Home > Characters > Richard Heffer (Jimmy Garland)
Updated: December 23 2020 09:43
As soon as it was available, I got Survivors on DVD. I watched it again, and I thought it was really good TV. I think that that era was extraordinary
Back in 1975, when you got the part of Jimmy Garland in the first series of Survivors, were you already familiar with the cast and crew?
I didn't know many of the people involved. I did know Ian McCulloch from before a little, and I knew Lucy Fleming a little bit, but I didn't know anybody else. But I had worked with some of the people who organised it. It was the director Pennant Roberts who got me into it.
I knew Terence Dudley, the producer a little bit. I'd been doing a lot of BBC stuff, previously, intermixed with theatre and film. I suppose, it just happened to fit a good slot in my own schedule. I loved the idea of the character of Garland, and I really liked the script which was quite action-packed.
How different was your part in Survivors from the sorts of other roles you were doing at the time
I did quite a lot of those sort of roles in those days. I did a big series with BBC Scotland, called The Mad Death, which was all about rabies. And that was the same sort of thing, a slightly loner guy who was very good at his job. Again, very much action orientated. Enemy at the Door was another.
I'd done quite a lot of 'period' drama. What was great about Survivors was the chance to be more contemporary. It's amazing to look at it now and think that that was "contemporary" back then. You'd think it was a long time ago. Well, it was!
I loved the idea of the character of Garland, and I really liked the scriptRichard Heffer
Can you recall if you were given any specific guidance on how to approach the character of Garland?
No, not really. I just warmed to him. The first thing was that, okay, on the surface, he had to be a bit "old school", and a little bit in the vein "do as I say, because I know what I'm doing", which, in those days, was a lot more acceptable than it is now. He was not someone who was panicking and saying "oh god, well, we might be able to do this, and we might be able to do that." He just got on with it and did it. He was also prepared to rough it, and was in fact quite happy to rough it.
Your first episode Garland’s War was shot during the phase when the production team were using film on location and video back in the studio. What are your memories of the shoot?
That first episode was great fun. I only remember the Outside Broadcast (OB) location work, actually. I don't remember any studio stuff. I thoroughly enjoyed doing it, especially as so much of it was shot out-of-doors and in the countryside. The production team were terrific, and there was a really exciting sense that this was all quite innovative; that we were in some senses "making it up as we went along". And later in A Beginning, galloping around on a horse for a bit was huge fun.
The relationship between Abby Grant and Jimmy Garland is one of the most interesting emotional engagements of the series. Did you feel that there was the potential to explore that further?
I was quite surprised in a way that the storyline didn't pursue Garland's talents further, because he is a very capable guy. But Abby's determination to go off an find her missing son - she's always saying "I must go, I must go" - kept the story moving along and away from that. Abby had her own commitment, which he followed through and then that was it. I thought it was a really good relationship because she was such a sparky character, quite chipper; not the usual TV female lead. They were nicely contrasted Jimmy and her. I suppose if the producers had wanted to, they could have written a whole other storyline for the pair of them.
I think that they decided that they wanted to keep Garland in the Survivors 'mix'. But I got the sense that there was a bit of indecision about which way things would go, and for how long. Because nobody really knew. A lot of series never back then didn't last particularly long. But there was a lot of interest in Survivors, and it had caught the popular imagination. So maybe they were thinking "well, maybe we should keep our options open", and leave open the chance for Garland to return.
Since the DVDs of Survivors have been available, I passed the series around to a lot of people. I show it to people occasionally and they love it.
Was the call from Big Finish, inviting you to reprise the role of Jimmy Garland, completely unexpected?
There was a lot of interest in Survivors, and it had caught the popular imaginationRichard Heffer
Well, yes, completely. Although, funnily enough, it is a time in one’s life, because now I'm so old, that things are being revisited. Especially by the BBC. They’ve issued for the first time on DVD the last eight episodes of Dixon of Dock Green, which, of course was when I came into it to be the new character of DS Alan Bruton. I had only ever seen little scratchy bits taken from the time-coded video, and things like that. So that was a revelation to see all that. It's like the Colditz series that I did. They only just produced a DVD box set a couple of years ago.
Big Finish got in touch and said "we're doing Survivors, and we'd like you to be in it." I said: "Wow, that sounds great. Yes", and here I am. I got sent a script a week ago. I hadn't seen Carolyn Seymour in 40 years!
You never worked with her again after Survivors?
