TV Series Steps into US with Local Episodes
long ago, Edward Woodward stood in the
gift shop of the Battleship North Carolina,
eyeing a basket of sharp-toothed, two-foot
rubber great white sharks. The sharks
paled in comparison to the British actor's
have a daughter who is besotted by great
whites," he said, hoisting a toothsome
specimen from the basket. "I'll get that
and put it in her bed."
Such shenanigans are in keeping with the
character Mr. Woodward plays in the television
series, CI5-The Professionals, which recently
filmed four episodes in Wilmington.
As Harry Malone, he heads up a supersecret
organization founded by the security chiefs
of five nations to fight such modern horrors
as ethnic cleansing, nuclear terrorism,
the slaughter of protected animal species
and the rise of powerful Russian mafias.
In fact, the episode filming on the battleship,
"Glory Days," concerns a group of Russian
gangsters planning to re-arm the battleship's
guns. Their target is the President of
the United States, who's hosting an international
conference on organized crime at the Federal
Building across the river.
The episode ends "with an almighty shootout
at the molasses factory," said producer's
assistant Heide Wilshire with a winning
smile. "We're going to blow up trucks."
Other episodes filmed in Wilmington were
"First Strike," about the theft of black-market
plutonium; "Orbit," about a scientist
who reprograms an old "Star Wars" satellite
to zap targets on the ground (parts of
Carolina Beach were lasered); and "Choice
Cuts," about a gang of thieves who anesthetize
people and steal their organs for transplants.
The four Wilmington episodes will be packaged
with seven filmed in London and two filmed
on the Shamwari Game Reserve in South
Africa. The 13 installments are already
being peddled to TV markets around the
globe, including those in this country.
The "James Bond for television with a
smaller budget," as producer David Wickes
describes the show, has already been sold
to ARD, a large German television netework.
is the first spy thriller-type project
for Mr. Woodward since the CBS series
The Equalizer, which ran from 1985 to
1989. Since then, he has purposely steered
clear of the genre.
Intent on staying versatile as an actor,
he has taken such roles as a garbage man
for a British television series and "an
old, broken-down idiot" in the 1996 television
miniseries, Gulliver's Travels, starring
Throughout his career, Mr. Woodward has
played the stage as well as the small
and large screens. His film work has included
Breaker Morant. He has had major roles
in Royal Shakespeare Company productions
of Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet and Much Ado
If any show could bring him back to guns
and bullets, it would be CI5. The original
version of the series, which ran from
1977 to 1983, was the most successful
action-adventure series made outside the
It ran in 57 countries. Re-runs still
play in France and on the entertainment
channels of Virgin Atlantic airlines,
Mr. Wickes said.
The original show, simply called The Professionals,
died out when cast members wanted to move
on to other things. Producers didn't think
they could keep it going without their
stars, "like Dallas without Larry Hagman,"
Mr. Wickes said.
But Mr. Wickes, who directed episodes
of the original series, thought otherwise.
Backed by a consortium of investors, he
bought the rights to the series.
The new series is co-produced by Paul
Tivers and written by Brian Clemens, who
created the original series, as well as
the original The Avengers.
Mr. Wickes hasn't entirely given up the
director's chair this go-round. At the
battleship, while director John Davies
was topside, filming the "Glory Days',"
final scene with Mr. Woodward and co-star
Lexa Doig, Mr. Wickes was below with actors
dressed as sailors and Russian bad guys,
filming a firefight.
no good being proud, is it?" he said.
"I was a hired gun on the last series."
Up top, his own hired gun, Mr. Davies,
is leading Mr. Woodward, Ms. Doig and
other actors through the final scene in
93-degree heat. Only the shade provided
by a couple of white tents and the breeze
from hand-held fans keeps their makeup
Crew members buzz the actors constantly,
touching up makeup and handing out ice-cold
bottles of water.
Despite the heat, Ms. Doig considers herself
"absurdly lucky" to have landed the role
of Tina Backus, CI5's computer expert.
The Toronto native has been featured in
Canadian television shows and movies,
but CI5 marks her first lead - and possibly
the first time she's played a character
who isn't warped in some way.
always been the cyberpunk chick or the
whore or the stripper or the weird girl,"
she said. "I think I played a receptionist
The roles may have been the result of
her exotic good looks, which she owes
to her father's Scottish ancestry combined
with her mother's Filipino heritage. Lexa
is short for Alexandra; Doig, believe
it or not, is Scottish.
Ms. Doig, 27, is joined in the cast by
fellow Canadian Kal Weber, 28, who plays
Chris Keel, a former Navy SEAL recruited
is the biggest thing I've ever had," he
said. "It's kind of hard to beleve it's
Mr. Weber holds dual citizenship in Canada
and the United Kingdom and has done most
of his work in the latter. His latest
role was as the killer, Charles, in the
British TV movie The Painted Lady, starring
Helen Mirren and Franco Nero.
On the battleship, it was the heat that
was the killer. Mr. Weber and fellow cast
member Colin Wells probably wished they
had some real Navy SEAL training for their
The pair were working with Mr. Wickes
and the second unit, the one that films
minor or supplemental scenes. Their scene
consisted of sprinting repeatedly down
the battleship gangplank, guns drawn,
chasing the bad guys.
Dragging himself back up the gangplank
after the third sprint, Mr. Wells spied
Mr. Davies scouting a camera angle from
the battleship bridge.
me back on that unit," he yelled, gasping
and feigning heatstroke. "Please!"
Of the three young leads, Mr. Wells, 34,
has perhaps the best appreciation of his
position as a star of CI5. As a teen-ager,
he was an ardent fan of the original series.
probably seen every single one," he said.
He remembers the effect the two leads
had on popular culture in Britain. Every
pair of pants worn or car driven by Bodie,
played by Martin Shaw, or Doyle, played
by Lewis Collins, became instantly faddish.
If Mr. Shaw wore a certain jacket on the
show, Mr. Wells said, "the next day, you
ran out and picked out the one Bodie was
The new series promises all the dash of
the old. Mr. Wells may have been sprinting,
but he was sprinting in Hugo Boss.
Still, at the heart of CI5 isn't modern
fashion, but good old-fashioned thrills.
needs an action hero," Mr. Wells said.
"It's a good, exciting action/adventure