Friday, September 19, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Ray Lonnen | British actor, 74

Ray Lonnen, 74, a British actor who played a spy in The Sandbaggers, a TV series that made the bureaucratic battles of espionage as gripping as 007-style cloak and dagger, died July 11 at his home in London. The cause was cancer, said his wife, actress and writer Tara Ward.

"The best spy series in television history," critic Terrence Rafferty wrote in the New York Times in 2003. In a genre often pulsing with gadgetry and action, he singled out The Sandbaggers for its riveting look at complex office mind games and its stellar performances.

The tautly written 50-minute show first aired on the British network ITV from 1978 to 1980, and reviewers noted that the program approached the caliber and nuance of a John le Carre miniseries, despite its low-budget production values.

"It was a great show about the process of doing these sorts of black ops and the process of bureaucratic infighting, which was almost comic in its elaborateness," Rafferty said in an interview.

He added that its vicious and conniving anti-hero, Neil Burnside, a director of operations for British intelligence played by Roy Marsden, was unusually risky for audiences not accustomed to deeply flawed main characters such as the TV mafioso Tony Soprano. Mr. Lonnen portrayed Burnside's loyal and best agent, Willie Caine.

"Ray Lonnen played a really important character in the show, because he was the only person for an ordinary viewer to identify with," Rafferty said.

Mr. Lonnen was a police detective in the long-running crime drama series Z-Cars in the 1970s and had a starring role in the gritty miniseries Harry's Game (1982). He was also a prolific voiceover artist for audiobooks and commercials. - Washington Post

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