Alexei de Keyser

Producer on BBC drama series from 'Casualty' to 'Waking the Dead'

Alexei de Keyser was an executive producer for drama series at the BBC. An unorthodox character, both personally and professionally, who refused to have a desk on the grounds that "people will put things on it", de Keyser ended his short career as the executive producer of
Waking the Dead, one of the BBC's most successful current dramas.



Alexei Paul de Keyser, television producer: born London 21 September 1967; Executive Producer for Drama Series, BBC 2000-04; died London 28 July 2004.



Alexei de Keyser was an executive producer for drama series at the BBC. An unorthodox character, both personally and professionally, who refused to have a desk on the grounds that "people will put things on it", de Keyser ended his short career as the executive producer of Waking the Dead, one of the BBC's most successful current dramas.

Born in north London in 1967, the only child of the actor David de Keyser and his wife Fay Brooke, Alexei de Keyser attended St Christopher's School, a progressive boarding school in Letchworth, Hertfordshire, and William Ellis School in Highgate, London. He then ventured north to study drama at Hull University. Despite being dyslexic, he had a huge passion for creative writing throughout his school life. He admitted that his work would be "tragically sad poetically and hysterically funny grammatically".

After just a year at Hull, he decided that the academic route did not suite his "free spirit", so he left to become a barman at the Groucho Club in London. As well as being a great source of beer money, the Groucho gave him an opportunity to mix with - albeit in a drinks-serving capacity - some of the most influential people in the television industry, an opportunity that was not lost on him. The producer Verity Lambert, one of de Keyser's regulars, recognised his passion and talent for writing and offered him a job as a script reader (and personal dog walker).

Alexei de Keyser was 23 years old and this was his break. Dyslexia made the idea of a script-reading job seem comical, though to de Keyser now all seemed possible. He was the only man in an office of six women, something that, according to Lambert, "he used to his full advantage". She added: "Alexei's lack of organisation drove me wild, but his enthusiasm, sweet nature and, above all, his talent, more than compensated."

It was as a script editor at Cinema Verity that de Keyser first came to the attention of Jane Tranter, then Head of Drama at Carlton Television, London. Tranter made a concerted effort to "extract" de Keyser and bring him to Carlton - an offer he couldn't and didn't refuse. She installed him as story editor on London Bridge, then a late-night drama "experiment". De Keyser successfully turned the series around, driving it through strong story lines into a twice-weekly, peak-time soap.

In 1996 he turned down the producer position on London Bridge to follow Tranter to the BBC, where he took up the less senior post of script editor on the BBC1 Saturday-night drama Casualty. His phenomenal storytelling talent soon drew the attention of Mal Young, the Controller of Drama Series, who remained a close friend and mentor throughout de Keyser's time at the corporation.

At the BBC his rise was rapid. Within a year he became producer of Casualty - aged just 29. Another successful year saw him appointed series producer of Casualty, giving him his first chance to make a project truly his own. He set about re- inventing the series with a raft of new characters and story lines and restored the programme's fledgling ratings to its early Nineties heights.

Many attempts were now made by other production companies to lure de Keyser away from the BBC, though none was successful. He remained with the corporation and was given his toughest challenge yet when Young asked him to become Executive Producer of a brand new peak-time drama, Waking the Dead (2000).

His cast included Trevor Eve, Sue Johnston, Holly Aird, Wil Johnson and Claire Goose, who followed him from Casualty to the new cold-case police series. The show quickly became the BBC's highest-rating drama, currently showing its fourth series, and it was recently nominated for an International Emmy award in New York. Waking the Dead also established itself as the "place to be seen" for British character actors and boasted guest performances from Timothy West, Frances de la Tour and Warren Mitchell among others.

At the same time de Keyser was also the executive producer for another signature show, the comedy drama Grease Monkeys (2003), this time on the brand-new BBC3.

Alexei de Keyser was a workaholic. His unusual approach to drama producing included doing much of his work from the car park with a mobile phone stuck to his ear, fag in hand, or pacing the set, pushing people to their creative limits and lifting their spirits.

As his younger brother, my earliest memories of him include his forgetting to dress me before heading out on a camping trip - something which no one noticed until we were deep into the forests of southern France. He carried this eccentricity with him throughout his career, and it gave him the character that many came to love. As well as his father, Alexei leaves his stepmother Kirsten, three brothers and a sister, and his girlfriend, Muirinn Lane Kelly.

They say that no one would want their epitaph to read, "I wish I had spent more time at the office". For Alexei de Keyser, who had so much more he wanted to do, this was probably not the case.

Thomas de Keyser

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Bobbi Kristina Brown with her mother Whitney Houston in 2011
people
News
The actress Geraldine McEwan was perhaps best known for playing Agatha Christie's detective, Miss Marple (Rex)
peopleShe won a Bafta in 1991 for her role in Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit
News
peopleHere's what Stephen Fry would say
Sport
David Silva celebrates with Sergio Aguero after equalising against Chelsea
footballChelsea 1 Manchester City 1
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Proust as Captain Laure Berthaud in 'Spiral'
tvReview: Gritty, engaging and well-acted - it’s a wonder France’s biggest TV export isn’t broadcast on a more mainstream channel
Arts and Entertainment
music
Arts and Entertainment
Laura Carmichael in still from Madam Bovary trailer
film
News
i100
Sport
Serena Williams holds the Australian Open title
sportAustralia Open 2015 final report
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: General Factory Operatives

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links