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Cast and Characters

Hodge | Eric | Dawn | Spock | Lloydy | Ally | Diesel | Laura

Jeanetta & Laura | Polson | Rundle | Mel | Mr Wang | Others


Hodge

A picture of Hodge Real name: David Howard Roger Gadd, with his nickname arising from a contraction of this full name.

We first meet Hodge just prior to an enormous change in his life. He works in a garden centre and lives in a static caravan (number 11 on the park) which used to belong to his late grandmother, Enid. He was brought up by his grandmother, never knowing his parents. His main life outside work revolves around Eric, his best friend since school and who he followed into the TA, and various girlfriends with whom he gets obsessed for a short period before splitting up and returning to his bachelor life. However, it appears at first that his relationship with Laura Delooze is going to be more serious and is therefore jeopardised by the return to Hodge's life of an old flame.

Hodge met Jeanetta Scarry when he was working as a hotel swimming pool attendant when he was 17. Jeanetta was 36 and had recently divorced Greg Scarry, millionaire owner of Scarry's Biscuits. Hodge lost his virginity to Jeanetta, resulting in her getting pregnant and giving birth to a daughter called Kirsty. However, they then moved to Portugal, only returning when Kirsty turned 5.

When returning to her mother's house in Blackpool Jeanetta finds that Hodge has been sending 20 a month for Kirsty, although it had not been forwarded due to a feud between Jeanetta and her mother. However, Jeanetta does write to tell Hodge of her return to Britain, although she does not want him to be a father to Kirsty, initially preventing him from seeing her. However, Jeanetta soon relents and Hodge is allowed to spend time with them, under the pretext that he is Jeanetta's gardener and Kirsty's godfather. However, this only lasts until Jeanetta is to marry and moves to America with Kirsty. Hodge has an emotional parting from his daughter - knowing that he may never see her again, and if he does then she will be much older. As such, the stress of saying goodbye leads to him stabbing a customer with a decoy heron and he is suspended.

Hodge's relationship with Laura does not last long, with her leaving him when she believes he is still seeing Jeanetta. His next girlfriend is Mel Polson, who agrees to move in with him at the end of the series, perhaps some compensation for the suspension.

Preston Front was the launch for a successful career for Colin Buchanan, who has followed his role as Hodge with a number of leading roles, including Dalziel and Pascoe opposite Warren Clarke, Moll Flanders and the ITV adaptation of Agatha Christie's The Pale Horse. He has also appeared in Between The Lines (an episode called "Breaking Point"). Buchanan was born in 1967 and took up acting at the suggestion of his father, who was a major in the Royal Marines. Prior to acting he had tried his hand at a number of jobs including singing in a rock band, working on a building site and delivering leaflets. Despite his convincing Lancastrian accent, he is actually Scottish (from Dundee). He now lives in Birmingham with his long-term partner Kim and their daughters Kira and Maya. He is a football fan, following a number of teams - Spurs, Dundee, Birmingham City and Burnley. Given the latter, it is interesting to note that Hodge occasionally wears a Burnley FC T-shirt.

Eric

A picture of Eric Real name: Wayne Disley, although at school his friends decided that he was more of an Eric than a Wayne ("They rechristened me in the school bogs one lunchtime").

Eric has been Hodge's best friend since they were at school and he has constantly lived in his shadow. At the start of the series, he does not have a job and has never had a girlfriend, and fears that he is seen as a loser. At this point he is still living at home, and life here is difficult since his father has had a breakdown and is still in poor mental health. His father had previously been a sergeant in the army, prompting him to join the TA after the breakdown, persuading Hodge to join with him.

Then, as Hodge's life gets more complicated, things start to change for Eric. He meets Dawn when she joins the TA and they eventually get together during a trip to Germany, and they soon move into a flat together (Flat 2, No. 26 Churchill Rise). At about the same time Eric gets a job as delivery driver working for Mr Wang's Chinese restaurant, The Roman Holiday.

