John Challis is an accomplished character actor, personality and raconteur whose wide-ranging career has gone from classical roles on the stage to heavies in television drama, a multitude of policemen, sitcom stardom, pantomime performances and even a one-man show.
He wanted to act from a young age but was encouraged to get a “proper” job, so he worked as a trainee estate agent for a short time. He also had a job delivering groceries. He got into acting through a travelling children’s theatre and never attended drama school. Performances in regional repertory theatre followed. He ended up in the Royal Shakespeare Company during the 1960s and made his television debut in The Newcomers (1965). His imposing physical stature helped him gain roles as police officers in Softly Softly (1966) and Crown Court (1972). He was also cast in a recurring role in the BBC’s long-running police drama Z Cars (1962) as Sergeant Culshaw. He then played heavies in The Sweeney (1974) and Doctor Who (1963) (both for director Douglas Camfield, who would also later cast him in Beau Geste (1982)).
He worked with David Jason for the first time in the sitcom Open All Hours (1973). In 1980, he landed a guest role (as another policeman) in Citizen Smith (1977). His performance impressed the writer, John Sullivan, so much that he promised he would find another part for him. This led to him being cast as Boycie, the second-hand car salesman, in the first series of Only Fools and Horses…. (1981). It would go on to become one of the longest-running and most popular sitcoms of all time and Challis would be a regular in it. In 2005, Challis began starring in a spin-off, The Green Green Grass (2005). In 2011, he released his autobiography, “Being Boycie”, which was followed by “Boycie & Beyond” in 2012. These led to Challis entertaining audiences by touring a one-man show, “Only Fools and Boycie”.