Kevin Whately is lamenting the loss of one of his favourite parts of Oxford.

"Monica, one of the Randolph's long-standing barmaids has emigrated to Canada," he tells me.

"Each year we go there, some of the staff have changed - although we always get a very warm welcome."

We are sitting in his surprisingly small trailer in the Oxpens Bus and Coach Station car park, in Oxford - the 'base camp' during filming of the second series of the ITV drama, Lewis.

After offering me a cup of tea, courtesy of his assistant, he asks if the Oxford Mail is still "up the road".

"We went there a few years back for an episode," he says.

"The big perk of doing this (Lewis) is being here in Oxford," he tells me.

"We're not flogging ourselves going round and round the M25 trying to get to and from London. It's like a holiday.

"I'm attached to Oxford now," he continues.

"It's like a home from home."

Filming in locations including New College and the Greyhound Stadium at Blackbird Leys, from Monday to Friday, he's staying as usual at The Randolph in St Giles.

"I like the whole city, you just have to point the camera in any direction and that's it," he said.

But the schedule means there's little chance for sightseeing.

"Just a lot of learning these," he says, waving a bunch of scripts.

The first series of Lewis was broadcast in January 2006 and February/March this year.

Chief Inspector Morse's former sidekick, Robbie Lewis (Whately), is now Detective Inspector Lewis and his new sidekick is DS Hathaway (Laurence Fox).

The pilot was seen by 11.4 million viewers, making it the most watched drama of the year across all channels.

But it nearly didn't happen at all - because of Whately's resistance to following up the hugely popular Morse, which ended two years before John Thaw's death from cancer in February 2002.

He said: "Now we're back in a routine, it feels like a kind of factory again, but at that time it was kind of dodgy and I was thinking: 'Is this a terrible mistake?' "But there were a lot of people in the hierarchy who were convinced it would do all right, and convinced me to do it."

Whately was deeply affected by John Thaw's death.

But it is believed he was eventually persuaded after Thaw's widow, Sheila Hancock, gave her blessing.

"I'm enjoying it," he says.

"It's a whole different ball game working with Laurence (Fox), but we're creating something else, something different."

So does he enjoy being the one with the sidekick?

"It's different, because you get a lot of people coming to you for your advice. You're like a kind of uncle really.

"In fact people expect me to have a lot of control over what happens in the programme, but it's not like that at all. I'm not interested in the production side one bit."

Asked for a taste of what's to come in the new series, he smiles.

"Well, one of the films features a gay scene quite heavily, and we had lots of cross dressers and youngsters from the London gay scene down - which made for an interesting 'family' on set!

"And this time we've also been under the Bodleian for a whole day. It's extraordinary. There was some talk about its state after the floods, but it's OK."

There was concern about filming at all after the floods. But the crew came down the week after and the new series of four episodes is scheduled for early 2008.

And how long can we expect to see Lewis on our screens? Whately says: "As long as they keep producing decent scripts we'll carry on."

He's very happy returning to Oxford and The Randolph.

"The people are very nice when they see you in the street.

"By the time you've stopped at almost every table for a chat or a pic, it can take quite some time to get a drink!"