Savident started his career as a policeman but turned to professional acting after several years of appearing in amateur productions. His first television role was in Redcap in 1966 after which he appeared in many film and television roles on both sides of the Atlantic. Among his better known productions are A Clockwork Orange, Ghandi, The Wednesday Play, Z Cars, Doctor Who, Budgie, Yes, Minister and a recurring role in the 1970s Granada series A Family at War.
Able to move easily between comedy and drama, he first appeared as Fred Elliott in Episode 3744 (29th August 1994) and was only intended to be part of a week-long storyline concerning a mayoral visit to France by Alf and Audrey Roberts but spotting the comic potential of the character producer Sue Pritchard brought him back for various appearances in 1995 and finally as a regular from March 1996 onwards.
His character became a firm favourite with viewers and his booming voice and use of the phrase, "I say..." between repeats of statements became as well known to viewers in the 1990s and 2000s as Ena Sharples' hairnet was in the programme's first two decades.
Married to his wife Rona, by whom he has two children, he spent the majority of his working time on Coronation Street separated from them as they continued to live in Hertfordshire while he worked in Manchester. Savident was involved in an unsavoury incident on 1st December 2000 when he was stabbed in the neck by Michael Smith, a twenty-eight-year old man who Savident met in a gay bar and took back to his flat in Manchester to, as Savident claimed, "discuss the theatre". Smith, who was also on an unrelated charge for burglary, was jailed in 2002 for seven years for the attack. The incident caused problems for the production team as Fred Elliott was meant to have a large part in the forthcoming fortieth anniversary live episode which was broadcast on 8th December and the character was quickly written out – even though Fred appeared in the episodes immediately before and after the live episode, these having been pre-recorded.
Savident left his role in 2006, citing personal reasons. He has since given interviews when he claimed that he would have been willing to stay on if his workload had been reduced but Granada refused. He also attacked his former employers for cutting back on the actor’s salaries and perks and made disparaging remarks about the acting skills of the younger members of the cast, although he admitted that he found fame far more difficult to cope with than some of his co-stars.