Martin Shaw was born in Birmingham in 1945. At 18, he moved to London, attending the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. Shaw started his career in 1968 where he appeared in Look Back in Anger at the Royal Court. Later he performed in Saturday, Sunday, Monday at the National Theatre opposite Laurence Olivier and in A Streetcar Named Desire at the Piccadilly Theatre.
In 1996, Shaw was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play for playing Lord Goring in the Broadway production of An Ideal Husband. Shaw also played the role of Thomas More in A Man for All Seasons at the Theatre Royal Haymarket, starring alongside his daughter who played Margaret More. Following this, he played the Juror in Twelve Angry Men at the Garrick Theatre.
Outside the theatre world, Shaw has appeared in many television series, more famously in The Professionals and the title character in Judge John Deed.