John Challis who played the iconic Boycie in Only Fools And Horses will be signing his autobiography at the Bed Chambers in Retford from 1pm-3pm on Saturday 11th May.
Lee Chambers, owner of The Bed Chambers, caught up with John ahead of the signing to find out more about his book, Being Boycie, and his trip to Retford.
You’ve had quite an illustrious career as an actor, what have been your biggest and best memories?
I would say being a member of The Royal Shakespeare Company and also acting at the National Theatre. In television the six part series of Dr.Who, Seeds of Doom was a high point,but of course OFAH was my luckiest break.
I’m sure there will be many funny antidotes in your books, is there one that stands out that you would like to share?
Most of the funniest moments you had to be there! But I would say that during the filming of Jolly Boys Outing we all had the most fun because it really was like going on a day trip with your mates. We all behaved like children, laughing and shouting and going on all the fairground rides.
You have not one, but two books out, ‘Being Boycie’ and ‘Boycie and Beyond’ can you tell us what we can expect in each of your books?
Being Boycie is Part 1 of my autobiography and goes from 1942-1985. It tells of my difficult years at school,not really knowing what I wanted to do,going on the road with a travelling theatre group and my adventures growing up as a jobbing actor. Lots of ladies and three marriages until in 1981 I landed the part of Boycie. In 1985 Marlene was introduced into the programme and that’s where I ended Part 1! Part 2 Boycie and Beyond just carries on the story to the present day. Lots of tales about filming OFAH and Green Green Grass and of meeting my fourth wife Carol. We have spent fifteen years restoring an 800 year old abbey in Herefordshire and soon there will be a book about that!
How much like your character Boycie are you and does it get frustrating that fans expect you to give them the famous Boycie laugh, or do you embrace it?
I’m not like Boycie at all! Of course I would like the opportunity to work on another role,something serious,or fantastic like NCIS,CSI or my new favourite Person of Interest.But inevitably I will always be associated with Boycie and I thank John Sullivan for giving me the opportunity of a lifetime. It’s every actor’s dream to be part of an iconic series.I’m always asked to do the Boycie laugh or to say’Come along Marlene’ and I don’t mind, if it makes people happy!
You formed such a famous double act with your on screen wife Marleen (Sue Holderness) in Only Fools & Horses and Green Green Grass, did it ever feel like you were actually husband and wife in real life?
Certainly NOT! We are both married to other long suffering partners and we are all good friends. When Sue and I have been on tour together we have often been greeted in the supermarket and asked:’Are you married in real life’? “Good Gawd, no, ’ we both shriek and then the person will inevitably say ‘well you should be!’
How did appearing as one of the main stars in Only Fools and Horses change your life, and did you ever expect it to become such a successful, long standing show?
I originally played the part of a bent copper in Citizen Smith,John Sullivan’s very first series and he liked what I did,saying he’d use that again in his next sitcom. A year later he asked me to play a car dealer in an episode of his new show Only Fools and Horses. ‘Go West Young Man’ I thought would be a one-off but Sullivan liked the character so much that I was asked to do some more in Series 2. Then it sort of snowballed. None of us ever thought OFAH would become so popular and end up celebrating a 30 year anniversary! It changed all our lives, forever.
What projects are you involved with it the moment, and what does the future hold in your career?
I started Wigmore Book publishing company two years ago to put out my autobiography and I’m now working on my first novel called REGGIE. That will come out in September and next year I’ll be concentrating on a book about my house and garden. There’s a lot of history there and a great story. I also do a sort of chat show on tour called Only Fools and Boycie, an evening of anecdotes and questions and answers and quite a few laughs! The nearest show to you is in Derby at The Assembly Rooms on Friday June 7th,so come and check it out! I’m doing the voice over on a second series of Strippers! Cars for Cash which is 10 episodes to go out on the National Geographic Channel later in the year. I’m also hoping to go on tour in the autumn with the stage version of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy as The Voice of the Book. Never a dull moment!
When you do get time to have a break from your busy workload, how do you spend time relaxing?
My wife Carol and I have a lot more to do in the house and garden and that keeps us pretty occupied,but we love to travel and have just come back from a cruise to the eastern Mediterranean. I’ve done quite a few ‘working’ cruises for P&O where I do my show and get to see the world as well!
What sort of music do you like listening to?
I’ve always been a blues man and I’ve followed the Rolling Stones since they started. I’m going to Glastonbury this year, for the first time..I also like Abba and the Beach Boys! And Here I go Again by Whitesnake .I’ll be seeing them in concert this month - must remember to take my earplugs! Lots of different stuff...Paul Rodgers and Free,The Hunter,Peter Green and John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers,Stormy Monday. Just an old rocker really..
We know you are an avid Arsenal football fan, do you get chance to get down for the games, and how do you feel stepping into the footsteps of Nottingham Forest legends Mark Crossley, John Robertson & John McGovern in appearing at The Bed Chambers for a book signing?
I am an avid Arsenal fan and I have been all my life. I make no excuses for it! I don’t know why because my dad supported Sheffield Wednesday and we never lived in London! I know quite a bit about the game and respect a lot of other clubs and players so I’m always up for a chat about footy. The wife knows nothing!
Obviously you will have spent a great deal of time on the road promoting your autobiographies which will have meant stays in various hotels up and down the country, what makes for a perfect nights sleep for Boycie, and have you got any bedtime rituals?
I usually try to get home after book signings and shows because there’s nowt like your own bed! The other night I spent hours looking for a hotel late at night and they were all fully booked, so I ended up grabbing the last room at a Travel Lodge! One pillow and a pretty uncomfortable mattress but clean and tidy. What more can you ask for? At home I don’t really have any bedtime rituals but in the winter I have to turn on the electric blanket a few hours before retiring!
How much are you looking forward to meeting the people of Retford when you visit The Bed Chambers, and what might your fans expect from yourself on the day?
I’ve never been to Retford but I’m hoping that the good people there will be as friendly as those in Nottingham which I know very well! I hope lots of people will turn out to meet the real me and to support both Boycie and The Bed Chambers!