However, even all of this could not completely improve Eric's self confidence. When Dawn decides to leave college he starts to believe that he is dragging her down to his level when she had the potential to become so much more. As such, he calls off their relationship for her own good, pretending that he no longer loves her. However, they are soon reunited and their wedding forms the basis of the last episode.

Some trivia about Eric - he has three GCSEs and achieved his first sexual arousal during The King and I.

Paul Haigh, who played Eric, has also appeared in Between The Lines and Casualty and has had small roles in a number of films including Being Human, Waterland and Fierce Creatures. Perhaps his most bizarre job was a series of adverts for home insurance for Spanish television.

Dawn

A picture of Dawn Full name: Dawn Lomax.

The daughter of a solicitor, Dawn moves to Roker Bridge when she goes to college, training to be a teacher. She joins the TA as a means of getting away from normal student life which she is not keen on. Here she meets Eric, and after a bit of encouragement from her they finally start going out, and soon after they move into a flat together.

However, Dawn starts to realise that teaching is not for her, due to the fact that she doesn't like children. As such, she decides to give up college and starts working as a waitress (initially for Mr Wang then at the cafe in Roker Vale Garden Centre), against the wishes of her parents and Eric. She is then heartbroken when Eric calls off their relationship, but they are soon reunited and marry. The wedding is the cause of some controversy with Dawn's parents organising a posh wedding suitable to appear in the pages of a society magazine (Lancashire Living), when Eric and Dawn would have preferred something more low key. As such, they don't actually turn up at the reception, preferring to spend the time with their friends in Mr Wang's restaurant.

Caroline Catz was born in Manchester in 1970 and trained at RADA. She has appeared in Peak Practice, the Jack Rosenthal tv film Moving Story and in a number of films such as Under The Sun, Deja Vu and The Curious. She also played the lead character in a Screen Two film, Look Me In The Eye. Since Preston Front she seems to have found a career playing police women, first as Rosie Fox in The Bill, then in The Vice and Murder In Suburbia. Outside of the police force, Caroline was one of the key cast members in the Martin Clunes vehicle Doc Martin. She is a mezzo soprano, and used to sing in a folk band called Sapphire.

Spock

A picture of the second Spock A picture of the first Spock Real name: Simon Matlock, with his nickname coined by Lloydy to reflect his intellectual image. During the episode "Kirtsy's Biscuit" he declares that he is fed up with the name and states that he wishes to be known as Kirk, but it doesn't catch on.

Spock is definitely the intellectual of the group. He works as a history teacher in the local comprehensive, and enjoys the cultured things in life, such as art, classical music and cooking. However, on a number of occasions he starts to worry about his image and personality and the fact that he appears old before his time.

Spock was originally played by Stephen Tompkinson, an actor initially well known as Damien Day in Drop The Dead Donkey but then found mainstream success with Ballykissangel and then Grafters. Preston Front allowed Tompkinson to use his natural accent, in contrast to his more familiar clipped tones. "I keep getting these posh people to play when I'm really a nice northern bloke," he told the Radio Times in 1994

Following the departure of Tompkinson after the first series, the part of Spock was played by Alistair McGowan, best known as an impressionist with many credits including voices for Spitting Image and appearances on shows such as They Think It's All Over and The Stand Up Show. This lead to his own BBC show Alistair McGowan's Big Impression. Appropriately enough, given Spock's occupation, McGowan is the son of two teachers.

Lloydy

A picture of Lloydy Real name: Tony Lloyd. As Spock notes, it is perhaps revealing that his friends could not come up with a more imaginative nickname for him.

Lloydy is perhaps not the brightest member of the group and he has a juvenile sense of humour that often annoys his friends but causes him to exclaim "Makes me laugh!" Originally from Yorkshire, Lloydy's parents ran a sweet stall on Roker Bridge market but desperately wanted the best for their son. They took out a loan in order to send him to a private school, although he did not fit in and Lloydy has since kept quiet about the details of his education. As such, he was initially a disappointment to his parents who wanted him to make something of his life.

