James Ellis

From Z-Cars to the RSC

James Ellis was born in east Belfast in 1931. Son of a sheet metal worker who worked on the Titanic, he was educated at Methodist College and Queen’s University, where he read English, French and Philosophy.


A Tyrone Guthrie scholarship supported Ellis’s move to the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. 

During the 1950s, Ellis worked mainly as a theatre director, and his most notable production was Sam Thompson’s controversial Over the Bridge, which was later taken on tour in Britain by Laurence Olivier’s company.


Ellis is, however, best known for his portrayal of Bert Lynch in the cult 1960s television show Z-Cars. 

As a stage actor, he completed seasons with the Royal Shakespeare Company, the National Theatre, and Sir Peter Hall’s company at the Old Vic. 

A late flowering in his career saw a life long interest in translated verse converted into two books, Domestic Flight and Home and Away: Three Dreams and three dreams.

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