Birth of a plonker

Nicholas Lyndhurst on the Only Fools... prequel

Rock & Chips, the prequel to Only Fools And Horses, will be aired on BBC One next Sunday, telling the origins of Del Boy and his gang in 1960 Peckham A whole new cast were recruited for the 90-minute special, including Inbetweeners star James Buckley as the young wheeler-dealer himself – but one face is familiar. Nicholas Lyndhurst plays spivvy safecracker Freddie ‘The Frog’ Robdal, who seduces the glamorous Joan Trotter and fathers her child: one Rodney Trotter. Here Lyndhurst talks about how Rock & Chips was cooked up:

Were you always destined to play the man thought to be Rodney’s father, Freddie The Frog Robdal?

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 film 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 Sixties so much.

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; an era of deprivation when there was still rationing from the war and bomb sites hadn't been cleared. John has written about it so warmly and it's a fascinating piece. 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 started?

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. I didn’t want to bring into it anything that I’d already done with Rodney and fortunately there wasn’t any opportunity to do so. They're like chalk and cheese.

What was it like working with James Buckley as the young Del?

The team were very clever in casting all the ‘young’ characters as they cast them not as individuals but together to see how they pinged off each other and 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.

What did Rodney know of his mum?

I don't think Rodney knew much about his mum. During filming I was reminded of an Only Fools scene where Rodney is visiting his mum's grave asking her if she 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.

Published: 17 Jan 2010

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