THE announcement that Jonathan Kerrigan has quit Heartbeat came as no surprise.
He’s never made any secret of the fact that he usually likes to stay no longer than three series, and has done the same for the role of Pc Rob Walker.
The real news is the departure of Mark Jordon, who has played Pc Phil Bellamy (pictured) from the very start of the ITV1 drama in 1992.
He’s been part of the fixtures and fittings of the Sunday night favourite.
Series 16, which began last October, was – as usual – broken into two halves, with the second section back on screen next month.
By the time that finishes, Heartbeat will have completed 324 episodes.
Mark has been in almost all of them, with viewers hooked over the years by the on-off romance between Phil and Aidensfield Arms barmaid Gina Ward.
Although the scenes have yet to be broadcast, they finally made it down the aisle in January in a winter wedding, complete with real snow.
Mark will leave during series 17, which is just about to begin filming.
He explains: “As well as acting, I’ve been producing and directing and feel the time is right to develop this side of my career.”
Producer Archie Tait says: “Mark’s exit storyline has not been confirmed, but there is plenty of drama ahead for Bellamy before his departure.”
Viewers will have to wait and see how Phil’s departure impacts on Gina, played by Cheshire-based Tricia Penrose.
But with 12 episodes from series 16 still to be screened and Bellamy due to appear in a large part of series 17, their story still has some way to run.
I also understand there is no question of Tricia leaving – in fact Mark’s eventual departure may give the writers even more to work with in terms of her character.
Meanwhile leading man Jonathan (pictured right), first seen on screen in September 2004, will leave at the end of series 16.
He will be replaced by sparky Scottish actor Joe McFadden, who arrives as new policeman Joe Mason – “a different kind of cop” – in episode one of series 17.
You may remember Joe from previous roles in Sparkhouse and The Crow Road.
He also made a big impact as Dallas McCabe in Debbie Horsfield’s 1999 BBC1 series Sex Chips & Rock n’ Roll.
And he co-starred with Sarah Lancashire and the late John Thaw in The Glass.
It’s a great piece of casting – and one I reckon the female half of Heartbeat’s audience may particularly regard as real news.
Still In Good Heart