Walker plays Grandpa Langley Crouch
Langley, Roly's mischievous Trinidadian father, has an eye for the
Sylvia has to keep her wits about her if she's to keep Langley's
amorous advances in check.
Rudolph Walker, one of Britain's most respected actors, returns
to his comic roots in The Crouches.
popular actor, who also plays lovable rogue Patrick Trueman in EastEnders,
first shot to fame 30 years ago in the politically incorrect comedy
series Love Thy Neighbour.
will be honoured with the Edric Connor Trailblazer Award for his
longstanding career in film and television at the Screen Nation
Film and TV Awards later this month.
Langley is a bit of a lad, very old-fashioned, with old-fashioned
principles," says Walker. "He's also a ladies' man.
is based on a guy I know who is a friend," he says with a smile.
"He is a successful businessman. Although Langley Crouch hasn't
got that far, this friend of mine is also a bit of a ladies' man.
for any young person visiting this country for the first time was
to go to Buckingham Palace and see what that was like. But I just
took it all in my stride," says Walker, who travelled to the
UK from Trinidad in 1961.
came over in the Sixties, the sort of thing I faced was sitting
on a bus and someone would get up and sit somewhere else - or I
would travel several stops without anyone sitting next to me. But
that didn't faze me," says the Emma award-winning actor.
Walker was best known for playing Bill Reynolds in Love Thy Neighbour,
the series about a warring black man and white man living next door
to each other.
at the time we thought it would be quite successful and it would
have a great impact - it certainly did. I thought it was terrific.
I am still proud of having done it."
says he was adamant he would only agree to take on the role of Reynolds
if it was on the following terms:
of the most important things I said when I was cast in Love Thy
Neighbour was my character must never be subservient. If he calls
me a name, I call him a name. If he raises a hand, I raise my hand.
was the first time I am aware of that you had a black character
and a white character on equal footing," says Walker proudly.
were coming to the end of Love Thy Neighbour, offers kept coming
in but they were all to do with the same type of character - which
I bluntly refused.
was very easy to think about money and go on and do another ...
but I said no. Yes, I might have been popular, but I don't think
I would be sat here today talking to you, because I have seen what
has happened to a lot of actors.
I had the chance to go and work in the theatre and I did great plays
which I thoroughly enjoyed; it meant I was off the box for a while
but then I came back and did things like Black Silk, The Thin Blue
Line and various others."
feels strongly that there needs to be more acknowledgement of black
talent both in front of and behind the scenes:
need to recognise the achievements that young black actors and actresses
are making," continues Walker. "There is still a chronic
shortage of that recognition and there is so much talent around.
tend to be realistic because I have survived. I don't go round with
a chip on my shoulder because it is not going to give me longevity
if I do. I have my own approach, my own way of counteracting the
is just that I feel there is so much more that can be done. There's
quite a high percentage of young black actors who are out of work."
5 foot 10 inches actor, whose credits include the stage production
of The Iceman Cometh at the Old Vic, reveals why the role of Grandpa
Langley in The Crouches was a part he could not refuse.
producer, Stephen McCrum, sent me the rough draft some time ago,
I found the idea of doing something with a black family very appealing.
The script was very, very funny and it had fantastic potential,"
hesitate at all and said I would love to do it. Variety is the spice
of life and being able to do The Crouches and EastEnders was amazing.
there is something in The Crouches for everyone - it has a lot of
classic moments. It will appeal to the youngsters as it has two
exciting young actors in it. For me, getting involved with such
a young and exciting group of people was terrific.
that when I am working I look to the younger actors for advice,"
admits Walker. "I never work in a vacuum. If I see they are
doing something that can get a better interpretation, I would say
why not try it this way. Most of the time I work with that sort
of atmosphere around me, so the actors I work with feel free to
aware of Ian Pattison's writing," continues Walker. "It
is immaterial to me which part of the world the writer is from.
I always have the philosophy that we have the same oceans regardless
of whether you are black, white, pink or green. Humour is universal.
are so many things you watch on television today and you can easily
put a black cast in that and it would still work. What we need is
that level playing field where you can say, here is a TV play and
there is a black actor and so what?
the good things is there is an experienced cast in The Crouches.
It is so much a team effort."