When we first meet Lloydy he is working for Mitch Maddox, a manager of snooker players who has decided that he wants to keep a farm, and indeed it was Maddox who encouraged Lloydy to join the TA (although it is indicated that Lloydy did know Hodge, Eric and the others before). Maddox instructs Lloydy not to tell anyone what he does and he takes great delight in being cryptic about his "secret job". However, following problems with a koi carp, Lloydy resigns from his job. He invents a boardgame called Gurkha Tank Battle which becomes a great success and he proceeds to spend much of the proceeds on varying types of motor vehicles.

When he gets evicted from his flat due to the noise from this collection of cars Lloydy buys a narrowboat to live on. However, in order to restore the confidence of his parents, Spock suggests that his parents retire on to the canal boat (which was their dream) while he takes over the sweet stall. Lloydy then stays with Hodge for a while, before taking over the flat below the one occupied by Dawn and Eric.

Adrian Hood grew up in a Yorkshire mining community. However, he never considered going down the pit after leaving school, and considered becoming a professional footballer before taking up acting. He has appeared in the films Brassed Off (which starred Stephen Tompkinson) and Up And Under.

Ally

A picture of Ally Full name: Alison Minshull née Matlock.

Ally is initially a corporal in the unit, specialising in engineering and looking after the vehicles. She studied electro-mechanical engineering at Manchester University and later built her own sports car from a kit. She is married to a solicitor called Frazer, who is much older than she is. Ally and Frazer got together when she was a student and Frazer was married. Both Frazer and his first wife were good friends of Ally's parents, and they have not spoken to their daughter since finding out about the relationship. Frazer divorced and married Ally. They then moved to Roker Bridge, where her brother, Spock, was already living.

However, during the course of the series Ally starts to feel a disatisfaction with her life. With her 30th birthday approaching the age gap between her and Fraser is starting to show. She wants more challenges and excitement and successfully applies to become an officer cadet. Her initial training is locally, prior to a place at Sandhurst, which brings her into conflict with Polson.

Ally's discontentment with her life also leads to a drunken kiss with Carl Rundle, although she is initially clear that it meant nothing and wants to retain their friendship. However, Rundle gets the wrong idea, believing that she is going to leave Fraser, and when he finds out about his mistake he decides to leave Roker Bridge. Ally then learns that Fraser is having an affair with his ex-wife, and she shares an intimate shower with Rundle after a formal mess dinner.

After splitting up with Fraser, Ally seems unsure of her future. She considers leaving the TA, but then starts working for Diesel as a mechanic.

Kate Gartside grew up in the town of Glossop in Derbyshire. Her parents (a teacher and a lecturer) were heavily involved in amateur dramatics, which encouraged her to take up acting. She now lives in North London with her husband, actor Raad Rawi, and their two children, Mai and Jordan. Her credits include the film Close My Eyes, Casualty and Rockliffe's Babies. She has since appeared as a CID officer in two shows, with regular roles in Backup and City Central.

Diesel

A picture of Diesel Real name: Derek Moyle, with his nickname arising because it sounds similar to Des and is relevant to the fact that he runs a garage (it was coined by Lloydy).

Not long before the start of the series, Diesel's parents, Lol and May, were killed in an accident when they were hit by a charity bus when leaving church. This has particularly affected Diesel's younger brother, Lennie. Diesel is now running the garage that he has inherited, named Lol's, in the face of competition from more modern service stations. His attempts to improve the garage are not helped when Lenny spends most of their inherited money on the spire of the church that their parents used to attend. At Lloydy's suggestion Diesel adds the spire to the garage to make it a landmark. However, the structure is unstable and collapses. In this accident Diesel has an apparent near death experience and starts to get involved in the church, in contrast to his previous aethism arising from the tragic death of his parents. Although his near death experience actually turns out to be a drawing of a chef on his hot pie display unit, Diesel is still changed by the happiness that he has brought to other people by sharing his vision of the afterlife.

