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Muddy meets Boycie

Muddy caught up with actor John Challis aka Boycie to talk alter egos, brandy vs. gin, wheeling, dealing and what it was like to hang out with Oliver Reed.

John Challis

The last episode may have aired nearly 16 years ago but Only Fools and Horses is a British TV institution, and you’d be hard-pressed to flick through the channels and not see the likes of Del Boy, Rodney and co pop up.

With his iconic laugh and shady used car salesman tactics, Boycie was a firm favourite on the screens and the actor who played him, John Challis, has written a number of books about his experiences of being part of TV history.

Now taking his book “Being Boycie” on a tour, John is doing three dates across Hampshire (Theatre Royal Winchester, Fri 20 Sep, The Groundlings in Portsmouth Tues 29 Oct and Thornden Hall, Eastleigh Thurs 31 Oct), telling audiences funny anecdotes, his life experiences and all about “Marleeenneeee!”

Muddy caught up with John to talk the countryside, hanging out with Oliver Reed and what Boycie would think about the latest “cool” drinks…

Hi John, tell us a bit about your show!

It’s basically a spoken version of my life story. What’s happened along the way and plenty of stories that have happened to me. It goes into how I ended up on Only Fools and Horses – which was a big moment in my life… actually, a big moment in all our lives – and what happened next.

It’s a look at how this character just follows me about, no matter what I do, however good I think I am still everybody wants to talk about Boycie. It’s a light-hearted look of living with a famous alter-ego.

Would you say you share any of Boycie’s character traits?

Oh, probably all of them! Although I know nothing about cars, but I like driving them and I guess I can change a wheel. I suppose all of us in the profession take a lot of personal characteristics into a role. And the writers’ must see something in you that must be useful for the character that you’re not quite aware of. I hope I don’t give off too many of Boycie’s traits, but who knows! I certainly don’t drink brandy…

Speaking of which, Boycie is a fan of the finer things in life and is known to be partial to a cognac. What do you think he’d make of the gin trend? Would he be a fan?

He’d see it as a (in Boycie’s voice) “It’s a drink for women really… men don’t drink gin… they drink brandy!”, but I personally quite like gin now and again… though doesn’t do me any good! As long as I stick to the one I’m fine.

 

I’ve gotta ask, do people shout Marlene at you in the street? Do you mind?

Yes, they do…I’m Boycie! It all started in the mid-80s and yeah, the character’s catchphrases sort of caught on, the laugh as well. It’s funny because everybody tries to copy the laugh. I don’t mind though, it makes people smile.

You (and Boycie for that matter) both ended up leaving the Smoke for the green and leafy countryside? What inspired that? 

When Only Fools came to end in 1996, it coincided with where I was in my life in a lot of ways. I wanted a change and to get out of London having lived there for over 35 years. I’d always wanted to live in the country and my wife felt a similar way, so we started looking towards West. We just wanted a bit of space and something to research as we’re both into our history. The move was actually what inspired John Sullivan (creator of Only Fools and Horses) to come up with the Green Green Grass. He was at a party at our house and started to think about how would Boycie end up in the countryside, but everything with John had to be logical. How would Boyice end up there? And, after a couple years, he came up with the Driscoll Brothers story and it developed from there into the Green Green Grass.

Have you got any favourite memories of working on Only Fools and Horses?

Oh gosh, too many to count! And I go into some detail in my show, but working on a programme like that over a period of time, there were some really funny moments. It is really rare to get that magical chemistry that everybody hopes they’ll find on a programme, but in this case it did.

I particularly enjoyed ‘A Losing Streak’ where Del Boy and Boycie play a particularly intense poker game, plus ‘Heroes and Villains’ with the famous Batman and Robin sequence. There are so many wonderful stories and scenes…It’s very difficult to pick out a favourite, but we had a lot of laughs and I’m very proud to have been a part of it.

You’ve worked with some huge names over the years, have you ever been starstruck?

I never really get starstruck, though I always try to work with people I admire. I once did an ill-fated film with Oliver Reed, which we never got paid for. To be honest, I only really get starstruck with sporting heroes. I once met my boyhood hero, a cricketer called Tom Graveney who I had hero-worshipped as a kid and became completely speechless.

What’s next for yourself (and Boycie!)?

I’ve been working on a new book (John has written a series of fictional books about Reggie a wheeler-dealer) And up until the end of the year, I’m doing a lot of shows and touring around the country. I’m also appearing in pantomime in Malvern. I’m playing the dreaded Abanazar in Aladdin and essentially frightening the children of Worcestershire.

Check out John at his show Only Fools and Boycie at The Groundlings Theatre, Portsmouth Tues 29 Oct and Thornden Hall, Eastleigh Thurs 31 Oct.

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