David Jason health: Only Fools actor detailed ‘good condition’ after lockdown struggle

David Jason reflects on the death of former co-star John Challis

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The TV world was mourning last week after the family of actor John Challis announced the actor had died after a “long battle with cancer”. Mr Challis starred as Boycie, opposite Mr Jason’s Derek ‘Del-Boy’ Trotter, for the entirety of Only Fools and Horses’ iconic run, which saw the show become one of the UK’s most treasured comedies. Speaking about Mr Challis’ death, Mr Jason detailed his sadness at losing his friend in a statement, saying: “It is with much sadness to hear that John Challis, a dear friend, has passed away.

“He was a wonderful actor, a gentleman in the true sense of the word and I know he will be missed by so many.”

Mr Jason, 81, is often regarded as the UK’s best TV actor, and has starred in a series of huge hits on screens for more than 60 years.

Among his credits include leading roles in comedies such as Open All Hours and Darling Buds of May, as well as grittier performances in A Touch of Frost.

And after turning 80 last year, the star gave an update on his health after he had previously detailed the struggles he had experienced during the lockdowns of the coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking to the Irish Examiner in December, the actor said: “Turning 80 was all right.

“One minute you’re 35 and the next you’re 80. You’re so busy getting on with life and I’m lucky that everything’s still in good working condition.”

His remarks came after he delivered a video to the public who were forced into lockdown as a result of COVID-19.

In the post, he said how he wanted to give “some moral support during these very difficult and trying times”.

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He continued: “I mean they are really difficult and trying for everyone, moi included, but stick with it and try to do what the Government says.

“I thought of a little idea that you might like to absorb, a lot of people don’t quite know what nine-foot is, the distance you’re supposed to keep between strangers, so I came up with a little idea you might like to remember and it’s called Trigger’s broom.”

During his interview, the star also reflected on his life and how he finally attended his first ever Only Fools and Horses convention before the pandemic struck ‒ and why.

The veteran added: “Over the years I felt that it was a bit exposing. I never realised how important it was to so many people.

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“I thought it was just a few serious fans who would gather and want to talk about the show.

“I didn’t realise how it had changed so many people’s lives, and once I started to realise that, I thought perhaps I should go and see them and thank them for being such loyal viewers.”

Del-Boy is regarded as Mr Jason’s finest creation, and the series won six BAFTAs between 1983 and 2004, including Best Light Performance gongs for the lead character’s role.

But, he did admit that sometimes he wanted to distance himself from the character because sometimes he was unable to go anywhere without someone shouting one of his catchphrases at him.

He said: “It does get you down a little bit.

“I’m delighted it’s brought so much pleasure to so many people but there are only so many times that you can talk about falling through a bar or trying to not catch a chandelier.

“It gets a bit tiring.”

In his third memoir, A Del of a Life, Mr Jason added: “Del did cost me a few pieces of work along the way.

“In other cases, I had to fight really hard just to be able to get into the room and start persuading people that there was more to me than a south London wheeler-dealer.”

More recently, other actors paid their respects to Mr Challis, including rapper Ice T, who “somehow” became a friend of the 79-year-old’s via Twitter.

Ice T wrote: “I just heard John passed away… He somehow became a Twitter friend… I’m very sad. Although I never met him in person… Internet friends can become close… RIP”

Sue Holderness, who played Mr Challis’s on-screen wife, said: “Marlene without Boycie ‒ it’s unthinkable. John Challis was my partner on screen and stage for 36 years and my beloved friend. R.I.P. darling John. I will miss you every day.”

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