Belper’s Howard plays bobby in Downton Abbey

Downton Abbey S5The fifth series, set in 1924, sees the return of our much loved characters in the sumptuous setting of Downton Abbey. As they face new challenges, the Crawley family and the servants who work for them remain inseparably interlinked.HOWARD WARD as Sergeant Willis.Photographer: Nick Briggs
Downton Abbey S5The fifth series, set in 1924, sees the return of our much loved characters in the sumptuous setting of Downton Abbey. As they face new challenges, the Crawley family and the servants who work for them remain inseparably interlinked.HOWARD WARD as Sergeant Willis.Photographer: Nick Briggs
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Belper-born actor, Howard Ward, is currently appearing in a string of episodes of ITV’s multi-award winning series, Downton Abbey.

The 53-year-old actor joined the cast including Maggie Smith and Hugh Bonneville for his first episode on September 28 and appeared again on Sunday as policeman, Sergeant Willis.

Mr Ward said: “Willis is basically a local copper charged with investigating the suspicious death of Alex Green.”

And he’s settled into the show well, having got a familiar face in the crowd in Mr Carson.

Howard and Jim Carter, who plays Lord Grantham’s butler in the series, worked together many years ago, he told.

“But it was under very different circumstances.”

“It was at the Royal Shakespeare Company – in the play, Jim was a judge visiting a brothel, and I played the pimp.

“I was in a gimp suit with tights and high heels – so we were laughing when we met on-set at Downton, obviously it’s a very different kind of performance!”

Growing up in Belper, Howard lived on Green Lane off King Street until he was 18.

“I was born and bred there – I went to primary school at Long Row, then onto Herbert Strutt Grammar School before moving to Belper School,” he said.

Now living in London he is married with two children – his son Tom, 23, is a guitarist and recently performed at the Y Not festival, and he’s proud to see daughter Molly, 25, follow in his footsteps.

“She’s at drama school now – I do what I can to encourage her, because it’s such a lottery in this business, you need real luck and determination.”

When he was starting out, Howard had to make his own luck and got his big break when he started his own theatre group.

He has had some great luck since, performing at the RSC and National Theatre, such as in the original cast of War Horse, and numerous TV spots.

He may be in danger of being typecast, however, having played coppers in The Bill, Inspector Linley Mysteries, Peak Practice, Doctors, Parade’s End and now Downton, so Howard is glad to be spreading his wings with some interesting productions - and he is certainly a busy man.

He’s just finished filming London Road, an RSC musical with Olivia Coleman, and is now in a new BBC drama, Lady Chatterley’s Lover, based on the novel by DH Lawrence.

But he still has time for his hobbies - pottery, baking, and watching the rugby.

“I also keep up with the Derby County scores, which causes some controversy where I live because there are a lot of Millwall fans around here,” he added.