Not long after this, Lennie converts to Islam after going to see Iron Maiden in Hamburg, and goes to live in a kibbutz (or so Diesel tells Lloydy, although he may be joking about the details). In an attempt to raise money to continue funding the rebuild of the garage, Diesel invests in an ostrich in order to sell its eggs. However, he starts to visit the ostrich and becomes attached to her. When it looks like she is going to be moved to Belgium by the owning company (Northern Ostriches Ltd), Diesel steals her so that he won't be parted from her.

Diesel was played by Tony Marshall, who has also appeared in The Flint Street Nativity, an ITV play that was also written by Tim Firth.

Laura

A picture of Laura Full name: Laura Delooze.

Laura is a naive and not terribly bright person. She has three elder brothers, and as Dawn observed, was a typical only daughter in a family of men resulting in her expectations that simply by giving a doe eyed look she can get precisely what she wants.

Laura meets Hodge when she is being employed as a singer in Mr Wang's restaurant, although her real job is as a waitress in a whole food restaurant called The Old Mill. At this stage she is very into a lot of good causes - vegetarianism, Friends of the Earth and CND. The latter does not prevent her going out with Hodge, since she respects the fact that the TA is important to him.

After being sacked by Mr Wang, Hodge arranges for Laura to sing at a conference being organised by Jeanetta, although this leads to her finding out about Kirsty. Laura then decides to start a business providing catering for conferences. She attempts to become a serious businesswoman, ditching her vegetarianism, although she often seems more concerned about what she is going to wear rather than the food that she is going to prepare. Her first job is for a conference organised by Jeanetta, and this is only successful due to the efforts of Hodge and Spock. At this conference Laura meets Greg Scarry, who takes a liking to her. Laura initially believes that he wants to use her catering, and when she finds out what his real intentions are she is upset and returns to Hodge. However, when she starts to believe that Hodge is having an affair with Jeanetta she decides to leave Roker Bridge with Greg.

Laura appears in the first two series, with a guest appearance in "Eric's Won Ton" during Series 3.

Following Preston Front, Lucy Akhurst played regular roles in The Vanishing Man, Big Bad World, Wonderful You, Beasts and Monarch of the Glen and has made guest appearances in Peak Practice, Holby City and Spaced. In the latter she is virtually unrecognisable from Preston Front, with very short black hair. She can also be glimpsed briefly as a policewoman in the 1997 film version of The Saint.

Jeanetta and Kirsty

Jeanetta is the ex-wife of Greg Scarry, the millionaire biscuit manufacturer. When Greg started to use his fortune to impress impressionable young women, they split up (there are contradictory statements over who left who). On the rebound from Greg, she met Hodge who was working in the leisure club in Blackpool that she was a member of. They shared a night together, resulting in the birth of Kirsty, after which she moved to Portugal.

Jeanetta and Kirsty returned to England five years later to allow Kirsty a British education. Jeanetta finds that Hodge has been sending money for Kirsty and makes contact. It is only after the death of her own mother that Jeanetta allows Hodge to have a role in Kirsty's life, although she is adamant that no one can know he is her father.

During this time, Jeanetta sets up a business organising conferences, helped by some connections of Greg's. Despite a reputation as a strong independent woman, Jeanetta is lonely, and fears trying to find someone in case this should jeopardise the alimony she receives from Greg. However, she soon meets Declan, a wealthy plastic surgeon, and gives up her business.

After an unsure period when Jeanetta tells Declan about her true relationship with Hodge, Declan proposes to her and they all move to Manchester - a Manchester near San Francisco.

For the first two seasons, Jeanetta was played by Susan Wooldridge, who had previously appeared in films such as How To Get Ahead In Advertising and Just Like A Woman, but is perhaps most well known for her role in The Jewel In The Crown.

For the final series, Carolyn Pickles tooks over the part. The daughter of Judge James Pickles, she had previously had regular parts in May To December and The Bill.

