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About JOHN

Actor & Storyteller

I was conceived in Wales and my parents wanted me born there. But I arrived prematurely in Salisbury during an air raid. My mother famously said: ‘Good God Rhys, they’re going to bomb the gas works!' The heart’s birthplace is not necessarily geographical.

I was born a Welshman. I shall die one.


My family moved to Africa when I was a small boy. We crossed the line on my 5th birthday in 1949 on the SS Medura. So, I went from a two-up, two-down working cottage to four acres, five servants and a colonial bungalow in Dar es Salaam , Tanganyika (now Tanzania). I had a very solitary, but magical, African upbringing contrasted with boarding school at Truro in Cornwall which I hated, but which did me immense good. It was a schizophrenic childhood.

Truro introduced me to drama. Shakespeare gave me the words to vent my adolescent rage. I moved from 'most delinquent new boy' ultimately to head boy and was a founder student at the University of East Anglia (105 students). I founded the Dramatic Society, took all the good parts, worked at the Madder Market Theatre, graduated, taught for a year then spent two years at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London. I left RADA Sunday night, started work at the Belgrade Theatre, Coventry Monday morning (July 27, 1969). Did 13 years in reparatory, the Royal Shakespeare Company and did a lot of good TV.


I got an Emmy nomination for my part in Shogun which led to Victor Victoria, and Raiders of the Lost Ark. I spent the next 20 years in LA where an industry magazine at one point said I was the 44th busiest actor in Hollywood.

Eventually, I grew tired of big cities and, during a trip to the Isle of Man, on a whim bought an old Manx cottage which was my base for five or six years. I now have a larger house on the island and, when I’m not working, split my time between there and my home in New Zealand. 

My firstborn son is Ben, who has just decided to go back to university to get a degree in mathematics. My second son, Tom, is a writer in Germany where he has a 12-year-old daughter, Anwen who is my only grandchild. My first wife Suzanne was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s.


Following her death, I married TV presenter and journalist Lisa Manning in New Zealand. We have a 14-year-old daughter Maia, who has changed my life and my outlook on life quite radically.

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