12:43 Thursday 21 February 2013

End of an era for the Sun Hill studio set

Written byBY STEPHEN SINFIELD

AS far as police stations go, Sun Hill has to be one of the most iconic and most recognised.

Between 1984 and 2010, Sun Hill was home to The Bill.

Admittedly in its time there were a few disasters with explosions and fires allowing the set to be redesigned, but for years this real-life set was home to officers answering the Sierra Oscar call sign.

You would never guess from watching The Bill that Sun Hill was in fact part of Wimbledon Studios housed on an industrial estate where members of the public could quite literally walk into the front office.

Since the show ceased in 2010, bosses at Wimbledon Studios have been running occasional guided tours of the set — but these too must now come to an end as the building is undergoing a major transformation.

In a final farewell to The Bill and its Sun Hill station, Wimbledon Studios are holding one final set of guided tours — led by Clive Wedderburn, who played Police Constable Gary McCann in the series.

We caught up with Clive to ask him about his time on The Bill and what visitors can expect.
“The Bill was a great big family to me. I was only a couple of years out of drama school when I joined in 1992.

“It was a major role for me but one which I had been building up for.

“I had done a few television police dramas before including Black and Blue and then I went along to audition for the Bill.

“I still love to think of The Bill as one very big family and that included everyone. Even the guest stars were treated like family as we had the forethought that if we treated them well they would be more willing to put in a good performance and they always did — we had some great support actors.

“At my audition for The Bill it was Graham Cole (PC Tony Stamp)who helped get my performance sorted,

“He helped me get through the process as he was very calm and relaxed and took me through it step by step.

The same applied to the support actors as they were walking into a well-oiled machine.

“We would nurture them through the process as it was a really fast-paced show and they weren’t very forgiving — they could get rid of you quite quick if you couldn’t hack it.”

Clive played the role of PC Gary McCann until the year 2000 and it was the new Millennium which prompted his departure from the show.

“At that time I wanted to leave at the turn of the Millennium as it was the turn of a new era and the start of a new future for me.

“But I didn’t want Gary to be shot or blown up. I wanted him to have a positive exit so I asked the producers if I could leave with the sergeant’s stripes and that’s the way that it came about and it worked both ways.

I wanted to leave on a high and it was at the time when the producers were looking at revamping the show with fresh faces and so it worked out well.”

Speaking about the set which was Clive’s home for so many years, he said:

“It was a former wine distribution warehouse and in the early days they had to manipulate all the rooms until the gradually moved towards a custom-built set.

“Walking around the set now is akin to walking around an old manufacturing warehouse when all the staff have left and the machines switched off. Having said that, you could walk straight back in there and film another show without too much work.”

When the final farewell tour of The Bill set starts on February 17th, it will be Clive taking the tour. Speaking about his latest role as a tour guide, Clive said:

“I will take them around to some sets where the audience knows they have been there before but cannot place when or where — places like the toilets, as many scenes where actually filmed in the toilets.

“The actual studio is an industrial warehouse and so the front of the building was designed so that it looked like a police station.

“On external shots, they would go out and hang up a couple of police signs on the exterior and stick a couple of panda cars outside and it looked authentic — too authentic as members of the public would call in with genuine police queries.

“What I really want to do is show the tour how time is money — especially when you were turning out three or four episodes a week.

“To do this I will get the tour to act out a scene where I will be playing PC Gary McCann in my original uniform — which is actually official police issue clothing.”

You can get tickets for this once in a lifetime TV tour which commences on February 17 by going to — www.wimbledonstudios.com/the-official-bill-tour

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