© 2009 Jeffrey Holland Contact Me

You have been cast in several Croft, Perry, Lloyd shows, did you have to audition for every role or was it automatic casting?

I was very lucky back in 1975 to be asked to audition for Perry and Croft by Roger Redfarn with whom I had done so much work at The Belgrade Theatre in Coventry. This was to be for a stage production for the West End with most of the original TV cast of "Dad's Army". Roger was responsible for the overall staging of the production although the fine tuning of the directing was down to Jimmy and David. There is a separate story of this fateful day elsewhere in this website so suffice it to say that I got the job! That led on to me taking over the role of the spiv Pte Walker for the national tour that followed the West End run and by then Croft and Perry had got to know me and my capabilities. The guest roles that I played later in episodes of "Ain't Half Hot Mum" and "Are You Being Served?" were given unconditionally as they were small parts but when it came to "Hi De Hi" they asked me to come in and read with several actors who were up for the part of Ted Bovis. This was a very necessary thing because of the relationship between Spike and Ted. So much so that when Paul Shane and I met for the first time, we both felt that we had met before but we certainly had not! That was when the spark was lit! The rest of our TV career together was riding on that previous winning formula!

Of all the David Croft and Jimmy Perry shows you’ve appeared in, do you have a favourite?

My personal favourite Croft and Perry show is You Rang M’Lord. The production standards were so much higher and the role of James for me was an absolute gift. It was like playing the only straight role in the piece amongst the comedy of the situation. The sets and costumes were so authentic and it was like working in a real house.

Where was Hi de Hi filmed?

Hi de Hi was filmed on location at Warners Holiday Camp at Dovercourt, Harwich and the surrounding area.

How do you learn your lines?

Every actor has their own way of learning lines. It is something that we do because we have to! Perhaps we engage a part of the brain that people in other walks of life do not need! I find that I learn my lines in rehearsal as I familiarise myself with the physical movements required so that words and moves go together.

Who would you say has had the biggest influence on your career?

There have been many influences on my career. Firstly I suppose from a comedy point of view it has to be Laurel and Hardy whose timing and comedy business and interaction is second to none. Also in the comedy vein there has to be Ray Cooney who, since I first met him in 1985 has been responsible for engaging me in many of his plays and has taught me an enormous amount about comic and tragic truth. On the pantomime front I have been inspired by many great Dames and I always try to pay tribute in my own individual way to the likes of Arthur Askey, Cyril Fletcher and the great Jack Tripp who taught me, alongside the amazing Terry Scott, a great many techniques. I was lucky enough to work with Terry Scott on several occasions and although he wasn't the easiest of men to work with, what he taught was invaluable. I also owe a massive debt of gratitude to David Croft and Jimmy Perry who were responsible for my establishing my name in TV comedy.

Is there a particular role you have a burning ambition to play?

I have long harboured a somewhat foolish, many would say, desire to do a one-man show! This is something that is either extremely inspired or deeply lonely! My subject would, nay will be Stan Laurel. When I have finalised a format for this I will get it up and running one of these days although Judy may think otherwise!

What do you consider the greatest achievement of your career to date?

The personal high spot for me in my career to date was in March 2001 when I took part in a Goon Show  re-creation for BBC Radio 2 celebrating 50 years of the Goons. I had always been a mad fan of the programme and always "did" the voices and when I was asked by my old friend Dirk Maggs to audition for it, I was delighted. We had to pass the approval of Spike Milligan himself and his agent Norma Farnes before we could be accepted. It was the greatest night in the theatre I have ever spent! "Goon Again" is available on CD and cassette.

Have you ever had an embarrassing moment on stage and if so, what was it?

I have had several embarrassing moments on stage in the last 40-odd years but one I remember was when I was in Ray Cooney's "Run For Your Wife" at the Criterion Theatre in London in 1985 when, as in all Ray's plays, timing is of the essence so when an actor failed to appear in a certain doorway at a certain time then all hell broke loose and so much garbled ad-libbing went on in the middle of which I took it upon myself to leave the stage to go and look for him! There followed much hushed and frantic whispering in the wings and when eventually the hapless man did finally appear, the stage had been empty and silent for about 30 seconds which is a lifetime in farce! We did however manage to pick the pieces up and continue but it took a while to win the audience back that night!

Are you nervous before a performance and do you have any superstitions?

I don't really suffer with nerves and never really have done. I suppose I'm lucky in that I enjoy what I do so much that I just look forward to getting out there and doing it! As far as superstitions go I am not really a subscriber as I believe that many "don't do's" are the result of common sense and old customs no longer followed. For example, whistling in the dressing rooms is supposed to be bad luck. Well, common sense dictated that in the old days before electric tannoys and microphones cues were given by peeps on a whistle so you can imagine the chaos that could ensue if whistling were allowed backstage! The only superstition that does slightly worry me is quoting from the "Scottish Play". It has creepy connotations I suppose because many have said it contains references to black magic, etc. but I think so many disasters have been known to occur during performances of it simply because it is so physically violent and dangerous. Believe it at your peril!

If you weren’t an actor, what would you choose as an alternative career?

I think if I had to go into any other business other than acting it would probably be the wine trade. Apart from the fact that I enjoy drinking it, it is a fascinating business and you never stop learning!

Who do you most admire, past or present and why?

I suppose I most admire people who have the courage of their convictions and pursue them come what may. I was a great admirer of Baroness Thatcher when she was Prime Minister and, rightly or wrongly depending on your opinion, she took the office by the throat and made her mark in the world of politics. I would also have to mention the Salvation Army here as I think they work most tirelessly and with such good will to help those in need unconditionally.  I don't share their beliefs and religious convictions particularly but I do admire their devotion to duty.

How do you relax?

I relax mainly by watching my favourites on TV although it has to be said they are too few these days! I love the new Star Trek programmes although I am not too mad about the original series and I love block-buster movies crammed with lots of special effects and CGI. This is one area where I will never grow up!

What is your favourite food?

My favourite food would be chicken - in any form!

What is Su Pollard really like?

Well, as I always say, what you see is what you get! Su is unique and a very generous soul. She doesn't suffer fools and is very kind and caring both personally and professionally. She would give you her last shilling if she thought it would help! I count her among my closest friends.

Interview by Chris Edwards

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