Well, she went to America, of course. Life carries on, and you do different things. I've never really got stuck into any major ongoing series. I had quite an interesting career of doing lots of different things that have caught the eye but nothing that has rolled for ever on. I’ve never done soaps or series like that. I've always chopped around and a lot of variety. I've done theatre and movies and radio and stuff.
So was Garland a character that it was quite easy to reach back to, to connect with? He wasn't a character that was difficult to find again?
He was a person who was always in the back of my head. He was very like the character in The Mad Death. Obviously he was posher, and one of the things he represented in Survivors was that sort of paternalistic view of things from an earlier era. It was a really interesting part, and one of the sort of roles that did, I suppose, often come my way.
Have you enjoyed returning to the role of Jimmy Garland - this time on audio?
Yeah, it's been lovely. What's specially nice for me, particularly at this time in my life, is that it's not always easy for me to get time to fit everything in. So to be able to do a couple of days at Big Finish, and do what's required is ideal.
Is the door left open to Jimmy’s return in future instalments?
I don't know. All I know is what's in the script that I've been given. That's it. I'm quite happy to come back. We'll have to see how it goes
The ninth series of new Survivors audio adventures is available to buy (in CD and download formats) from Big Finish.
"There's still great potential here, as the UK begins to emerge from the dark ages of The Death, for more stories set in this uniquely realised dystopia, should sufficient numbers of those who have yet to purchase copies of this extraordinary audio series belatedly recognise the error of their ways. If that doesn't happen, this will remain a stunning finale for what must be celebrated as a consistently compelling audio drama, 5/5"
The eight series of new Survivors audio adventures is available to buy (in CD and download formats) from Big Finish.
"This latest boxset delivers an impressive mix of large scale, high stakes and small scale, intimate stories which set in motion the events which will come to an explosive conclusion in the final set in this current run of post-apocalyptic dramas, 5/5 " - Cultbox
The seventh series of new Survivors audio adventures is available to buy (in CD and download formats) from Big Finish.
"At times harrowing, at other moments uplifting, and never anything other than completely riveting listening, this latest series of Survivors audios delivers drama that is simply unmissable. As the series leaves behind the timeline of the TV incarnation of the show, Big Finish's writers, cast and crew are all clearly brimming with fully deserved confidence. The two series of new Survivors audios coming in 2018 could scarcely be a more exciting or (in the best sense of the word) a more unpredictable prospect, 10/10" - Starburst
The sixth series of new Survivors audio adventures is available to buy (in CD and download formats) from Big Finish.
"After five extraordinarily well-received box sets, each of which offered a self-contained and themed collection of four episodes, the sixth series of Survivors audio adventures confidently takes a fresh approach... It's a liberating shift in format and, under the keenly judged direction of Ken Bentley, these scripts make exceptional use of the opportunity to tell diverse, if equally compelling, standalone stories, 10/10" - Starburst
The fifth series of new Survivors audio adventures is available to buy (in CD and download formats) from Big Finish.
"As it explores the highest stakes possible, this develops into the most thrilling and compelling set of stories in Big Finish's Survivors series to date: which, considering the exceptional quality of the drama in the preceding four instalments, is quite some achievement. This is extraordinary, exemplary human drama; by any standard, 10/10" - Starburst
The fourth series of new Survivors audio adventures is available to purchase (in CD and download formats) from Big Finish.
"Intelligent, literate and superbly scripted and performed, this is a post-apocalyptic drama of the highest possible calibre. Determined to avoid the predictable tropes of that genre, it invites its listeners to navigate a moral minefield in a way that few other dramas of this type would attempt. This comes recommended without reservation" - Starburst
The third series of new Survivors audio adventures is available to purchase (in CD and download formats) from Big Finish.
The second series of new Survivors audio adventures is available to purchase (in CD and download formats) from Big Finish.
A full-length audiobook of Terry Nation's Survivors novel (in CD and download formats) read by Carolyn Seymour.
The first series of new Survivors audio adventures is available to purchase (in CD and download formats) from Big Finish.
Series nine reviews addedAdded: 13 July 2019
Series eight reviews addedAdded: 9 January 2019
Series seven reviews addedAdded: 14 January 2018
Series six reviews addedAdded: 12 July 2017
Series five reviews addedAdded: 20 December 2016
Series four reviews addedAdded: 26 June 2016
Series three reviews addedAdded: 18 December 2015
New interviews addedAdded: 21 November 2015