Burnley actor stars in new BBC drama “Our Zoo”

Lee Ingleby with fellow 'Our Zoo' cast members
Lee Ingleby with fellow 'Our Zoo' cast members

Burnley actor Lee Ingleby is currently starring in a new BBC drama about the history of Chester Zoo.

Six-part series “Our Zoo” started on Wednesday night and sees Lee (38) take in the lead role of George Mottershead, the zoo’s founder.

Lee, of course, is no stranger to period drama of the 20th century. He has starred as DS John Bacchus in the BBC’s popular “Inspector Gently” series which was first shown in 2007 and has new episodes ready to be aired. He has also had parts in the films “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” and “Master and Commander” with Russell Crowe.

Talking about his latest role he said: “I went there on a school trip when I was seven or eight, but I’d never heard the history of it.

“I found it really fascinating how this guy just had a vision. It wouldn’t happen now. There’d be so many hurdles to jump over.”

The “Our Zoo” story began in 1930, when kind-hearted ex-serviceman George visited Liverpool docks — and returned home with an unwanted squirrel monkey and a camel which was about to be put down.

After coming across a run-down stately home surrounded by acres of land, he hatched a plan to create a ‘zoo without bars’, and persuaded his family and bank manager to take the leap with him.

The drama follows George securing an initial £3,000 loan to open the zoo, which went on to become one of the largest in Europe, the following year.

Today, Chester Zoo is the largest zoo in the UK and is home to 11,000 animals and 400 different species.

“It was just one of those scripts that just stood out,” said Lee. “I liked the family within it and the fact that it is a true story and at the very heart of it, there’s this nice tale of someone trying to do some good.

“And, you know, there is a little bit of George doing it for himself - but I think ultimately it is to create this haven. I just liked it. I liked him. I liked his drive, I liked his vision, I liked the way that everything was against him and around him and I wanted to marry everything and create this wonderful thing.

“I didn’t know the story or anything like that and so, looking in to it more and realising the lengths that they went to. I don’t think that would ever happen today; there would be too many restrictions and barriers and people just laughing, you know, to the point where he’d be like ‘Forget it’ and go back to his life.”