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Boycie comes to the borough

HE made his name as Cockney car-dealer Boycie in the hit sitcom Only Fools and Horses.

HE made his name as Cockney car-dealer Boycie in the hit sitcom Only Fools and Horses.

And as actor John Challis tells the Solihull News, the cigar-chewing businessman is never likely to leave him.

“It’s my own fault,” he says. “Though I’d never have imagined I’d still regularly be seeing myself on the TV, 30 years after first playing the part. I watch it now and think to myself ‘where’s all that hair gone!’

“Sometimes you wish the attention would go away, particularly if you’re trying to have a meal and someone lurches up after too many drinks.

“But at the end of the day - for all of the cast - we were part of the most popular comedy series there has ever been. That’s something to be proud of.

“Even now there are people who would like it to come back, though we’re probably all too old and tragically the writer [John Sullivan] is no longer with us.”

The son of a civil servant, brought up in a south London suburb, John’s upbringing was a world away from his famous alter-ego, most likely to be seen propping up the bar at the Nag’s Head, Peckham.

“My family were keen I got a proper job,” the 70-year-old says of his acting ambitions. “I did attempt to be an estate agent and lasted about six months!

“I think I was supposed to follow in my father’s footsteps, I remember him there with his head in his hands. Actors at the time had a reputation for being out of work half the time, which didn’t sound too bad at all to me.”

He started off in travelling children’s shows before graduating to TV and ultimately a guest spot in the first series of Only Fools, in 1981.

“Back then I was doing a lot of one episode parts for various series but I remember thinking the script was very funny. Though I could never have guessed it would run the way it did.”

Today John has carved a new life for himself in rural Herefordshire, with a good slice of his time spent looking after the medieval Wigmore Abbey.

“It’s quite a responsibility to care for this ancient monument - what am I saying, that’s no way to talk about the wife,” he jokes.

The move to the country even inspired spin-off series The Green Green Grass, in which Boycie and his family upped sticks to the sticks to escape some local gangsters. The show was part filmed on the actor’s own estate.

“John came to my 60th and seeing me in this setting gave him the idea for the spin-off. The only thing he struggled with - and it took him two years - was why on earth Boycie would leave London. In the end he decided fear for his life was the only solution.”

John Challis’ An Evening with Boycie visits Solihull Arts Complex on November 1. Tickets on 0121 704 6962.

 

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