Is Walker hoping
to make a permanent transition from drama into comedy?
I prefer drama. I enjoy the challenges," he confesses. "The
blood, sweat and tears of drama keeps you on a knife's edge and
I love to explore that. Not that comedy isn't challenging."
Warrington plays Bailey
and Ed's outlandish station supervisor, Bailey is a man with a past
that's possibly best kept well hidden!
is man of individual tastes," says Don Warrington.
"He had the prospect of a glittering future working as a BBC
radio announcer and, because of certain character traits, he fell
off his perch. So he took a job at London Underground and he has
decided to do the best that he can."
Best known as student Philip Smith who lived in Rigsby's dingy boarding
house in the classic Seventies series, Rising Damp, Warrington reveals
he initially found a career in comedy rather "disagreeable".
Damp was the first thing I did when I left drama school and it turned
out to be very successful," says Warrington.
was exciting and it wasn't. I came out of drama school but I was
not prepared for a role in comedy. I saw myself, like my contemporaries,
going off and doing serious stuff.
left drama school and went into a comedy which I have to say I found
a little disagreeable at first. I thought that this wasn't what
they trained me for. They trained me for much more serious things.
always wanted to be an actor. I recall in Trinidad being taken to
see a Bollywood movie and I thought it was fantastic, these guys
singing, fighting and rescuing maidens was the life for me.
came to the UK from Trinidad in 1961 when I was six or seven,"
continues the actor last seen as Patrick, the consummate bachelor,
in the BBC TWO comedy series Manchild.
lived up north in Newcastle. It was extraordinary. There were very
few black people. My brother and I were the only black people in
the school. The thing about kids is they are adaptable and we made
every attempt to fit in, but one always tries to retain something
of yourself and where you came from.
I first read the script for The Crouches, I thought it would be
worth considering because it was an all-black comedy, and if they
wanted it, I should lend my support to it because it's very important
that we have it.
was Ian Pattison's idea. One has to applaud Ian's bravery really
for taking it on, and to see that he is not somebody who is limited
by the view that he is not a black person.
worked hard and professionally to get their characters right. We
are in the end just a bunch of actors whether we're black is neither
here nor there.
press may make something about the colour of the people doing it
but, in the end, it's whether you believe in what we're doing or
you don't. That's the acid test, it seems to me.
land seems to be a strange kind of concept of England. It tends
to be England of 30/40 years ago, and to have a sitcom, which reflects
the diversity in the culture, I think is very important.
people are part of the culture and as television is there to reflect
the way we live, it is very important we have a sitcom which does
that. Given that sitcoms tend to be the most populist form of television
it's important that one lends support to The Crouches in order to
make it become part of the landscape of television.
think there should be more roles for black actors on television.
Black actors don't have the same career trajectory as white actors
do. You can't go from one thing to another, and it's quite difficult.
I don't think there's a deliberate policy not to employ black actors;
I just think that as black people we're not high up in the consciousness
I started there were lead roles for black actors, there were few
but they were there. In my view it doesn't necessarily have to be
a lead role, but an interesting role which can improve their work,
and gives the actor a chance to develop and explore his range."
Hammond plays Grandma Sylvia
A smart, dignified woman who's not to be underestimated, she knows
exactly what Grandpa Langley is after and has no intention of letting
him get it!
Mona Hammond plays Natalie's Jamaican mother Grandma Sylvia, who's
lived with Nat and Roly, her son-in-law, since losing her late husband
"I love my independence and wouldn't want to rely on anyone
for anything so personally, I wouldn't live in the same house as
my son and daughter-in-law," Mona confesses. "I would
prefer to live in a house next door or not far away."
face on mainstream television with numerous TV credits to her name,
Mona is probably best known for her role as Blossom in EastEnders,
a role she played for three years.
was the fact that this was a comedy which attracted me to the role,"
last time I did a sitcom was when I did Chef! about ten years ago!
I also did two episodes of Desmonds which everyone seems to remember
think Grandma Sylvia is a funny lady who loves her grandchildren
and her family.
also think she would love to be younger, but she can't be, of course,
so she hangs out with the youngsters to pick up their modern language!
decided to put on three or four pounds for the role because I felt
Grandma Sylvia would be bigger than me. My dress size went up from
a 10/12 to a 12/14, and you can see it on my face and tummy,"
says the actress.
desperately trying to get the weight off now but it gets more difficult
the older you get. I am currently on a diet and I've managed to
take off two and a half pounds so I still have a little way to go.
