Can you firstly tell us about your childhood ?
I was an only child and I was quite solitary and shy.I went to an all boys boarding school and discovered I was quite good at making people laugh.I acted in all the school plays and started a skiffle group,so you could say I wasn't a great academic but the seeds of my career in acting were sown at Ottershaw!
How would you answer the question ‘Who is John Challis?’
All actors are thieves!We steal the attributes of other people and turn them to our own advantage.We are by our very nature schitzophrenic.And in my case completely paranoid!I have very little self confidence and always think I could have done a part better.I think I'm a pretty down to earth person,quite moral but sometimes naïve and even stupid!Twitter followers have variously described me as a gentleman,generous and a legend!I can't possibly live up to all that.
Can you tell us how hard it is to self-publish your book and what persuaded you to do this?
I decided to start my own publishing company Wigmore Books in order to get my story out there.People have always asked how I got started so I thought I'd better write it all down while I've still got my marbles! I also had some derisory offers of an advance;the days of vast sums of money in advance of writing a book seem to be over,so I thought I would rather be in control of everything.I've learnt a lot about the business and it's been an uphill struggle trying to get the books on the shelves,but Waterstones have been behind me from the start.Certain establishments ask for large amounts of money up front just to display the books and I couldn't afford that,so although most shops will take an order you won't see the books in store.I've found the best and most lucrative way of selling is through my website when I can sign and dedicate.
Tell us in as much detail as you can what the book has in it and why should people go and buy it?
My autobiography is in two parts and is in paperback only.Part 1 is Being Boycie 1942-1985 and is about my formative years.A trip through the days of repertory theatre into the exciting times of early television.It's about the life of a jobbing actor and my experiences with girls,two failed marriages and the chance of a lifetime when I was asked to do OFAH.I tell stories about the making of the series and end with the introduction of Marlene! Part 2 Boycie and Beyond carries on the story until the present day. I think most people have been pleasantly surprised and there have been some excellent reviews.
When you first filmed Only Fools and Horses and took the part did you believe it would still be big today and what are your best memories of playing the character?
I came back from America to do just one episode of a new comedy series called Only Fools and Horses written by John Sullivan He had cast me in his first comedy Citizen Smith and I liked his writing,so it was a pleasant surprise to get the part of Boycie.He wasn't intended to be a permanent character and there was only one day's filming for Go West Young Man.Then there was another episode in the second series and I guess Sullivan liked what I did with the part because he started 'fleshing out' Boycie and even brought 'er indoors on to the scene!The show wasn't an immediate hit so none of us envisaged it would still be on our screens thirty years later.I suppose the best part of it all was the camaraderie and the close relationships I forged with some of the cast,especially Ken MacDonald who tragically died at the age of 50.Also the comparatively regular employment!
Some actors don’t like being known for just one character they have played so how hard is it for you to get other acting jobs and how do you cope being known as Boycie?
Recently I actually got offered a different part in Benidorm,but I wasn't available so that was a great disappointment.As usually happens another two offers came along for the same period,but that's one of the frustrating aspects of the trade.People are always amazed that I do other acting beside being Boycie. I always carried on doing theatre work during the OFAH years and over the last fifty years I've appeared in thousands of different parts!I used to play a lot of villains or policemen and I wish somebody would think outside the box and cast me in a meaty role!Directors tend to get younger as I get older and they have only ever known me as Boycie,so half the auditions I go to are simply because they want to meet Boycie!True. I played Malvolio in Twelfth Night two years ago and that was a thrill.I think a lot of people were surprised, although some beady critic referred to Boycie off the telly playing Malvolio.Just the same as another saying that Trigger was playing Aguecheek when he did Twelfth Night at the Globe last summer.We are destined to be known forever as those characters,the same as David Jason will always be Del Boy whatever else he does.We are all guilty of saying'Oh look,there's so n' so from whatever show.' I don't mind being called Boycie;most people don't know my real name.After all it's brought me a degree of recognition which is what all actors desire.We all owe our living to the viewing public and I always try to give some time to anyone who wants a chat.That's probably why my book signings take so so long!
Do you have any regrets from your career and what things would you still like to do in your career?
I have no regrets about anything I've done in my career! I once played a villain called Scorby in Dr.Who.The Seeds of Doom with Tom Baker and I would love to play The Doctor.It's time for an older man to take the reins! I keep tweeting USA requesting a cameo role in NCIS or Person of Interest,but I never get a reply!They don't know me from Adam and probably think I'm some mad deluded fan!
Do you have special routines or processes you go through to write a book and if so what are they?
I have to isolate myself from all outside influences!I go to an attic room and shut myself away,coming out only for meals. I write everything long hand and my style is not what you'd call organised. For Boycie and Beyond I flew to Hawaii and stayed in a friend's beach house for two months where I got up at sunrise and wrote until 1pm every day.I faxed everything back weekly to my editor .
What things do you do when you are away from Acting and writing and what TV, music etc. are you into at the moment?
I haven't really had much spare time since I started the books and my acting career has suffered as a consequence.I keep thinking I should retire but an actor never retires.The draw to get up there and do your thing is too strong.But I'm intrinsically lazy and somewhat cavalier in my attitude and I would prefer to spend my time travelling the world,staying in luxury hotels and eating fine food! I find modern TV comedy lacking in good old fashioned gentle humour,rather aggressive and charmless.I enjoyed the first series of Miranda and Mrs.Brown's Boys ,but for some reason they both began to irritate me.My favourite was Black Books,but then I've got a weird sense of humour! My taste in music is eclectic.I've been a Rolling Stones fan since they started out and I love the blues and good old rock n'roll.Peter Green and John Mayall's Bluesbreakers,Paul Rodgers and Free and The Beach Boys and Abba!I'm even going to a Whitesnake concert this month!
What things make you happy and what things annoy you?
The coming of Spring in my garden makes me happy.Warm weather is a great joy.Good food,good music and my wife! The thing that annoys me most at the moment is the great scam that is wind turbines.That people have been hoodwinked by the Green agenda. The whole European farce and the fact that we are not masters of our own destiny.
Can you tell me one thing about yourself that people might not already know?
I am a keen scholar of the English Civil War and British History in general.I live in the Abbot's Lodging of 12th century Abbey in Herefordshire and I can talk for hours about its amazing history.
What are you up to at the moment and what’s next for you?
Right now I am doing Waterstones booksignings every Saturday and also my show is on tour.It's called Only Fools and Boycie and I have an interviewer with me who prompts me to tell stories of my time on OFAH and Green Green Grass.There are some good anecdotes,some laughs and an audience Q&A,books on sale and a chance to meet with me during the interval and after the show.I'm doing the voice over for ten episodes of Strippers:Cars for Cash which will go out on National Geographic later in the year and I'm also writing my first novel,REGGIE.A Stag at Bay,which is a sort of Boycie meets Lovejoy and is about a London market trader who moves to Shropshire and all the eccentric country folk he meets there.Reggie's married to a South American ex-burlesque dancer called Rosita and she causes a great stir in the community! That comes out in September and next year Wigmore Books will publish a book of photographs about my house and garden.So you see my life has not wound down at all.In fact I've never been as busy.It's just different. www.wigmorebooks for book sales and show listings.