Throughout the course of the series, the key part of Kirsty was played by Holly Grainger (although she was credited as Holliday Grainger for the first series). She has since appeared in children's show Roger and the Rottentrolls, which was also written by Tim Firth.

Polson

Full name: Pete Polson.

Polson, a short aggressive man, is initially the corporal in charge of 2 section. He was previously in the regular army, serving in Northern Ireland and Belize. However, when his squad was helping with officer training at Durham University he met Sara, whom he married. Pete and Sara are from completely different worlds. She is a very sophisticated woman, with interests in the arts and classics. She gained a top degree and went on to become the youngest regional manager from Demeritzi, a hotel chain. As such she did not want to be an army wife and so Pete left the regulars, joining the TA as a substitute, while Sara got him a job managing the leisure club at the Demeritzi hotel in Roker Bridge. However, he is still fiercely loyal to the army.

Pete sees the chance of promotion when a sergeant's position becomes vacant. However, at about the same time, his marriage has become very strained and Sara leaves him. Pete throws himself into the sergeant's course, and passes. However, Corporal Lennox also passes, so Lt Rundle must choose between them. Polson then sees Rundle and Ally kissing and uses this information to blackmail Rundle so that he does get his promotion.

However, following an incident with the CO, Polson decides to leave Roker Bridge and the TA, and return to the regulars. There are no vacant sergeant's positions, so he has to go back as a corporal - losing the stripe that he has "earnt".

Adding some appropriate authenticity to the series, David McCreedy was actually in the Territorial Army while he was at drama school. In addition to Preston Front he has appeared in Bugs, The Vanishing Man and Tim Firth's later show, Border Cafe.

Rundle

Full name: Carl Rundle.

Rundle is the lieutenant in charge of the three sections that make up Roker Bridge's TA unit. He comes from a typical army family (his father was a brigadier) and went to boarding school. He works in management at the Demeritzi hotel chain. However, away from command he seems a totally different personality who is not as assured. This is most obvious in his relationship with Ally, who he falls in love with and they share two kisses. One of these is witnessed by Pete Polson.

There is no love lost between Polson and Rundle. During his management training, Rundle ends up a working for Rundle in the hotel leisure club, a situation Pete enjoys as it reverses their TA relationship. This is reversed somewhat when Rundle catches him cheating in the Tom Sherrett trophy by hording ammunition, but Rundle decides not to report him. When Polson sees Rundle kissing a married non-commissioned officer he blackmails his superior into ensuring that he gets his promotion to sergeant.

Despite Ally initially wanting to remain just friends, Rundle gets the wrong idea about their relationship, believing that she is going to leave her husband. When he realises that this isn't true, he decides to leave the TA and move to Cornwall, since he doesn't believe that he will his feelings about Ally will ever change. Only then does Ally learn that her husband is having an affair and she shares an intimate shower with him after a formal mess dinner before her leaves.

Kieran Flynn has also appeared in The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes and Coronation Street.

Mel

Full name: Melanie Polson (presumably, although this is never confirmed on-screen).

Mel is Pete Polson's younger sister (she is 20 when she appears in the third series). She is a blunt and outspoken person with a short temper, not unlike her brother. She moves to Roker Bridge from her home town of Workington after being sacked from her job in a raisin factory for assaulting her shift manager, who made a pass at her. Her parents could not cope with her at home so she was sent to stay with her brother in order to help him sort his life out after the departure of his wife. She initially works as a chamber maid at the same hotel where Rundle and Polson work. However, she soon leaves in order to get away from Pete and starts working as a waitress at Roker Vale garden centre.

Mel first meets Hodge at the TA Family Day. However, Pete is adamant that she should not mix with squaddies, as he knows what they are like. Despite this, Mel gets to know Hodge better, although she initially resists his advances. When Polson leaves Roker Bridge she moves in with Hodge.

