Sue Holderness Interview

We catch-up with the star of The Green Green Grass and Only Fools and Horses, who as Marlene is synonymous with fake fur and big hair.

Marlene and Boycie

She's best-loved as the brassy Marlene in Only Fools and Horses with a soft spot for fake fur, big hair and Del Boy. But Marlene's story with screen husband Boycie doesn't end there. John Sullivan's spin-off The Green Green Grass follows their flight from Peckham's infamous Driscoll brothers to a secluded farm in Shropshire, with predictably hilarious results. Her TV career spans The Sandbaggers, The New Avengers, End of Part One, Girls About Town, Canned Laughter and Dear John. She also juggles a demanding schedule treading the boards, as well as managing own property business. And she somehow finds time to go to the gym... we salute you Sue.

What's your all-time favourite TV programme?

I really ought to say Only Fools and Horses. What else could I say?! I've known and loved it for so long. Aside from Only Fools, I'd say Fawlty Towers is probably the most complete comedy. I think it was right to do only 12 episodes - they're each like little pieces of perfection. I don't often get time to much watch TV but when I do, I choose to watch rugby. I've been absolutely hooked on the World Cup. I also like watching sit-coms and I confess to being a news addict.

If you weren't doing this job what would you be doing?

If I'd had lots of money when I was younger, I'd love to have been a show-jumper or a three-day eventer. It's an incredibly expensive business. I was a very horsey teenager, although I'm not sure I was good enough to be at the top of the game though. I loved it and miss it.

If you could take your pick of one leading role which would it be?

The awful truth is that it would be Marlene in the new Only Fools spin-off The Green Green Grass. Any actress would give her eye teeth to play the lead in a new John Sullivan comedy. It's great fun to see how Boycie and Marlene get on and cope with their new life together, and it's a real bonus in that it opens the doors to all the other roles I want to play. It's a bit like a passport! John Challis and I have toured now for four years (three Ayckbourns and a Neil Simon). I must say I'm very lucky.

Have you ever turned down a role you later regretted?

I slightly regret that I turned down opportunities to go to The Royal Shakespeare Company and The National. At drama school when I was younger I played (what I thought) was a very moving part in either a Chekhov or Ibsen. At the end my best friend's father said 'I love what you did but you'll make your money in comedy', so maybe it's just as well didn't go for the classics!

Tell us about your most memorable filming disaster

In the last series of Green Green Grass we filmed a scene in a field with a bull that Boycie had just bought. In the script the bull was supposed to charge at us and we'd run and climb the gate. However the bull charged at us long before the camera was ready and we had to leap out of the way like three-year-olds! By the time we came round to filming, the poor bull was exhausted!

What was the last film you went to see at the cinema?

I don't go very often to the cinema, but bizarrely the last time I went I saw Million Dollar Baby on the Friday night and the following evening I saw Aviator. I absolutely loved Million Dollar Baby, I thought it was just the best thing but I was comparatively disappointed with Aviator. It's often the way when you have a higher expectation...

If you were a controller of a TV channel for the day, what would your schedule look like?

I've given this some thought and I can tell you exactly what I'd like!

I often get up at 5am so I'd have a mixture of Dad's Army, Bewitched, Friends, The Office, Porridge, but not Fawlty Towers as I've seen it so many times, and It Takes A Worried Man, a great little series written by Peter Tilbury that I did for Channel 4. Then we'd have a bit of news, followed by Matthew Wright for one hour and Philip and Fern for an hour. That would take us up to lunchtime.

In the afternoon we'd have two new dramas, one serious and one funny. We'd throw in a bit of Only Fools for the bank balance and because I like them!

In the evening we'd have more news and something like The Best Of Sunday Night at the London Palladium featuring all the wonderful variety acts that we never see.

Finally I'd finish off with Cool Runnings and then head off to bed with a cry at Brief Encounter.

We'll see what we can do.

Please do.

What's your idea of a perfect Sunday?

This is what we normally do! My life is frantic but Sunday is all about family lunch. We take my mum and my two kids and husband to a beautiful restaurant in Windsor (my husband runs the theatre there). Afterwards we come home and relax and at about 5pm I feel guilty and go to gym. In the evening we all sit round and watch TV and do absolutely nothing.

Talk us through a day in the life of Sue Holderness

There are very few days without work. Besides acting I have a little property business which takes up a couple of days a week. On those days I'm up at 5am and away from the house all day. On acting days I get up at 7am and do the housewife stuff: racing round the supermarket, cooking and ironing! As many days as I can manage I shop with my mum who lives three doors away and we often have lunch together. On the few days I get off I do try to go to the gym.

What advice have you got for aspiring young actors?

The best thing I was told is befriend your bank manager. Try to convince him that although times are lean, a life-changing job could be just around the corner. You've got to retain your optimism.