Stage-struck from his debut in pantomime at the age of four, Ian Cullen found early television fame as a dashing David Balfour in Robert Louis Stevenson’s Kidnapped (1963), as a dishy doctor in Emergency Ward 10 (1966-67) and during a six-year spell in pioneering police drama Z-Cars, rising through the ranks only to meet a violent end in 1975.
More grisly was his death, after more than 400 episodes, as Angus Hart in a boat explosion in Channel 5’s Family Affairs in 1999.
Born in West Boldon, County Durham, Cullen trained at RADA and spent his apprenticeship in regional rep before joining the Royal Shakespeare Company, where he was seen in John Whiting’s The Devils (1961) and alongside Judi Dench in Measure for Measure and Paul Scofield in King Lear in 1962.
Although television increasingly kept him away from theatre, he spent a year as Detective Sergeant Trotter in Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap (1968), took the title role in Bill Naughton’s Alfie (Theatre Royal St Helens, 1973), was Romeo to his wife Yvonne Quenet’s Juliet (Chelmsford Civic Theatre, 1973) and appeared in Michael McGrath’s Amy and the Price of Cotton (London’s Royal Court, 1976).
Later stage appearances included Michael Sloane’s Underground alongside Raymond Burr (Prince of Wales Theatre, 1983), Ray Cooney’s Run for Your Wife (Criterion Theatre, 1984), St Paul in David Pearce’s Man of Two Worlds (Westminster Theatre, 1985), Howard Ginsberg’s Murder in Paris (Haymarket Basingstoke, 2002) and Don Taylor’s The Road to the Sea (Orange Tree, 2003).
A parallel career as a writer began with episodes of Z-Cars and included the fishing trawler-set Snacker (1976), children’s drama The Paper Lads (1977-78), Katie: The Year of a Child, a 1979 Play for Today, and Scottish serial The House on the Hill (1981). He also wrote several plays for BBC Radio 4.
In 1982 Cullen formed the Surrey Heath Young Actors’ Company. He was head of drama at Elmhurst Ballet School for eight years from 1988 and directed the Farnham Shakespeare Company from 2006 to 2015.
George Ian Cullen was born on October 20, 1939 and died on November 12, aged 80. He is survived by his wife and three children.