Mel was played by Angela Lonsdale, who has also appeared in episodes of Casualty ("Love Me Tender") and The Vanishing Man ("Nothing Up My Sleeve", alongside her Preston Front brother David McCreedy). She subsequently became currently a regular in Coronation Street.

Mr Wang

Full name: Peter Wang.

Mr Wang is originally from Ormskirk where he did a renowned Marvin Gaye act ("I was the king of all the Chinese Black soul singers in Ormskirk"), but he moved to Roker Bridge and runs a Chinese Restaurant. He is an amusing character, his Scouse accent and blunt manner somewhat in contrast to his oriental appearance. His restaurant is initally called Audrey's in honour of Audrey Hepburn (whom he thought had class), but he then changes it to The Golden Dragon before finally settling on The Roman Holiday, after a Hepburn film.

Mr Wang bought his restaurant with compensation money after his father got his hand caught in a council lathe. However, the future of the restaurant starts to look bleak, and he becomes increasingly desperate with his situation. However, this desperation becomes the key to success, with students coming to The Roman Holiday purely to experience being insulted by him.

Mr Wang appears to be married. Mrs Wang never appeared, but he said that she looked like a trout in "Diesel's Ostrich".

Ozzie Yue has appeared in many television shows. Like Mr Wang he also has a musical background and has his own band, called Yue Who, an R&B outfit which plays in and around Merseyside.

Other Characters

During the first season there are a number of other members of Roker Bridge TA who appear regularly. SERGEANT BOB BETTY (Mark Fletcher) is a publican who also ends up running the bar after the Wednesday drill nights. DEREK "DEGSY" LENNOX (Sam Graham) and DOYLE (Darren Brown) are Corporals in charge of 1 and 3 sections, who take great please in the misfortunes of Polson's section. Lennox also appears in the second season, where he is competing with Polson for a vacant segeant's position.

MRS RUDDOCK (Matylok Gibbs) is Hodge's employer at Roker Vale Garden Centre. She is a middle aged woman with a sarcastic sense of humour. Mel nicknames her Rosa Klebb after the James Bond villain. She tolerates much from Hodge before finally suspending him when he stabs a customer with a decoy heron. The character appears regularly in the first series, but is absent from series two before being reintroduced for the final set of episodes.

GREG SCARRY (Nicky Henson) is a self made millionaire, the owner of Scarry's Biscuits, whose best known products are marhsmallows in the shape of igloos, much loved by Hodge and Eric. Although a witty and humourous man, Greg enjoys flaunting his wealth, including a Bentley and a motor yacht called The Bird of Paradise, in order to gain the affections - and ultimately the beds - of naive young women, leading to Jeanetta divorcing him. Greg's most recent conquest was Laura, who ultimately left Roker Bridge to be his acolyte. It is often said that Hodge and Greg are quite similar, even down to Greg also not knowing his parents. Greg Scarry appeared in the second series, with a guest appearance in the episode"Eric's Won Ton" in Series 3.

THE HERON MAN (Freddie Davies) buys a decoy heron from Roker Vale garden centre in the very first episode. However, he returns a couple of episodes later because it has fallen over and speared one of the goldfish that he was trying to protect, resulting in Hodge spending time in a workshop filing down the beaks of the remaining stock. The Heron Man, whose real name is Les, appears frequently in the second series, along with his wife (Madge Hindle), when his misfortunes include Diesel's spire collapsing on his car. He then returns again in the very last episode when he is assaulted by Hodge.

DECLAN (Oliver Cotton) is a wealthy plastic surgeon who starts going out with Jeanetta during the third series. He is very good with Kirsty, having previously brought up his three daughters by himself. Declan is intrigued by Jeanetta and Kirsty's relationship with Hodge, and initially guesses that Hodge is Jeanetta's son. When Jeanetta tells him the truth he is at first uneasy but then comes to terms with the situation.




Compiled by Matthew Newton

More on Preston Front at Newton's Laws Of Television 

Copyright MJ Newton 2003. All rights reserved.
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