Nettles was adopted as a young child. He went to Southampton University and started life as a teacher. Before long he began to do some amateur acting, in 1967, and gradually got more and more important parts.
His first TV role was in the series A Family at War, followed by The Liver Birds. His break to major role came with the hugely successful detective series Bergerac in 1981. He then returned largely to stage acting and narrations for television, but in 1997 he had another major hit series as detective chief inspector Tom Barnaby in the series Midsomer Murders.
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