Jeremy Wilkin (1930-2017)

The Anglo-Canadian actor and voice artist Jeremy Wilkin died on 19th December 2017 at the age of 87. He was best known to Anderson fans for the first work he did for AP Films, replacing David Holliday as the voice of Virgil Tracy for the feature film Thunderbirds Are Go, as well as for the

second series of Thunderbirds television episodes and the second film based on the show, Thunderbird 6. Born in Byfleet, near Woking in Surrey, David Jeremy Wilkin initially harboured ambitions to join the medical profession, training to be a doctor before turning to the stage, training at London’s prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.

Following his graduation and plying his trade for various English and Scottish theatre companies, Jeremy migrated to Canada, appearing both on the theatrical stage and in television productions for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. There he appeared opposite stars of the future such as Patrick Macnee, who during the 1950s was largely based in the USA and Canada, future Star Trek star James Doohan, and legendary TV and movie villain Lloyd Bochner. With the latter, he even appeared on the Broadway stage over the border in New York during 1958. This was a production of Shakespeare’s Two Gentlemen Of Verona at the Phoenix Theatre, while Jeremy also appeared in an original work at the same theatre entitled The Broken Jug. He even appeared in a stage play with a young Matt Zimmerman, a fact which both actors completely forgot for some sixty years!

The world of Canadian acting was a relatively small one, however, and in the early 1960s Jeremy, now married to the singer Mary Catherine Newland and with three young children, returned to England, by now armed with a facility for accents honed by spending several years in North America. In one of his earliest television appearances on his return, on the BBC’s 1963 Sunday Night Play production The Remarkable Incident At Carson Corners, Jeremy (at the bottom of the cast list) appeared with another British-born actor whose American accent became a profitable stock-in-trade, Peter Dyneley.

By now in his mid-thirties, his blond hair lending him a striking look, Jeremy became a regular sight on British television during the middle part of the 1960s, even landing the occasional film role – though the producers of Curse Of The Fly managed to mis-credit him as Jeremy Wilkins! His career hit a sort of peak in 1965 with the lead role of Drew Heriot in ABC Television’s 11 episode slice of science fiction paranoia Undermind. In the following year he was cast to replace David Holliday as the voice of Virgil Tracy for the film Thunderbirds Are Go. For this film he also provided the voice for Space Colonel Harris, and this vocal adaptability made him a key member of the Anderson voice team for the new era of Century 21 puppet productions which was ushered by Captain Scarlet And The Mysterons.

Jeremy joined a group of actors including Neil McCallum, Gary Files and Keith Alexander whose roots were in Australia or Canada, which gave them the ability not only to play American or British characters equally convincingly, but also to provide a classless, mid-Atlantic accent which helped the Anderson shows sound ‘right’ throughout the English-speaking world. He was at the core of the voice cast for Captain Scarlet And The Mysterons and Joe 90, and appeared in a cameo role for the Century 21 live action film Doppelgänger. After this, Jeremy provided possibly his most memorable Supermarionation regular character voice, unrecognisable as the plummy-voiced The Bishop in the 1969 series The Secret Service.

This series saw the end of the Supermarionation era, but Century 21 was very loyal to its skilled, reliable actors, and he was cast as Lt. Gordon Maxwell, navigator of super-sub Skydiver in the live action series UFO. Jeremy’s episodes were shot at MGM-British studios, Borehamwood in 1969, and represented his final regular work for the Anderson, though he was cast as Inspector Bergen in The Protectors episode Route 27. He remained a regular presence on British television however, putting in a memorable appearance on the 1975 Doctor Who serial Revenge Of The Cybermen, which ended Tom Baker’s triumphant first series as The Doctor. Jeremy appeared in a number of cult films and television series during the 1970s, including two episodes of The New Avengers, House Of Cards and Medium Rare, the Blake’s 7 episode The Way Back, and a small role as a naval officer in the 1977 James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me.

Jeremy spent much of the 1970s and 80s working in both Canada and the UK, including a role in the 1986 science fiction feature film Hyper Sapien: People From Another Star – once again mis-credited as Jeremy Wilkins. His final screen credit was in Canada in 2002 when he appeared in an episode of the legal drama Just Cause. In more recent years he surprised and delighted his many admirers by appearing at Fanderson’s 2015 Maidenhead convention The Future Is Fantastic!

Everyone at Fanderson sends their deepest condolences to Jeremy’s family and friends.

Originally published in FAB 88.