Peter Michael Wingfield was born September 5, 1962, in Cardiff, Wales, UK. He grew up in Grangetown, "a dingy suburb of a small town in Wales." (Gee, not a very flattering description, Peter! While you can walk from one end of Cardiff to the other in an hour or two, with a population of 275,000, I wouldn't call it a "small town.") Peter claims, "I was within a ten-minute walk of the railway station, which is about as central as you can get. But I am not telling you in which direction to go from the station." (Grangetown is just southwest of the Cardiff train station.)
Peter also claims that he's "just an innocent little Welsh boy from the Taff Valley," a river valley north of Cardiff.
From fall 1967 to spring 1979, Peter attended the Llandaff Cathedral Primary & Upper School, an independent all-boy Anglican prep school, two miles away in the nearby suburb of Llandaff. (Llandaff, which translates as "church on the river Taff," is named after the historic site Llandaff Cathedral and is located northwest of downtown Cardiff.) Other famous Cathedral School students include Roald Dahl, author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and teenage classical singing sensation Charlotte Church. (The Cathedral School started admitting girls in 1978.)
Set in 15 acres of parkland and playing fields, the private school averages just under 400 students and has a strong record of achievement in music and sports. The school uniform is a maroon blazer, grey shirt (white shirt in summer), maroon tie and grey trousers. (Try picturing Peter in that!)
When he was 10 or 11 years old, Peter was loading paper for recycling onto the back of a truck and walked into a steel bar. "It was so big I didn't see it right in front of my eyes. I still don't know how it happened. I just remember I was walking forward and suddenly I wasn't." (Paul Johansson Online) The bar left a permanent scar on the bridge of his nose.
When he was 15 years old Peter became a National Trampoline Champion. Around 1991 Peter got on a trampoline again for fun and ended up with a three-day backache because his muscles weren't used to that particular kind of stress anymore. He hasn't gone near a trampoline since!
It was also in high school that Peter discovered his love of acting. Funded by the church, his school always did an Easter play. One year, drama teacher John Gould didn't like a student who had a one-line speaking part, and when the student took ill Peter got the part instead. "I had just one speech at the crucifixion, that became very emotional for me. It kind of tapped something off in me." Peter's life, however, was mapped out in medicine, so despite his attraction to acting, the teenaged Peter never thought it could be a career.
Peter's next role was in a Christmas play, Ondine, where he played an illusionist and entered the scene walking on his hands (a feat which he can still do).
Peter was encouraged and excelled in the sciences, aced his A-levels and won admission to the world-renowned Oxford University.
From fall of 1979 to spring of 1982, Peter studied pre-medicine (lots of courses in biology, chemistry, physics and math) at Brasenose College at Oxford University and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree.
While at university, Peter also competed for Cardiff AAC in the National Club finals for pole vaulting but he didn't win and, in fact, failed to clear opening height in the final round!
In 1980 Peter spent four weeks during a summer break at the National Youth Theatre of Wales. One of the plays he did there was Shakespeare's The Tempest. At the Youth Theatre, all of the students were treated as professional actors, whether they intended to pursue a career in acting or not. Though he didn't realize it at the time, the camaraderie he experienced being treated as a professional working in theater during the day and hanging out with the thespian crowd in the evening changed him, and he has been searching for that sense of belonging ever since.
It was also during those four weeks at the Youth Theatre that Peter got an ear pierced when his buddies held him down and stuck a (not very sterile) needle through it! Peter later pierced the other ear himself after he'd had some medical training.
Peter spent much of his spare time in drama groups such as the Brasenose Little Theatre, and he and a friend set up The Blue Hat Theatre Company. One of the plays they produced, The Tooth of Crime, had an audience of two in Oxford (the actors and audience ended up spending the evening in a pub instead!) and an average audience of six in Edinburgh. That friend may have been Ian Ackland-Snow, a med-school chum who also liked doing theater and who, in a way, gave Peter the courage to continue acting: "If I'd been there on my own, wanting to do plays and be taken seriously, it would have been very tough, because everyone is going to be a doctor... so being really committed to Stanislavsky and acting... people just think you're a prat."
From fall of 1982 to spring of 1987, Peter did his clinical training at St. Bartholomew's Medical College and Hospital in London, one of the most prestigious medical schools/hospitals in the UK. The experience was life-changing: "My whole way of viewing the world is different I view everything very scientifically, thats how Ive been trained. In terms of experience, actually being part of delivering babies and being with people when they are told that they are going to die, those things become part of you." (iF Magazine)
Peter had an idealistic view of doctors as not only caregivers, but as sources of morality and goodness. The reality of hospital politics, of course, was a letdown and thus Peter was never deeply fulfilled by medicine.
When asked about Peter, someone who attended med school with Peter remembered that he was always failing his exams and that he once dressed up as Superman, complete with a padded-muscle costume!
Peter met his first wife Juliet during a stage production of The Rocky Horror Picture Show in 1987. It was a Senior Medical Student "Folly Production," held at every med school in the final month prior to clinical exams and graduation. Peter played the starring role of Dr. Frank-N-Furter while Juliet did choreographing and costuming. (He said they went shopping for underwear together.) They got married soon after but that marriage wasn't meant to be and Peter got divorced in late 1997.
In the fifth and final year, all soon-to-be graduating students were given a one-month summer sabbatical where they were expected to get involved in something relating to medicine. Peter skipped this clinical externship and instead went off to crew a yacht in the Carribean as a medic. Later, when the dean threatened to put Peter on an obstetric/gynecology rotation as punishment, Peter quit on the spot, three to four weeks before he was supposed to graduate.
