LYNDHURST, NICHOLAS

British Actor

Nicholas Lyndhurst emerged as a prominent star among a new generation of British situation comedy performers in the early 1980s, though he had in fact by then already amassed a considerable number of years' television experience, having started out as a child actor.

Lyndhurst made the transition from child performer to adult star in gradual stages, beginning as an actor in a string of children's dramas and adventures like The Tomorrow People, Heidi and The Prince and the Pauper (in which he played the dual leading role). He also tried his hand as a presenter for children's television, co-hosting for a time the series Our Show on Saturday mornings (with Susan Tully and others). In 1978 his selection for the part of Ronnie Barker's son in Going Straight, the sequel to the classic prison comedy Porridge, marked the start of his emergence as an adult performer, a process that was continued with his casting as Wendy Craig's teenage son Adam in the long-running situation comedy Butterflies.

The final stage in the transition to a mature performer came in the hugely successful comedy series Only Fools and Horses, in which Lyndhurst was entrusted with the role of Rodney, the hapless and much put-upon younger brother of David Jason's immortal "Del Boy" Trotter. As Rodney, a part he played for some ten years, Lyndhurst was endearingly naive, sensitive and idealistic -- the perfect foil to Jason's streetwise would-be millionaire. Frequently rendered speechless at his brother's tricks and deceptions and all too often living up to the "plonker" tag that his exasperated sibling bestowed upon him, Rodney as played by Lyndhurst was widely praised as a beautifully realised comic creation.

Towards the end of the long run of Only Fools and Horses Rodney was allowed to get married (to the long-suffering trainee banker Cassandra) and much humour was devised from the inevitable difficulties he experienced as a new husband. Subsequent situation comedies that were constructed around Lyndhurst further developed the theme of not dissimilar Rodney-style characters, bemused and indignant though not necessarily quite as dimwitted as Rodney, trying to cope with the demands of wives or girlfriends. In The Two of Us, for instance, Lyndhurst's computer programmer Ashley wrestled with independent girlfriend Elaine's reluctance to get married, despite his entreaties, and with her contrasting views on just about any subject he cared to raise. In Goodnight Sweetheart, meanwhile, his character Gary Sparrow agonized over whether he should stay true to his brash and pushy wife in their modern London flat or whether he should desert her for the barmaid with whom he had formed a relationship while exploring wartime London after finding a way to travel some 50 years back through time.

Memories of the highly successful Only Fools and Horses series, kept fresh through regular repeats of old episodes, have perhaps dominated perceptions of the sort of roles Lyndhurst is capable of playing. Typecast though he may have been in recent years, he remains, however, unsurpassed in his playing of the henpecked husband or lover, well-meaning but frequently nonplused by the tricks that fate plays on him.

-David Pickering

 


Nicholas Lyndhurst
Photo courtesy of Nicholas Lyndhurst

NICHOLAS LYNDHURST. Born in Emsworth, Hampshire, England, 20 April 1961. Attended Corona Stage Academy, 1980. Began career as television performer, from a young age; comedy performer as Rodney Trotter in Only Fools and Horses; star, several situation comedy series. Address: Chatto and Linnit, Prince of Wales Theatre, Coventry Street, London W1V 7FE, England.

TELEVISION SERIES

1978 Going Straight
1978-82 Butterflies
1981-91 Only Fools and Horses
1986-90 The Two of Us
1990 The Piglet Files
1993- Goodnight Sweetheart

FILMS

Endless Night, 1971; Bequest to the Nation, 1973; Bullshot, 1983; Gun Bus.

STAGE (selection)

The Foreigner.

FURTHER READING

Ewbank, Tim. "The Name is Lyndhurst...Nicholas Lyndhurst." TV Times (London), 1 September 1990.