I try to keep fit by doing a bit of salsa and I'm also looking into
doing some yoga.
are similarities between Grandma Sylvia and me," Mona confesses.
both trusting and generous and we both love children. I'm not a
grandmother yet, and I am happy not being one," she laughs.
such a huge responsibility. Nobody ever tells you when you have
children that it's going to be for life!"
was fun working with Rudy Walker again. The first television production
Rudy and I did was Black Silk in the Eighties, when I played his
were saying to each other that out of all the people we went to
drama school with at the City Lit 40 years ago, we're the only two
who are still working in the business! The others have given up
or just simply went on to do something else.
aware of Ian Pattison's work," says the star of Babyfather,
White Teeth and Storm Damage. "I'd also seen a couple of episodes
of Rab C Nesbitt. I like the way Ian writes, I think he is a very
always takes two or three of any series before it takes hold. I
really hope people will like The Crouches. The actors are fantastic
and the stories are absolutely hilarious.
was a scene between Danny John Jules, Robbie Gee and Don Warrington
when Don's asking them questions which I found very funny; and there's
another scene with Robbie and Terence Maynard who plays the Reverend
Garstang, which is also hilarious. Robbie suspects he is having
an affair with his wife Natalie, and goes round to confront him.
I finished doing The Crouches I did a day's work on the Hollywood
movie, The Life and Death of Peter Sellers. The lady I portray is
a southern actress," reveals Mona.
had to do my scene with Geoffrey Rush who plays Sellers. I enjoyed
that tremendously. It was a real challenge because I had only two
days to perfect my Southern accent. I'd never done anything like
that on film, although I have done a southern accent on stage."
Gee plays Roly Crouch
think everyone can identify with The Crouches," says Robbie
Gee star of the BBC TWO long-running sketch show The Real McCoy.
evening meal around the table starting off as nice clean fun and
then ending with someone in tears and storming out is something
we can all relate to."
character, Roly Crouch, is a man who wants respect from his family
– sadly he doesn't often get it.
is a basic kind of guy really. He is married to his childhood sweetheart,
Natalie, and they have two kids."
Roly works as
a station assistant on the London Underground, which provided Robbie
with some fun during filming. "It was strange wearing the uniform,
I couldn't help but get into the part; people were forever asking
me directions or giving me their tickets. I enjoyed the moment of
career has seen him tread the boards with the Royal Shakespeare
Company and perform at the Royal National Theatre.
has also appeared in Snatch and Mike Bassett: England Manager.
most popular TV credits include The Real McCoy and as Lee aka The
Peckham Prince in Channel Four's Desmonds.
always heard of Norman Beaton, who played Desmond, so to end up
working with him was amazing." says Robbie.
hasn't been a black sitcom for quite a while so it is nice to see
the BBC is filling a void that exists.
was a nice, safe family sitcom; The Crouches is very risky and cheeky
but it is 2003 material. Things have changed a lot since Desmonds."
influences are varied: "I often refer to myself as Sidney Poitier
junior on my CV," he says. "I love his films. Richard
Pryor is another hero, especially his early work.
we often have to look overseas to find role models because we haven't
had the chance to shine as much in terms of black roles.
America they seem to invest more in the arts; which sadly we don't
do here as much."
Martin plays Natalie Crouch
is very aspirational, a bit quirky and likes change; but she gets
bored and restless," says Jo Martin about her character Natalie.
really like her because she is flawed, but basically a good person."
Crouch manages a discount store called Poundkickers and longs for
sophistication in her life.
and Natalie's life could not be more different: "I am a million
miles from the character but I can associate with her as families
are universal," says Jo, who has worked with the Royal Shakespeare
Company, and has written and directed for the Theatre Royal, Stratford
film/TV credits include The Real McCoy, Chef! and Jolly Boys Last
enjoyed working on the show, but she didn't let the fact that she
is a fellow writer get in the way of her job as an actress.
see myself as a punter. I always come from that standpoint first.
