Nicholas Lyndhurst tells us about his role in BBC1’s Only Fools and Horses ‘prequel’ Rock & Chips, screening on Sunday, January 24…
You have had huge success playing Rodney Trotter. How did you come to play the man thought to be his father – art lover and safe-cracker Freddie ‘The Frog’ Robdal?
“The prequel has been on the cards for nearly a decade, but it wasn’t until we did the final episode of Only Fools that I realised there would be a part for me as Rodney’s father. We’ve all seen prequels and spin-offs and sometimes they work and a lot of times they don’t, so I wasn’t too sure that I wanted to be involved. I held off making a commitment until I’d seen a script and when it arrived I was really quite scared to start reading it. But when I read it, I knew I’d kill to do the part. It’s just a brilliant piece of writing.”
This drama is set in 1960, did you know much about this era?
“John Sullivan started talking about this idea about nine years ago when he had an idea during the filming of Only Fools. The Sixties is John’s era, his heyday, and this film reflects his interest in the decade. I was born in 1961 so it’s obviously before my time, but I read up a lot before we started filming. We think we all know the Sixties – about the Beatles and London, the swinging Sixties – but this is before all of that. It was an era of deprivation when World War Two bombsites still hadn’t been cleared. John has written about it so warmly and it’s fascinating. Viewers are in for one hell of a show even if they have no interest in Only Fools and Horses.”
What did you know about Freddie before you played him?
“I didn’t know much, but it’s clear from whenever Del does talk about him in Only Fools that there’s no love lost between them. Freddie’s the type of person who gets what he wants and takes it when it’s not given. He’s a villain – charming, but nasty.”
Is there any family resemblance to Rodney?
“No resemblance at all! They’re from two entirely different suitcases as far as I’m concerned. They’re like chalk and cheese.”
What was it like working with James Buckley as the young Del?
“James really pulls it off as Del. The team were very clever in casting all the ‘young’ characters together to what kind of chemistry they had. And of course they’re all brilliant together. Not one of them tried to caricature what anyone did previously in Fools and they all bring a completely fresh appeal.”
And Kellie Bright as Del and Rodney’s brassy mum Joan?
“Kellie’s a fantastic actress and was an absolute gift to this show.”
What did Rodney know of his mum?
“Not much. During filming I was reminded of an Only Fools scene where Rodney is visiting his mum’s grave, asking her if he loved Freddie. But I don’t remember it very clearly – I hate watching myself on screen so I haven’t watched as much Only Fools as many other people!”
Is it true that David Jason came on set?
“Yes, David came down on set, but it was a really slow day so we spent most of it sitting around drinking coffee! Some days filming can be laboriously slow and this was one of those days – so he didn’t get to see much. But at least we got to have a good catch-up!”