Gareth Hunt

d. March 14, 2007

Gareth Hunt, the British actor best known as agent Mike Gambit in The New Avengers, died March 14 of pancreatic cancer at his home south of London. He was 65.

He gained some measure of TV fame as footman Frederick Norton in the serial Upstairs, Downstairs, a smash in both the U.K. and in the United States during its years on PBS. But his popularity in Britain increased immeasurably thanks to The New Avengers, a series that had limited exposure and impact in America.

The sequel to the 1960s hit The Avengers brought back Patrick Macnee as John Steed and teamed him with two new, younger agents, Gambit and Purdey (played by Joanna Lumley, who later was even more popular in Absolutely Fabulous). The New Avengers never gained the loving acceptance given the original show, running only 13 episodes in 1976 and another 13 in 1977. In the United States, the series was thrown away in the 1978-79 season as part of the late-night mix of old movies and TV reruns on CBS.

The Avengers as a trio never found the sophisticated rhythm that was a hallmark of the long-running original that paired Macnee with Honor Blackman, then Diana Rigg and finally Linda Thorson. But Hunt and Lumley were very popular even if the show itself was not.

Hunt was born in London and joined the merchant navy when he was 15. He served six years before jumping ship in New Zealand and spending three months in a military prison. Back in Britain, he held a series of jobs before he got into repertory acting companies. By the early 1970s, he had advanced to the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre.

In 1974 he appeared in a six-week Doctor Who adventure, “Planet of the Spiders,” followed by other TV roles that included an episode of Space: 1999, then his steady part in Upstairs, Downstairs. He was seen in Britain in a variety of TV roles after The New Avengers, including the popular Eastenders serial and a long-running series of Nescafe coffee commercials. His movie work included “Blood Bath at the House of Death” with Vincent Price, “Licensed to Love and Kill,” a 1979 James Bond spoof that got a limited U.S. release as “The Man from S.E.X.,” and “The House on Garibaldi Street,” a film seen on American television and in overseas theaters depicting the capture of Adolf Eichmann by Israeli intelligence agents.


Gareth Hunt, center, Joanna Lumley and

Patrick Macnee

in “The New Avengers.”