I feel quite humble about learning from any project I am on.
I have opinions, because I love what I do and enjoy good writing,
but I am a big fan of Ian Pattison and I figured that if he is involved
it has to have a good standard of quality – and I am glad
to see I was right."
character, Natalie, gets frustrated by her husband's lack of spontaneity
- which is something Jo enjoyed exploring in The Crouches.
the bedroom scenes were fun to do and any scene that involved Reverend
Garstang (the randy minister).
banter between Roly and Natalie is excellent, especially when she
decides to charge him for sex."
John-Jules plays Ed
maybe best known for his role as The Cat in BBC TWO's Red Dwarf
but in The Crouches he swaps a space age cat for a more down to
character, Ed, thinks he is a bit of a wide boy.
tries to get Roly Crouch 'out on the sniff' and cheat on his missus.
Deep down, though, he is really married with five kids and under
part of a new sitcom was an exciting prospect and Danny liked the
new take on the format: "It is an urban style show, taking
a different angle. Although we had shows such as Desmonds which
were popular a few years ago this felt like it was new territory."
Like Roly Crouch,
Ed works for London Underground. Danny tested the authenticity of
his character by wandering down Old Kent Road in his uniform. "Nobody
took a blind bit of notice," he says.
particularly enjoyed his scenes with Robbie: "We had one scene
where the audience laughed so much I could have sat and read the
paper while waiting for them to finish."
Gideon plays Lindy
writer and comedian, Llewella Gideon is probably best-known for
her appearance in the BBC TWO comedy sketch show, The Real McCoy.
writer and star of Radio 4's The Little Big Woman Show, gives an
insight into Natalie's cheeky best friend Lindy.
has a bubbly, no nonsense personality," says Llewella. "She's
lived a very colourful life, but gives very practical advice to
her best friend, whom she's known for a very long time.
and Natalie are both living lives which are totally different to
what we thought it would be," says Llewella.
has five kids but she probably would have had 2.5 children, lived
in a nice house and have had the same aspirations and dreams as
everybody else. But instead she's ended up in a council flat, struggling
to bring up her kids with her partner, Ed.
is a lot of love between her and Ed," continues the comedian
whose credits include Absolutely Fabulous, Spice World and voiceovers
for Bob The Builder.
knows Ed can be a bit of player, but she also knows him better than
he knows himself."
popular comedian who trained in youth theatre, says she had no doubt
of the career path she wanted to follow.
always wanted to be an actress," says Llewella, "but comedy
just happened and that's what I've been doing for the past 15 years.
It wasn't my plan to go into comedy at all.
still have aspirations to do straight acting because that's what
I studied for, but all my work thus far has come from doing comedy.
also do a lot of writing. I've written comedy dramas and plays including,
for the past three years, a sitcom for Radio 4; a BBC Children's
programme called Kerching and I've just written a play which will
be on in Greenwich.
was nice to work with Robbie and Jo again," continues Llewella,
recalling her days on The Real McCoy.
great to work with people you respect. People like Rudolph Walker
and Mona Hammond are my role models in terms of their professionalism
and the way they practise their art.
also cleared the way for people like me to come through. Mona showed
us that black women could be funny and skilled in what they do,
and I admire that."
Ndifornyen plays Aiden Crouch
"It is a blessing as an actor to be able to go from a very
dramatic role in Out of Control to a comedy such as The Crouches,"
says Akemnji Ndifornyen of his appearance as Aiden.
"My character is 16 and still in school. Because of his age
he looks at the world in a young adolescent manner, but he is the
most rounded member of the family."
made a stunning television debut in Dominic Savage's award winning,
improvised drama Out of Control.
was equally excited by The Crouches as it was a chance to work with
people he admires and respects: "The fact that it is a predominantly
black cast made it very appealing. I grew up watching Desmonds,
which was a landmark show, and, since then, relationships and attitudes
within the black community have developed.
