ONLY Fools and Horses star Roger Lloyd Pack had a confession to make at the screening of a moving new ITV1 drama.
What We Did On Our Holiday features Roger as Jim, a husband and father in the advanced stages of Parkinson’s.
His son Nick is played by Shane Richie, in a very different role to that of Alfie Moon in EastEnders.
Shane may be a familiar face to millions of TV viewers, but Roger had never heard of him.
“I have to admit, I wasn’t that familiar with him, to be perfectly honest, quite simply because I’m not a soap fan,” he explained.
“I don’t watch EastEnders and the soaps, they kind of come at the wrong time of day for me. So I didn’t know who he was, which will sound ridiculous to some I should imagine.
“Consequently, I had no preconceived ideas about what kind of actor he would be. He’s been a pleasure to work with.”
There may be a few tears at the end of the one-off drama, which is screened this Sunday at 9pm.
Although, at times, hard to watch, Roger gives an extraordinary performance, even though he has very few lines of dialogue in the two-hour film.
“It was pretty draining,” he reflects. “It was an emotional thing to do because it makes you realise how anything can happen in your life. It’s a difficult illness to deal with and quite misunderstood.
“What did strike me very much in talking to people who’ve got Parkinson’s was – it’s a prison that they’re in. They were treated as if they were mentally defective because of their eccentric outward appearance and mumbling and incapacity to speak and move properly.
“And yet, when you got through that, they were often highly intelligent people able to relate to you in the way that anyone else could, but who would be condescended to and patronised by people who weren’t prepared, or were shocked, by their quite disturbing physical movements.
“That would be upsetting to people who, maybe, would not be able to get through that to see the person underneath.
“So I did feel very strongly that people were imprisoned and that upset me more than anything. It must be very hard to bear and it must be very, very lonely.”
Pauline Collins plays Jim’s wife Lil, demonstrating how the disease also affects the lives of partners. At one stage her frustrations finally explode and she hits out at the man she loves.
“It’s an awful thing to have to do to anybody,” said Pauline. “And, of course, it happens. This woman is in her mid-sixties and tired. He’s had the disease for 20-odd years, so she must be at the end of her tether.”
The film is based on the semi-autobiographical novel of the same name by John Harding, with an ending you may not see coming.
Roger – about to return to the role of land owner Owen Newitt for two final episodes of BBC1’s The Vicar of Dibley – hopes the drama will give viewers a new insight into Parkinson’s.
“It was a very interesting and humbling looking into this illness because it’s a lot more complex than I first thought.”
Meanwhile Shane is heading for Manchester to film a new ITV1 drama. Click here to read yesterday’s MEN interview with the ex-EastEnder.
Parkinson’s Disease Society