May 03, 1993 12:00 PM

You have the right to remain silent. You have the right to an attorney. You have the right—no, wait, the desire—to be questioned by Colin Salmon, and who wants an attorney present? For Salmon, 31, just may be the most arresting development in the recent history of TV cops. In his small-screen debut as the brooding Det. Sgt. Robert Oswalde on the acclaimed PBS Mystery! series Prime Suspect 2, the English actor took to the camera, and the camera to him, as if they had been partners for years. Says costar Helen Mirren: “Colin has got a wonderful, elegant way that’s totally natural. He’s the kind of person who melts women’s hearts. My sister met him and just collapsed at the knees.” Salmon admits that he is “quite chuffed [’thrilled]” at the sudden fame that is driving women to stop him on the streets of London. At 6’4″ and 190 lithely proportioned pounds, and with a smooth, refined accent that would drive anyone to confess, Salmon would stand out anywhere.

Until he landed the PS2 role, he supported himself by playing his trumpet on the streets and with small theater roles. Says PS2 director John Strickland: “Colin has a face that draws you in. With his blending of races, it can appear almost out of focus, with the edges all softened.” The appealing mixture comes from his white English mother (a nurse turned welder) and a Ghanaian father he never knew. (He was raised by his mother and his adoptive father, a Jamaican factory worker.) “I do come from a pretty hard place,” says the actor, who grew up in public housing in Luton, about an hour north of London. Now that he has made it, he has noted that “it’s a real change to be seen as a romantic lead; the business looks at guys like me as bouncers, boxers and thugs.” Upcoming projects include a role as a writer in the feature Midnight Movie, and his asking price, he confesses, “has jumped a zero or two.” The sharply dressed Salmon and his wife, Fiona Hawthorne, 28, a painter (they have two young daughters), plan to spend part of his new earnings on some clothes for Salmon. To the actor, beauty is good grooming—a little moisturizer, regular manicures, nice suits, handmade leather shoes (in PS2, wardrobe gave him the size 12½ brogues Sean Connery wore in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade)—and right thinking. “I’m interested in the air of confidence and self-worth,” he says, “which is different from arrogance and hardness.” Hawthorne agrees, saying her husband’s looks are just icing on a “very nice” cake: “I instantly felt a sense of trust. It was love at first sight.” She doesn’t have to cop a plea—we know what she means.

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