Sheard is a highly regarded character actor who has appeared in numerous
films and TV series. He is probably best remembered for his roles
as Adolf Hitler in Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade, Admiral Ozzel
in the Star Wars Trilogy and of course, Mr Maurice Bronson, Grange
Hills legendary French teacher from 1985-1989.
Strict disciplinarian Mr Bronson was a former Latin teacher who
arrived when Grange Hill merged with another school. It wasnt
long before his shout of You Boy! became legendary.
This well rounded character saw a series of strong storylines during
his time on the show, including Mr Bronsons ongoing problems
with Anthony Jones and a long running feud with Danny Kendall.
Michael has also written a series of memoirs including You Boy!
- Memoirs of A Bum Actor which recounts memorable moments from
his career, including a special A-Z Grange Hill section. His current
book is at the printers as we speak! Michael kindly agreed
to be interviewed exclusively for Grange Hill Gold and GH Online.
How did you get the part in Grange Hill? Was it written especially
Did the character
head in the direction that you wanted?
Well, its funny you should say that because my wife has her own
exhibition, shes an artist, in Chichester at the moment. The
producer, Ben Rea, of Grange Hill came along to the private view.
I hadnt seen him for a while. Id known him for some
time prior to Grange Hill and I got this phone call which went something
like this : "Im looking for a balding actor" and I said "Well,
Im a balding actor" and he said "Yes, I know, thats
why Im phoning you!" It wasnt written specifically for
me but it was written for a bald man who wore a toupee, and he thought
the toupee was superb, but it wasnt. The problem there is
that if you tell a make up department to put a bad wig on somebody
then that reflects on the make up department! So in actual fact
the toupee that he did get was quite good! But what the heck, everybody
knew it was a toup! When it was stolen in the swimming pool by Gonch
and Hollo, he did have to wear the spare and that was very bad!
When I started I was adamant that Bronson would not, and I said this,
he would never hit a pupil or do anything like that. He just would
not. He was passionate about his teaching, and he could be very kind.
There was that time when Roland had overslept and missed his French
Oral and Mr Bronson put his job on the line to make sure that he was
able to do it. He was so passionate about his teaching. I was very
pleased that when they voted for Mr Bronson in TVs Biggest B*****d
that he actually came in at number 4, and not number 1, because he
did have that kind side.
Did you feel you took the character as far as you could?
Do you think you stayed in Grange Hill too long?
Oh yes. I mean in terms of that, when Bronson first arrived we learnt
about him slowly. We didnt learn he lived with his sister
until episode 4 or something like that. The first 8 scripts, I think,
had already been written by Barry Purchese, when I started and so
the character built up as I started playing the part. It was the
way that I played Bronson that then lead, in my second series, to
the storyline with Anthony Jones, and that developed the character
In terms of hindsight, its easy looking back and to say that
I was at Grange Hill too long. And if I was to do it again, I would
like to do the first and second series and then the fifth one that
I did, but leave out the third and fourth. As an actor they were the
two in which the character developed less.
What was it like working with such a large teenage cast?
Do you still stay in touch with any of the cast?
Well, actors say never work with children or animals! I thoroughly
enjoyed it. Whilst we were filming they were making a behind the
scenes documentary and several of the kids said that
they really enjoyed working with me. And I thought that was very
nice. I tried to treat them not like kids, but as smaller actors!
However, and it was very rare, I do remember once that I really
did lose it with Ziggy! He had held us up by being late for a whole
morning, and the whole cast and crew were waiting for him before
we could start. So when he arrived I gave him a good telling off,
as Bronson. I wouldnt normally do that, but this was exceptional.
Im very glad that he remembers it, and that hes not
late for work from now on! But yes, I did enjoy working with the
I do. If Im ever travelling through London I often stop to have
a drink with Jonathan (Danny Kendall). The other day I received an
e-mail from George Christopher who plays Ziggy. And I still keep in
touch with the lovely Gwyneth (Mrs McCluskey). I enjoyed working with
her very much. But sadly this year shes let me down! Every year
we always get asked to do Pantomime together. Gwyneth as the Fairy
Godmother and me as the villain! And every year weve never been
able to do it. But then a year or two back, we were both able to do
it, but the script wasnt very good. So we didnt do that.
Then in this years Christmas card, Gwyneth wrote that "Ive
got some good or bad news. Im doing a pantomime this year on
my own!". But yes, we still keep in touch!
At times Grange Hill was very shocking and quite controversial.
Do you ever think it went too far?
As an actor is it a help or a hindrance to be so well remembered
for a role?
No! No way! I will defend Grange Hill 100% if anyone ever says otherwise.
