Over the course of his lengthy career, Patrick Macnee has been many things: Royal Britannic Naval officer, Canadian television pioneer, critically acclaimed actor of both stage and screen. His most enduring persona, however, remains that of John Steed, the suave umbrella-toting star of the smashingly popular '60s British spy show, The Avengers. Macnee starred in the series for more than 11 years — despite being told he lacked "the right mug."
"My producer once said to me, 'It's amazing with your face that you managed to get the lead in this thing,'" Macnee laughingly recalls to TV Guide Online. "But it worked out quite well. My character was extremely personable and pleasant and got on well with women. He didn't want to cut them into pieces like James Bond."
Macnee — who made his cinematic debut as an extra in The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp almost 60 years ago — returns to TV tomorrow night when he guest stars on Frasier as the father of Gladiator's Sir Derek Jacobi. "Sir Derek plays one of Kelsey Grammer and David Hyde Pierce's favorite Shakespearean actors," explains the actor, who turns 79 Tuesday. "They convince him to appear in a one-man showcase, but quickly realize that he's going to be ghastly. I come to see him perform, but they try to prevent him from going on and me from seeing him.
"It's extremely funny," he adds. "Sir Derek Jacobi is an extraordinary actor. It was a great privilege to work with him."
Fans of The Avengers can also relive the show's glory days with the recently released Best Of DVD, a six-episode disc which features commentary by Macnee. Remarkably, the show — which pre-dated the Bond films — is as popular today as when it first aired more than 35 years ago. To what does Macnee attribute its longevity? "It was simply a good show," he says. "And of course, [leading lady] Diana Rigg looked wonderful in that tight cat suit."