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
Life and Style
Fans line up at the AVNs, straining to capture a photo of their favourite star
life Tim Walker asks how much longer it can flesh out an existence
Life and Style
Every minute of every day, Twitter is awash with anger as we seek to let these organisations know precisely what we think of them
techWhen it comes to vitriol, no one on attracts our ire more than big businesses offering bad service
News
Professor David Nutt wants to change the way gravely ill patients are treated in Britain
people Why does a former Government tsar believe that mind-altering drugs have a place on prescription?
News
Norway’s ‘The Nordland Line – Minute by Minute, Season by Season’ continues the trend of slow TV
television
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
art
Sport
Jonny Evans has pleaded not guilty to an FA charge for spitting at Papiss Cisse
football
Life and Style
Kate Moss will make a cameo appearance in David Walliams' The Boy in the Dress
fashion
News
The image released by the Salvation Army, using 'The Dress'
news
Sport
Liverpool defender Kolo Toure
football Defender could make history in the FA Cup, but African Cup of Nations win means he's already content
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

Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Consultant - London - £65,000 OTE.

£65000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Engineer - central London ...

Recruitment Genius: Physiotherapist / Sports Therapist

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Physiotherapist / Sports Ther...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive / Advisor

£8 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives / Advisors are required...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operative

£14000 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable