1960s police series that was the Hill Street Blues of its time. In the great 1976 mini-series I, Claudius he was memorable as Augustus. And his larger-than-life persona was well put to use as Rowan Atkinson's father, Richard IV, in the original series of The Black Adder. His many, many guest-star appearances include two episodes of The Avengers, "The Superlative Seven" and "The Morning After;" two Space:1999 episodes, "Death's Other Dominion" and "The Metamorph;" a 1977 episode of Survivors, "Law Of The Jungle;" an early Blake's 7 episode, "Cynus Alpha;" a 1986 Doctor Who story, "Mindwarp;" a 1988 episode of Boon, "Banbury Blue;" and the 1991 Lovejoy episode, "Black Virgin of Vladimir."