The decision was controversial as no one in Peter's family is in the performing arts. Peter's father was the first doctor in the family (obstetrician/gynecologist); Peter's older brother David is also a doctor (general practicioner) as well as two cousins. (Peter also has two younger half-brothers from his father's remarriage, one of whom is named Andrew. "Kid brother" Andrew has been known to surf the Internet, checking out web pages about Peter and scaring Peter by telling him how many there are!) Peter says his mum "had seen it coming for years," so she wasn't surprised and was supportive. Peter's father, however, didn't speak to him for about two years. It was only when Peter got his first professional acting job that his father began to accept that Peter had made the right decision about leaving med school.
From June 1987 to May 1990, Peter attended the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London right across the street from St. Bart's Hospital, in fact! (Other alumni of Guildhall include Ewan McGregor, Joseph Fiennes, David Thewlis, Star Trek: The Next Generation's Marina Sirtis, Peter Cushing and Alfred Molina, with whom Peter later co-starred in Trust Me.) Though he received some scholarships, Peter still worked at various times as a motorcycle dispatch rider, a math tutor and a children's entertainer (Charlie Penknife, wearing a safari outfit) to help pay for school and support his young marriage.
During his first two years, Peter's classwork included studies of:
- voice (speech, poetry and prose, singing, phonetics, dialects),
- movement (improvisation, including animal studies and mask work, period dance and 20th century dance, showdance, Alexander Technique, acrobatics and stage combat),
- acting (improvisation, games and story-telling, mime, circus, physical and experimental theatre, radio and television).
Classwork was complimented by rehearsal projects which included a wide variety of plays historical and modern including musicals (though Peter has so far declined to show off his musical ability either in work or at cons).
The third and final year of drama school included classes in voice and movement and an independent research project, but the focus was on performing to the public and potential employers. Peter was also a member of a select team of students chosen to compete for the BBC's Carleton Hobbs Award for radio, which he won in 1990.
While at drama school, one of Peter's classes was in the use of stage props and arms, especially swords. Peter graduated with honors and several "Special Certificates" including an Advanced Level Stage Fighting certificate.
On leaving drama school in 1990, Peter made his television debut uttering eight words as the taxi driver in the TV movie Antonia and Jane. He said he got the role because he knew how to drive.
Peter went on to play lead roles in two TV drama series Granada TV's Medics and Central TV's Soldier Soldier and do a series of notorious TV commercials for the video game giant Sega, after which "I had little kids chasing me down the street every time I went out." Other major roles include playing:
- "Paul," the younger brother, opposite Alfred Molina in Trust Me, a film for BBC Television (1992),
- "Alun Lewis" in Alun Lewis: Death and Beauty for BBC Wales (1992),
- "John Westlock" in BBC TV's hugely successful five-part serialization of Dickens' Martin Chuzzlewit (1994) which was nominated for a BAFTA, the UK equivalent of an Emmy,
- "Simon Pemberton" in BBC Radio 4's The Archers soap opera (1995-97), and, of course,
- "Methos" in Highlander: The Series (1995-1998).
Peter doesn't know why he was chosen for the role of Simon Pemberton, but our Lorraine found out that the Archers producers first spotted Peter filming Martin Chuzzlewit at the BBC's Pebble Mill Studios in Birmingham, the same location where The Archers is recorded, and asked him to audition for Simon based on that.
As a child, Peter used to make gun noises when he fired his toy pistols. Today, he still makes "swish swish" noises when swinging his sword as Methos.
Peter's last major role for British television was that of "Tom Kirby" in Carlton TV's Noah's Ark, which ran for six episodes in September and October, 1997. In a sense, he came full circle as his father originally wanted to be a vet, not a doctor, and in Noah's Ark Peter played a TV vet. Peter says he's an animal lover (cats are his favorite) but he has asthma and is allergic to them, so he had to take medication while working on Noah's Ark. However, after spending so much time around animals, he thinks he's less allergic than he was before at least house pets don't set him off anymore!
Peter plays saxophone and flute to studio standard (i.e. he's recorded music), though it's been over 10 years since he played flute, and two since he played the sax, so he's probably a bit rusty! His favorite piece to play on the flute is the piano suite Gymnopedie No. 2 by French composer Erik Satie (1888). Peter used to play this accompanied by his grandfather on the piano. Peter also credits his grandfather as being a big influence in his life and says he "taught me how to hug."
Peter's taste in music is eclectic. He likes everything from Queen, Bruce Springsteen, George Michael and Sting to Oasis and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and especially the Jim Byrnes Band! He likes to listen to music when preparing for a scene.
Athletic by nature, Peter ran his first marathon in 1984 with his father, who was running his third. In 1997 Peter ran the London Marathon in 3 hours and 38 seconds. His goal is to run it in less than three hours.
Peter also likes to play soccer and is a fan of London's Arsenal Football Club. (Soccer = football in the UK, if you're linguistically deprived like me. This is a really cool-looking site, even if you don't know or care about soccer like me. And the Truly Obsessed can shell out £37.99 (around $80) and order a red & white jersey like Peter's from their online store. Just don't buy any Arsenal jerseys for Peter he says he's got "thousands!")
Peter's love of physical activity has also led him to try such unusual pursuits as clog dancing and parachute jumping, and he has recently taken up tai chi. In 1996 Peter bought a "British racing green" MG sports car but we don't know if he kept it after relocating to Canada.
Peter remarried in 1998. He and wife Carolyn welcomed their first child, Edan (pronounced "Eden") Stewart, into the world on 18 February 2000. When Edan was around nine months, Peter and Carolyn started using sign language with him. Early childhood specialists believe that because children that young don't yet have the language skills to communicate their wants and needs, sign language provides a way for them to be understood, resulting in a child that's less frustrated and prone to tantrums. At 15 months, Edan started signing back. Peter said, "It's just so amazing having communication with him."
Peter currently lives in Vancouver, BC, Canada.
Peter Wingfield Online