The Crouches we are seeing the second generation West Indian family,
such as Roly and Natalie Crouch, and their interaction with their
children. It is very interesting and there are some very funny situations,"
he has only been in the business a short time, Akemnji has many
influences, such as the great Marlon Brando and his contemporaries.
are people I admire and aspire to reach the same standard,"
am also a big fan of Eddie Murphy. He is an icon. In the Eighties,
when he was at the pinnacle of his career, he was a powerful force;
not just through his comedy but as a celebrity. He is a phenomenal
a young black actor, Akemnji is grateful to his predecessors, especially
his fellow cast members: "I am fortunate to be here at a time
when a lot of the barriers have been knocked down by people such
as Rudolph Walker, Mona Hammond and Don Warrington.
have so much respect for them as they have come such a long way.
It is amazing that people of my generation are afforded the opportunity
because of the advances they made in the past."
prospect of working with such icons didn't faze him though and Akemnji
soon felt comfortable surrounded by them: "We spent so much
time together that we soon bonded. It wasn't like going to work;
it was like spending all day with your real family."
Uhiara plays Adele Crouch
Ony Uhiara only graduated last year from drama school. Her classical
training saw her play a variety of roles but little did she know
she would be in a BBC Comedy.
"I wouldn't think of myself as a comedian, so it was a real
challenge and quite different to the things I had done before."
plays Adele Crouch the sharp-tongued daughter of Natalie and Roly.
is feisty and knows what she wants – and she certainly knows
how to go about getting it," says Ony. "She is a bit of
a troublemaker and really cheeky to her dad."
has appeared in a variety of television programmes including Waking
the Dead, The Vice and Think Murder.
she received the script for The Crouches she liked it straight away:
"It was funny and the idea of being part of something new really
appealed to me. When I get sent scripts I often think 'would I want
to watch this?' and when I read this I thought it was great and
I wanted to be part of it."
is from a large family and she could relate to the family in the
show, although she has a much better relationship with her own family
than her character Adele does.
also enjoyed working with the cast and one scene in particular was
a favourite of hers: "The scene when Dennis, my boyfriend in
the show, first comes to the house to meet the family was excellent.
Everyone was dressed up and the best china was brought out - it
was a classic scene, really funny."
is something Ony has wanted to do from an early age.
she doesn't have many acting heroes Meryl Streep is someone who
she admires: "I have always liked her work; I think she is
so amazing with all the characters she plays."
own career began when she copied the moves from musicals such as
Grease and Flashdance.
suppose I was quite a show off when I was younger. I would have
them on video and be dancing around the living room," says
classes in drama school were always my favourite lesson."
Akingbola plays Dennis Dutton
"Robbie Gee said that The Crouches is Only Fools and Horses
and Desmonds mixed together with a lick of rum - and I think he
is absolutely right," explains Jimmy Akingbola.
"The show appealed to me because it felt real and had one of
those scripts that had you laughing on every other page."
wanted to be a footballer, which is a far cry from his character,
character is a local 'businessman', which means he runs things.
He is basically a local gangster who owns a club called Bling it
on and he wanders around with these two heavies," says Jimmy.
I first read the scripts I thought that he was fantastic. The writing
is really good and has a real edge to it."
giving up on his footballing ambitions, Jimmy found acting, and
has since appeared on television in The Slightly Filthy Show and
theatre credits include Naked Justice, Baby Doll and Nativity.
got into acting through doing a BTEC in drama," he says. "My
first assignment, a monologue, got me a standing ovation so I thought
this is definitely for me."
Crouches was something that he felt he could fit into easily and
particular episode, called Trainers, took Jimmy back to his youth:
"I can identify with that episode as I had the same problem
as the character Aiden (Akemnji Ndifornyen).
would always play football in my good trainers and ruin them, so
Mum would buy me some new ones that were not designer labels. I
would try my best to ruin them but couldn't and would have to go
to the school disco wearing them," he says woefully.
is a fan of both Eddie Murphy and Richard Pryor but he was also
in awe of working with two other people he admires:
have watched Robbie Gee and Jo Martin do a lot of comedy theatre,
so actually working with them was amazing. The first day was quite
intimidating - I had all these people that I'd seen on television
meeting the fellow cast members was nerve-wracking, Jimmy was able
to draw on this and use it for the scene when his character, Dennis,
meets the Crouch family for the first time:
was recorded at the end of the evening, so I was sitting backstage
having kittens," explains Jimmy.
had been laughing at the other scenes so I was worried. The cast
were really supportive and made it a lot easier for me – thank
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