The drugs storyline that we did, which Bronson was only on the edge
of, was very good. I mean the younger cast were invited to the White
House because of the impact that this storyline and the Just
Say No song had. It was excellently acted by Lee Macdonald.
Very good. I think it was all handled very well.
Oh a help, absolutely! I mean Ive just finished playing Hitler
for the 8th time and its at the stage now where people say I
need someone to play Hitler and someone will say Michael
Sheard because Ive obviously done it well before, otherwise
they wouldnt ask. I mean in terms of a soap, like Eastenders,
that is an actors graveyard. They end up there and can never
get out, and recently lots of actors have returned there because they
just find that they cant get other roles as they are so well
remembered for that part. But Grange Hill wasnt like that. I
mean it went out at 4:30, early evening, or whenever, and it didnt
have that soap tag. But it was very popular! I mean every
time I am out, there is always someone who will say Were you
Mr Bronson? Just recently someone on a train asked me that and
I said yes and he brought his friends over, and they all
insisted on buying me a whiskey each! When I was in London recently,
a young girl, must have been about six, walked past with her mum and
said Hello Mr Bronson! In America, because I do a lot
of conventions there, I am usually recognised for being in Star Wars,
but here it is always Grange Hill. I just finished filming a pilot
for a comedy for the BBC and they talked about who they wanted for
the role and they were told I want Mr Bronson for that
part! so sure enough the BBC contacted me.
I believe that some of your appearances in Doctor Who have just
been released on DVD?
Would you consider a role in the new series of Doctor Who?
I recently recorded a commentary for some of my Doctor Who work.
This was for Pyramids of Mars which has just come out on DVD and
I also recorded a piece where we went back to the locations. I went
to a signing at Tenth Planet in Barking, with Sutekh and a Mummy
from the story, and we signed over 1000 DVDs by the end! Im
the actor who has appeared with the most Doctors, other than, I
call him my father, Nicholas Courtney (Brigadier Lethbridge
Stewart), so we have a competition going!
Oh yes! I will consider any role at all, in anything. Ive just
accepted a film role as a Transvestite Porno movie Producer who decides
to go commercial and make a Hollywood Blockbuster. Its very
interesting, but the language! They phoned me up the other day and
said that some of the cast think that in a certain scene the language
is just too much, but I dont think so. I shall do it!
Did Mr Bronson live happily ever after?
Oh yes! Definately! When they had the trip to the Isle of Wight,
it was good to see him without his toupee. You saw him enquiring
about properties in an estate agents, and you were left wondering
whether he would be with the lady who had run the course they were
on. I was very pleased that they added those bits, which were my
idea. I thought it was important that these little seeds were planted
in preparation for my departure. I see him living very much as a
bachelor, a very definate bachelor, but not a limp wristed bachelor!
But looking after bees, maybe teaching some French as a side line!
Though of course he had been a Latin teacher, but I had enough problems
with the French he had to speak. I speak German, but not really
French, so my wife had to help me learn it all phonetically!
Would you ever consider a return to Grange Hill?
What do you think about Grange Hill now and the fact that it is
no longer a London based production?
I would, but in terms of the character I had probably taken him
as far as he could go, but I would say, it could work in a certain
situation. Its strange that you should ask that, as, a few
years ago, I had a phone call from the production office. And they
said How do you think we should end this current series?,
because obviously the series always used to end with a Sports Day
or a fun run. And I said "Well, why are you phoning me? I left about
13 years ago?" and they said "Well you were always quite good at
having those sort of ideas." And I said "Well theyve never
had a school reunion. It would be good to see some of the old pupils
and staff gathered together." It would be nice to see in a panning
shot, Bronson call out Hello Jones! to Anthony Jones.
And to see some of the pupils again. Obviously they couldnt
bring back Danny Kendall! But that is the only way Id return
to Grange Hill.
When Phil Redmond took the show back, very wrongly I think, and moved
it to Liverpool, I was very disappointed. It was always very much
a London show and I think that what he did, moving it, was very wrong.
There was no need to do that.
Any final thoughts?
Grange Hill was a job that I enjoyed immensely! I go to a lot of
Sci-Fi conventions, but I think there should be a Grange Hill convention.
The problem is that if you did have one, youd need somewhere
the size of Wembley Stadium to fit everyone in!
Interviewed by Michael
(c) M Silvester 2004. A huge thank you to Michael Sheard for being
such an entertaining and obliging interviewee!
More interviews with Grange Hill stars of yesteryear can
be found on Michael Silvester's Grange
Hill Gold. Visit now at www.grangehillgold.co.uk.
Lots of classic action featuring the toupeed one! RealPlayer needed.
Hollo & the wig (1985)
last stand (1989)
Radio protest (1987)
Two photos of Maurice for your collection. Click on the image and
it will open in a new window; right-click and select "Save Target