Murder Helps Pay the Bills! TV Times; February 5 to 11, 1994; Marsha Hanlon

Five-year-old Jack (above) 'larked around and did a bit of scene-stealing' while playing a brief role in Dandelion Dead says proud dad Michael.

Main picture by Ingrid Lisners

Dandelion Dead, ITV, Sunday
* New two-part drama
* Based on a real-life murder in the Twenties
* TVTimes Five-Star Rating

Until a few years ago, you were more likely to see Michael Kitchen on stage at the National Theatre or with the Royal Shakespeare Company than on TV.

Then his life changed. After a busy bachelor existence (he was, for example, Joanna Lumley's boyfriend at one time), he settled down with Rowena, whom he met when she was a dresser with the RSC. And five years ago, two weeks before Michael's 40th birthday, their son Jack was born.

"Supporting a family is expensive," says Michael. "I didn't want to attempt it on theatre wages, so I made a conscious decision to concentrate on TV and films."

Since then, his TV roles have included the evil kidnapper Roman in Chancer, and the date-rapist barrister in The Guilty. Last year, he was the lonely but decent monarch (with more than a passing resemblance to Prince Charles) in To Play the King.

Now he's in Dandelion Dead, a true story about a murder which shocked the Breconshire market town of Hay-on-Wye in the Twenties. He plays Herbert Armstrong, who went on trial accused of poisoning his wife Katherine. The two-part, four-hour drama was filmed on location in Hay, and five-year-old Jack often joined his father in the idyllic setting of the Wye Valley.

"Wonderful weather, beautiful river and a bit of Sunday fishing with the boy," Michael says with a smile. "We caught nothing, but it couldn't have mattered less."

Young Jack makes a brief appearance in Dandelion Dead, as a guest at a wedding reception. "He larked around, did a bit of scene-stealing and had a thoroughly good time," says his devoted dad. "I shall do all in my power to point him in other directions, but if he really wants to be in this business, there's little anyone can do. I know that from experience!"

Michael himself got hooked on acting after appearing in school plays in Leicester. But, unlike some of his colleagues, he never got caught up in the showbiz social whirl. "I always imagined you could achieve a successful acting career without parties. So far, so good," he says.

Michael even moved his family away from the bright lights of London to Dorset. "I'm extremely happy there - it's a beautiful part of the world," he says.

Many thanks to Telemagman for finding the magazine.