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There's an interview with Tom and David Burke in the Sunday Times today. (You need to subscribe to read the full article. So I subscribed. And have copied the article below. I'll probably go to jail now. Tell Tom I loved him.)


Tom, 32
When I was a little kid, all my friends’ parents seemed really straight and normal. Compared to them, my mum and dad led a rather weird life. One day, Mum took me to see Dad at “work” and he was having this sword fight in front of hundreds of people. Like any kid, I just started cheering him on: “Go on, Dad… stab him!”

That was when they were both at Stratford with the RSC, but don’t ask me how old I was ’cos I’m numerically dyslexic and still struggle with stuff like that. When I first started school, I remember looking at a blackboard and it just seemed to be covered in writing. I was supposed to be copying what was on it, but I couldn’t separate it into words. I just filled my page with random letters and numbers.

An expert eventually diagnosed me with dyslexia, but some of the teachers back then didn’t really believe in dyslexia; one headmaster said it was just a fad. To be honest, I already felt like a bit of freak and having a label just made things worse. But Dad was brilliant. He was always talking to me… always trying to help. Eventually, him and Mum sorted out a proper dyslexia teacher and then got me into a Steiner School, near where we lived in Kent. Academically, I still struggled, but my imagination was finally being engaged.

I can just about remember Dad playing Dr Watson [opposite Jeremy Brett in the 1984 TV series The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes], but I think he missed being with Mum and me, and he gave it up after only one series. As I got older, I felt really guilty about that — I thought he’d given up this brilliant opportunity for me. It bothered me so much that, many years later, I had to ask him about it. He said: “It was my decision. I didn’t just want to work; I also wanted to be your dad. On top of that, I was getting bored of saying, ‘Good heavens, Holmes!’”

This might sound odd, but I always felt I was an actor. It was just… there. Mum and Dad are actors, my godfather’s Alan Rickman, my godmother’s Bridget Turner and Fiona Shaw is Dad’s cousin. I’m sure people have funny ideas about why I’ve got jobs, but I can assure you that someone like Alan Rickman does not cast you in a play just because you’re his godson.

Yes, there was encouragement and I was always made to feel welcome, plus I was never star-struck by other actors. Then again, being star-struck is weird. I’ve worked with people like Johnny Depp, John Malkovich and Kevin Spacey and I was absolutely fine. Then I happened to meet Kylie Minogue and I was a gibbering wreck! I was like a little kid, back on the sofa watching Neighbours.


David, 79
I was 46 when Tom was born and my wife, Annie, was 33. Quite late to have kids, I suppose, but there had been a few complications... Annie got breast cancer. She came through all of that successfully, but she was warned against having children because the doctors said that being pregnant might stir up all the bad stuff again.

There was also the added problem that Annie had polio as a child and had been left with a weak leg, which meant that carrying a child for nine months put a great strain on her body. But Annie didn’t care about any of that; she was determined to have a child and, when it finally happened, it felt very, very special.

I was working a lot after Tom was born, but Annie had more or less given up her acting. Most of the time I was up in Manchester filming The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, which made me feel terribly guilty. I was leaving my wife and baby alone in an isolated country cottage, and couldn’t expect Annie to go hiking up the motorway every weekend. So when we finished filming the first series, I decided to go back home. But I have no regrets. Family is more important to me than any of that stuff.

I’m not saying it wasn’t fun. When the first episode of Holmes went out in 1984, it was obvious we’d pulled in a big audience. I remember walking around London the morning after it had gone out thinking: “So, this is what it’s like to be famous. OK, Dr Watson, get ready for the autographs.” Sure enough, this bloke looked at me and came over. “All right, mate,” he said. “Are you still working for the Gas Board?” That was as famous as I got!

There’s no way I could be in a show like Sherlock today. Sure, every actor wants to be successful, but I honestly couldn’t deal with what Martin Freeman has to deal with. Back in the ’80s, there was no such thing as celebrity culture… thank God! I hate celebrity culture. All that showbiz and razzmatazz. It stinks!

Although Tom was a bright boy, he was having a really hard time at school and we knew there was something not quite right. It was Annie who first latched on to the dyslexia, but the school he was at just wasn’t geared up to deal with it. As far as they were concerned, they had high standards to maintain and woe betide any child who fell below them. We’ve got photographs of Tom from that time and he looked so unhappy.

He seemed to have this permanently frightened look on his face.

Annie and I knew we had to do something drastic; that’s when we started looking at a Steiner School. As a parent, education is one of the scariest things you ever have to think about. You want your child to do well. The funny thing is, I’d been through the same thing when I was a kid. I’m pretty sure I was dyslexic, but they just didn’t call it that back then. You had what they called “learning difficulties”.

