IT was as an 11-year-old schoolboy when Huw Higginson fell in love with the theatre.

And now as a 45-year-old man, the stage still holds a special place in the actor’s heart.

Born into a showbiz family, his father also an actor and mother an agent, Huw was destined to be famous.

At just 13 he stared in his first mainstream TV show, Jumbo Spencer, playing the character of Mike for the series in 1976.

But we know Huw best from the days he donned a police uniform as PC George Garfield in cop series The Bill.

Huw spent 10 years apprehending bad guys in and around Sun Hill, where the ITV drama is set. And despite it being more than a decade since he hung up his police hat, Huw is still recognised in the street as the lovable PC Garfield.

“We had pretty high viewing figures, with 14 and 18 million every show and therefore if you’re on for a long time, your face becomes ingrained on the regular viewers. I still get recognised an awful lot. Just last night someone came up to me and started talking to me about the show as if I was still in it, but they are always very complimentary.

“Very fortunately myself having the face of Oscar Wilde’s Dorian Gray I haven’t changed too much since those days so I still get very recognised,” he said.

You could call PC Garfield uncomplicated, or you could be honest and call him a bit thick. Though he was no use helping you finish your crossword, he was a bloke you could rely on when the thumping and kicking started.

And although Huw enjoyed playing at cops and robbers, he admits it’s playing the more serious theatre roles, where he feels most fulfilled.

“I loved The Bill but I made the choice to leave to specifically do theatre because I think its what I'm best at and its what I enjoy the most to have an audience and a new one every night.

“The experience is always different. its good for the soul being on stage, that’s what I believe.”

And his current production, All My Sons, by Arthur Miller, starting at The Bolton Octagon next week, Huw says is “what being an actor is all about.”

“This sort of Theatre work is real quality, this feels like its going to be a wonderful and quality show. This play has been quoted as one of the top five of the twentieth century so I’m very excited to be part of it. It’s a beautifully written, incredibly moving and intelligent piece of writing.

“I play Frank who is the neighbour of the Kellers who are in denial that their son could be dead as a result of the war. My character works on their horoscope to prove that their missing son is still alive. He is a nice guy, sort of representative of the American dream after the Second World War, that everything should be seen through bright and positive eyes, they are the stark contrast to what actually develops throughout the play.

“I did A-level history so I had an idea of a lot of the things that went on but this play has taught me some things, but the thing about this play is that because it’s so well constructed. It sets up this world where things are happy and social and by the end it’s a venire for some of the terrible things that went on at this time.” Huw has had guest leads in EastEnders, Heartbeat, and Holby City, to name but a few, and he recently played Mr Cunningham in the Sarah Jane adventures.

His extensive theatre credits include seasons at the Library Theatre in Manchester, as well as numerous national tours, namely Nick in Meeting Joe Strummer which won a fringe first at Edinburgh.

So what does the future hold for everyone’s favourite former cop?

“I’ve spent some time working in Australia and Id love to go back again at some point, a great Dickens adaptation would be a good one for me. And TV wise a series that has really caught my imagination is The Street. I’ve been in and out of plenty of TV series recently but I’d love to do something like this.”

“My first memories are of Stratford Upon Avon when my dad was at the royal Shakespeare company so I was sort of steeped in it really.

"I was born for this in a way, I’ve never wanted to do anything else.”

l All My Sons — Bolton Octagon, October 1 until October 24. Tickets on 01204 520661.