VERY sad news to report in today’s MEN.
Actor John Axon has died from a suspected heart attack.
Known to millions as hospital administrator Mr Harper in ITV1’s The Royal, he collapsed near his Stockport home earlier this week.
John, 48, had begun rehearsals for a guest role in Shameless when he died and had appeared in many TV series from Phonenix Nights to Life On Mars.
His agent Tim Scott told me that his death had come as a huge shock to everyone who knew John and worked with him.
“Aside from being really talented, he was a really funny, jovial man who always had a smile on his face.
“No-one ever had a bad word to say about him.”
John was due play a ballroom dancer in Wythenshawe-filmed Shameless, the latest in a long line of parts both in television and on stage.
A spokesman for the Channel 4 series said: “It is a tragic loss for the industry to lose such a fine actor as John and all of us at Shameless are so sad that we did not have the opportunity to continue to work with him, before his untimely death.
“He had been a delight to work with during rehearsals with the cast and had been due to start filming this week on the series in Manchester.
“Our thoughts are with his family.”
John had just returned from Hungary after filming a role as an assassin in new American TV series Krod Mandoon and the Flaming Sword of Fire, which stars Little Britain’s Matt Lucas.
He played hapless hospital boss Nigel Harper in 28 episodes of The Royal between 2003 and 2005.
John also appeared in Clocking Off, Prime Suspect, Peak Practice, City Central, Heartbeat, New Street Law, Lillies and Under The Greenwood Tree.
His theatre roles included Dimas in The Triumph of Love at the Royal Exchange in Manchester last year.
John was named after his train driver grandfather John Axon, who was awarded the George Cross posthumously in 1957 after he gave his life trying to prevent a train collision at Chapel-en-Frith.
His grandfather remained at the controls of his runaway train in a desperate attempt to slow it down before it smashed into another goods train at the station.
He was later celebrated in The Ballad Of John Axon by Salford folk legend Ewan MacColl and his actor grandson attended railway events in his memory.
John originally trained and worked as a graphic artist before becoming an actor.