I suppose acting was my way of getting past all that stuff. My mother was an Irish peasant and we were a massive Catholic family living in Bootle, a working-class area of Liverpool. My mother’s four sisters were all nuns and she was devastated when I told her I wanted to be an actor. She stopped dead in the street, looked up to heaven and just kept repeating: “No, no, no.” One of her sisters gave up sweets for a year as penance. I think she hoped that would somehow balance the books with God.

We never tried to push Tom into acting, but Annie and I used to put on plays in the local village hall and there just came a point where we knew he had an aptitude for it. He wanted to do it and it would have been perverse to try and stop him. Whenever we watch him now, I always end up turning to Annie and grinning like an idiot. “Darling, do you realise that’s our son!”


( 15 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 2nd, 2014 03:08 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much for copying this for us all to read. It was a fab insight into both their characters. Tom's had a struggle in so many ways and yet has had the benefit of a wonderful upbringing to ground him and make him the lovely man he is.

Mar. 2nd, 2014 05:09 pm (UTC)
I kind've want to hug him in exactly the same way his dad's doing in that first picture... ♥ ♥ ♥
Mar. 2nd, 2014 05:13 pm (UTC)
OMG me too! I was searching through Tumblr for him this morning and everything I saw just made me love him more. I go all melty inside.
Mar. 2nd, 2014 04:48 pm (UTC)
Interesting article, thanks for copying it!

Mar. 2nd, 2014 05:10 pm (UTC)
you're welcome! I'm all about sharing the Tom!love, hehe
Mar. 2nd, 2014 10:52 pm (UTC)
That's a lovely interview with both of them!
(Deleted comment)
Mar. 27th, 2014 05:55 pm (UTC)
you're very welcome! :)
Davina Ward
Apr. 8th, 2014 03:17 pm (UTC)
Tom Burke
Tom is amazing because he has such amazing parents. fabulous actor. would be so proud if he was my son!! Message:Tom is amazing because he has such amazing parents. fabulous actor. would be so proud if he was my son!!
Apr. 8th, 2014 07:18 pm (UTC)
Re: Tom Burke
there's a lovely quote going round on tumblr of Jeremy Brett saying about David when he left off playing Watson to go home to his family:

"The last time we finished filming together, I went down to the same train and waved goodbye to him. That was absolutely devastating. I don’t know how I got back to the hotel. I thought ‘What are we going to do now?’ I was so proud of him for going back to his son. There would be more happy marriages if fathers went back to their children. His son was only two at the time."

Davina Ward
Apr. 9th, 2014 07:56 am (UTC)
Tom Burke
I can understand why Tom is not a bit starstruck or egotistical. All in all a really lovely, grounded, talented, and gorgeous man!!!
May. 11th, 2014 03:53 am (UTC)
the deerstalker will not be signed
User hellblazer06 referenced to your post from the deerstalker will not be signed saying: [...] I remember watching Tom's Dad in Sherlock, the 80s version, yikes. Which he left when Tom was born [...]
Vani Parker
Dec. 19th, 2015 10:24 pm (UTC)
It's heartening to hear about famous people talk about their learning disabilities. I've been dyslexic all my life and I also did horribly in school. Mom finally took me out of public school and taught me at home. I excelled once she figured out the way I learn best. The year I turned 12, she had a mini-stroke and couldn't homeschool both my brother and I because her memory was effected. Instead, she found material that taught creative writing. Since I've always had an excellent imagination, she told me to write her a story. Now, 26 years later, I'm still writing. I'm not published yet but someday I will be. Stephen J. Cannel was also dyslexic and an excellent writer. There's also a Scottish actor who is Dyslexic. I can't remember his name but he played Sandy in the show 'Shetland'. I've felt stupid all my life because I can't do things the same way normal people do. It's encouraging to see and hear about people with dyslexia being successful.
Apr. 1st, 2016 09:53 am (UTC)
RE: Dyslexia
It saddens me that so much of the world can't cope with anything that doesn't fit the norm. Don't let it get you down. One of my boys has aspergers and I tell my children that it's the people that think differently that move us forward. I hope you get published soon x
Akhilesh Pardeshi
Jan. 6th, 2016 09:51 am (UTC)
My Dear Dr. Watson
Thank you Sunday Times and bbc-musketeers.livejournal.com. I am leaving in Pune, India. Mr. David Burke is my favorite actor playing Dr. Watson in the 1st Series of Granada - Sherlock Holmes. My 8 year son is also fascinated and we occasionally see the serials again and again. It would have been an honor, if I could have received an autograph of Mr. David Burke. I tried every possible way to find any link address to send e-mail requesting Mr. Burke to send his autograph on his photo with respectable Jeremy Brett. Please post this comment. My e-mail id is akhilesh240108@gmail.com. Sincerely yours, Anil Pardesi

Edited at 2016-01-06 10:00 am (UTC)
( 15 comments — Leave a comment )


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