William Simons plays PC Alf Ventress
Bill Simons plays the role of PC Alf Ventress, and describes the character as "a rather lazy, easy-going, phlegmatic, likeable copper who's tried three times to make Sergeant and now looks forward to retirement and an easy life."
Ventress is mostly seen sitting at his desk at the police station eating from his lunch box or smoking secretively, or in his police car - not an action hero by any stretch of the imagination.
"I remember the 1960s with affection. It was much more easy going in those days and I'm sure country coppers in that decade had a nice easy life compared with today," says Bill.
"We are all much more relaxed with our characters now. We didn't really know what we were doing at the beginning but we've developed at the same time as the characters we are playing. Ventress is unintentionally funnier now than he used to be - and much lighter. We don't have to deal with too much violent crime in Aidensfield. The most I do is to hang onto someone's collar and I had a few problems with some villains and then a pig!"
"Being involved in a long-running series hasn't prevented me from accepting other work. I was very lucky in the first two years of Heartbeat to be able to do another series for the BBC, at the same time, playing another policeman. It was fortunate that I was able to do both, with careful juggling of my working days. It's not so easy now but I would prefer to be in this than in anything else."
"I have played policemen many times in my career, from constables on the beat to Chief Inspectors and Superintendent. I think I'll be buried in blue. None of them have been as laid-back as Ventress. Playing a policeman hasn't really changed the way I look on modern coppers, except they all look years younger. I am still very aware of the power they have. Just before Heartbeat went out, a PC was prepared to arrest me because she recognised me and presumed she knew my face from the 'wanted' file. It was only after her colleague pointed out that I was an actor that she realised she had seen me on television."
"I can't see why Heartbeat should not continue with further series over the years although I have no idea how the storyline concerning Ventress will develop. As long as the stories are right for the character, I'm quite happy to leave this in the hands of the writers."
Rhea comments on Alf Ventress:
Read about PC Alf Ventress in Nicholas Rhea's words
William Simons was a founder member of Granada Stables Company. His television credits include the Inspector Alleyn Mysteries, Wish Me Luck, Darling Buds of May, Crown Court and Cribb, for which he was nominated an Emmy.