Joanna Lumley has paid tribute to her ‘dear friend’ Gareth Hunt, who has died of cancer.

The actress said she loved starring in TV show The New Avengers with the 65-year-old actor.

“We started off as friends in The New Avengers and remained that way for more than 30 years. I loved him so much,” she said.

“We shared so much laughter – we were constantly in hysterics making The Avengers. Gambit and Purdey were quite often sent out to do bits and pieces together so we would have scenes where we were driving or fighting people, and we had such enormous fun.”

Speaking from Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre, where she opens on Wednesday night in a production of The Cherry Orchard, Joanna said: “Gareth was also a very good actor, which was often overlooked. He started life in the RSC and he was just terrific.”

She added: “He kept his illness quiet, only his family and a few close friends knew.

“I went out with him for his birthday in February and he was pretty frail but still hysterically funny. I always looked forward to seeing him. He was loved by everyone who knew him.”

The actor had battled pancreatic cancer for the past two years.

Watch Gareth, below, in The New Avengers.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mHrMq-ujiFg