Warren Clarke has got one of those "it's on the tip of my tongue" faces. You've seen him in hundreds of things before, but you can't quite put a name to him. He's solid rather than starry - and admits as much. "Thank God, most of the time I'm unrecognisable," he laughs. "I've even been accused of not being Warren Clarke. Somebody once came up to me for an autograph and said, `I love all your work, Mr Elphick'. I could have said, `I'm not Michael Elphick, I'm Warren Clarke', but it wouldn't have been worth it. They'd just have said, `Warren Who?'"

Sitting in the corner of a central London restaurant in John Lennon-style pebble glasses and a leather jacket, Clarke certainly goes largely unrecognised. But it may not remain that way for long.

He will soon be rivalling Carol Smillie for TV ubiquity. Last week, he had a major role in i.d., a Screen Two film about football hooligans. Next week, he plays one half - Colin Buchanan is the other - of Reginald Hill's odd-couple detectives in a new series of Dalziel and Pascoe on BBC1. And soon after, Clarke will be starring in a new BBC drama called The Locksmith as well as A Respectable Trade, a new BBC serial on slavery. He will probably be reading the news before long.

Eric Abrahams, an executive producer on Dalziel and Pascoe, reckons that the curmudgeonly copper may be "that key role that's going to propel Warren into the major film circuit. He's been very underrated and underexposed.

"He's that really rare thing," Abrahams enthuses, "a heavyweight actor with a gift for comedy. His face is able to convey menace, pathos and humour from one second to another - and sometimes all at the same time. When he plays Dalziel, he gives the impression of using a four-letter word every other word - even though he doesn't. It's the `Psycho principle': it's not what you show, it's what you prime the audience to imagine. Therein lies Warren's skill."

Clarke was on the verge of making it big as long ago as 1971, when he played one of Malcolm McDowell's dastardly henchmen - or "droogs" - in A Clockwork Orange. He still remembers with awe working for director Stanley Kubrick. "We'd get in at 7.30 in the morning," Clarke recalls, "and the set would be cleared. Then Stanley and we four droogs would improvise all morning. In the afternoon, we'd shoot just one minute.

"Stanley was doing Mike Leigh before Mike Leigh was born," Clarke continues. "He'd say, `Warren, I don't know what dialogue to have in the milk-bar scene. Can you write some?' He'd give us freedom to invent."

Like the droogs, Dalziel is not an especially appealing character. He is more given to shouting and swearing than caring and sharing. Indeed, after complaints about the first series - the show was featured on Biteback - the BBC has toned down Dalziel's misanthropy for the second.

He's still not going to win any New Man of the Year awards. In "A Killing Kindness" from the new series, for instance, a right-on lawyer becomes exasperated with the detective's neanderthal attitudes: "I thought all that offensiveness was just an act," she rails, "but you're really as small-minded as the rest of them."

Abraham, for one, is unrepentant about Dalziel's unreconstructed world- view. "In this age when PC is all the rage," he argues, "Dalziel is this wonderfully human, non-PC character who articulates views that we can only think. He tells it as it is. There's too little of that. We're fed up with fashionable PC programming. Life's not like that, and audiences are quick to spot that."

Clarke is not going to disagree with any of that. "Dalziel is a dinosaur," he opines, "but I know that they exist because I've got mates in the force who tell me they do. One of the reasons I did the series was because I loved the fact that he doesn't bow to liberal views of society. He's this bloke from the North who's farting, scratching and behaving badly with women"

Doesn't he worry, though, that all these rozzers behaving badly will offend people? "That never worries me," Clarke booms. "In fact, that was one of the biggest magnets. On Richard and Judy, I said, `Dalziel gives me the chance to stick my finger up', and then I stuck my finger up. Judy went `Ooo', and there was an outcry from viewers. I even appeared in the Daily Express. I love all that."

`Dalziel and Pascoe' begins next Saturday on BBC1

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

    £18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

    Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

    £16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

    Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

    £18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

    Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

    £28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

    Day In a Page

    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
    Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

    UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

    Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
    John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

    ‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

    Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
    Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

    Let the propaganda wars begin - again

    'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

    Japan's incredible long-distance runners

    Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
    Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

    Tom Drury: The quiet American

    His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
    Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

    Beige to the future

    Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

    Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

    More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
    Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

    Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

    The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own