Friday 13 August 2010


** TP’s initials stand for Thomas Patrick and it’s virtually the first question he’s ever asked in any interview. He was named after his grandfather, also T.P.McKenna, who was a prominent politician. Over the years many of his colleagues have called him Tom but to his family he has always been ‘TP’. Humourist Willie Rushton however, dubbed him ‘TCP’ McKenna!

** TP has played everything from a grocer’s assistant to the voice of God. Very often associated with figures of authority he has played barristers and judges, detectives and chief constables, ministers and ambassadors, priests and bishops, ex-priests and conmen, distinguished surgeons and incompetent locums, politicians and prime ministers, a reichfuhrer and a pope.

** TP has appeared in two separate dramas with identical titles, The Scarlet & the Black. The first time was for a TV movie set in wartime Vatican with Gregory Peck & John Gielgud while the second time was in a screen adaptation of the classic French novel by Louis Stendhal, ‘Le Rouge et le Noir’ when he appeared with Ewan McGregor.

** TP has often come to a sticky end in his busy screen career and has been shot dead variously by Donald Sinden, Edward Woodward, Peter Vaughan. Linda Thornson in the Avengers episode, Noon Doomsday, didn’t have a gun to hand, so she resorted to a hayfork. Ouch!

** TP undertook over seventy stage roles as a member of Ireland’s celebrated Abbey Theatre company between 1953 and 1962. In 1969 he was made a life member of the company along with Jack McGowran, Cyril Cusack and Siobhan McKenna.

** TP has turned stage director three times in his career with productions of The Playboy of the Western World (Nottingham Playhouse, 1967), The Death & Resurrection of Mr Roache (Dublin 1973) and The Shadow of a Gunman (Sheffield, 1977) to his credit.

** Playing so many roles, TP has had to learn to be a master of all trades. For the stage play, The Contractor, he had to learn how to erect a large marquee while for Stewart Parker’s Nightshade he was taught a complex series of magic tricks. Michelin chef Anton Mossiman’s services were also called on to offer culinary advice when TP was cast as a celebrity chef in Rumpole of the Bailey.

** TP’s part in Minder (1984) was written especially with him in mind by series creator, Leon Griffiths, who even went so far as to the name his character, TP Mooney. Flattered as he was, TP and the director agreed on the first morning of shooting to rename the character ‘JJ Mooney’.

** TP’s hotel was shaken by an earthquake in Turkey when he was on location for the 1967 film, The Charge of the Light Brigade.

** Amongs TP’s favourite roles have been Jamie Tyrone Jnr. in Eugene O’Neills Long Day’s Journey Into Night (Abbey Theatre 1959) and Harold Skimpole in Bleak House (BBC TV 1985).

** TP appeared in the The Avengers on three different occasions appearing opposite Honor Blackman (Cathy Gale), Diana Rigg (Emma Peel) and Linda Thorson (Tara King).

** TP served six years as a clerk with the Ulster Bank before leaving to become an actor. Even at the height of his fame former colleagues would tell him he left the bank at the wrong time. ‘Sure, some of the boys have had great promotions, y’know!’

** TP’s role in The Balcony by Jean Genet for the RSC in 1974 required him to spend the evening on stilts.

** One of TP’s earliest film roles was as a henchman to Robert Mitchum in the A Terrible Beauty (1960).