WHEN one of the most successful detective series in British TV history came to end eight years ago, Inspector Morse star Kevin Whately had, on the surface at least, a difficult decision to make.

But preserving much of what made Morse so popular was the key to him staying on in his role as Detective Sergeant Robbie Lewis, which has now run for two successful series.

Having found his feet in the lead role in Lewis, Kevin said: "I think what gives us a head start on a lot of other cop shows is the fact that we've got this fabulous backdrop. Some of the places we film in and around Oxford are absolutely beautiful, and they come out so well on camera. It's got a timelessness to it. It could be from any period.

"One of my favourite places we film is in the gardens at Merton College. It's a gorgeous place, like a secret garden where you can look over and practically see the whole of Oxford."

While Lewis is a firmly established character after so many years as Morse's sidekick, Kevin feels there has still been a process of development over the first two series.

He said: "I think the relationship between Lewis and Hathaway (DS Hathaway, played by Lawrence Fox) is developing slowly and organically, which is what we wanted to happen.

These things take time, but we don't tend to talk through things too much before we film it out, and sometimes we might deviate from the script slightly if we think it makes sense, which is what John and I used to do."

So do people still stop him in the street and ask him about Morse and John Thaw? Or do they want to know more about Lewis?

"Both really. There's still a zillion Morse fans out there that want to talk about the series and it doesn't bug me at all that they want to do that because I know how popular it was, but I think because we've tried to stay faithful to the spirit of it, a lot of the fans have come along with us."

Aside from Lewis, Kevin has been filming for the BBC series Who Do You Think You Are? as well as a drama called The Children, which he said was "something a bit different because I get to play a bad guy in that, but to be honest I'm not desperate to go and do loads of other things at the moment because I love doing Lewis and we've got such a nice set up."

Kevin shot to fame as loveably naive Geordie Neville in Auf Wiedersehen Pet in the early 1980s and despite currently living just outside London he still has a strong connection to the North East.

He said: "My wife still has a lot of family in the area so we get up there whenever we can, and I still follow Newcastle United of course. Things seem to be going in the right direction now Kevin Keegan's back in charge. If he brings in a few players for next season it could get very exciting!"

Lewis Series Two is out now on DVD.