John, however, was determined to go through with it, and he persuaded the promoter that it was still worth doing.
Come the big day, in his own words, the reception was "incredible". Sporting tuxedo and a red carnation, he stepped
onto the stage to a chorus of booing and jeering. Doggedly, he carried on and as a credit to sheer professionalism,
finally he won the audience over. Of course, looking back, the reaction should be taken as a compliment to the power
of Crossroads, even though John describes himself as being little short of petrified at the time.
Something which every new character in Crossroads has to face is the settling down period. Script writers
come and go and unfortunately, the newer the character, the more a writer is liable to implant his own ideas. "It all
got very complicated early on because one scriptwriter would see Hugh Mortimer as a university graduate - a well educated
but slightly naive gentleman with ambitions," remembers John. "Somebody else would see him as a north country 'trouble
at mill' character. Our job as actors was to straighten the whole thing out and to keep everything more or less at one
"Even now, though, contradictions do creep in. A little while ago I was glancing through the script and noticed
the direction, 'Hugh lights a cigar'. Well, of course, most people know by now that Hugh Mortimer doesn't smoke.
But occasionally small things like that do slip through. The scripts for the week arrive on Monday and I don't think
a week's gone by yet when someone hasn't put their finger on something and said, 'That's a direct contradiction to what I
said last week.' With any TV serial this will inevitably be a problem, but the public are such sticklers for detail.
Over the years we've had all kinds of suggestions and criticisms over how the Motel's run ... the cooking and the kitchen
- all that type of thing. But there are times when sheer acting ability has to cover up the mistake."
John Bentley enjoys playing the part of Hugh Mortimer, now more than ever. As he is quick to point out, the years
have had a mellowing effect upon Meg's husband, and the warmth of John Bentley has gradually stamped itself on the role of
Hugh. "This, to me, gives the character a much greater dimension," he says, "to the point where at times I'm able to
put in a light comedy scene. This is something that I appreciate very much. It gives the programme something extra
and this is what actors are always looking for. I hate cardboard characters and Lord knows I've had to play enough of
those in my time!"
The occasional domestic scene adds, he feels, to the air of realism and the developed role of Hugh is sufficient to allow
for this. Even the grittiest businessman has his weaknesses and his moments of pleasure and affection. "Fortunately,"
adds John, "the personality of Hugh Mortimer has many sides. Otherwise I don't really think I could have stuck with
it for all these years. It's lovely on one hand to play the tough, ruthless business machine and then to follow it with
something totally different."
An important facet of the programme is its social consciousness. From Sandy displaying courage and fortitude in
adapting to a life in a wheelchair, to the periodic warning on road safety, the range is enormous. When asked whether
his television heart attack was liable to alter Hugh's character in any way, John replied, "No, quite the opposite.
I think what we're trying to get over is that having a heart attack isn't necessarily going to affect the whole of a man's
life. We are hoping to show to people that if the man goes just a little bit slower - takes things just a little bit
easier, then it probably won't affect his life and work at all. Of course, it does depend on the individual, but more
from a psychological point of view. The person who wallows in self pity could very well slow up, but this won't happen
to Hugh Mortimer. The very essence of his style is that nothing in the world is going to get him down and I'm sure that
this is the message the writers here at Crossroads are trying to get over. Remember, there's no denying that
when Hugh Mortimer says or does something, then a lot of people take notice of him."
John Bentley ... continued