Thursday, 28 April 2011

John Sullivan RIP

John Sullivan died at the weekend. He dominated television sit coms in the 80s with Just Good Friends, Citizen Smith and of course Only Fools and Horses, which is how I met him. He was a lovely man, very unassuming. I first met him at my final audition for the part of Vicky. Auditions are usually quite stressful situations but he was exceptionally good at putting me at my ease and I remember that one as being a joy, full of laughter.

He occasionally came down to see the filming, but generally he stayed in the background. Ray Butt, the director of OFAH, told me how John had been a scene shifter at the BBC but had told him all he wanted to be was a writer. John had finally shown him a script - and that became Citizen Smith. There was a sense of family on the set of OFAH. Most of the crew had worked together for years, gradually moving up the hierarchy, for example Tony Dow had started as an assistant floor manager, was the production manager when I was playing Vicky, then became the director when Ray Butt retired.

The scripts were so well written. There were lots of little details in the scripts that you probably wouldn't notice as a viewer - recurring phrases for example, or visual incidents that were never mentioned - but they added depth and rhythm. The lines were always easy to say, which sounds a strange thing to mention, but both then as an actor and now as a writer, I know that making dialogue sound 100% natural is actually very hard.

Lovely writing, lovely man. RIP John Sullivan.


5 comments:

Liz Fielding said...

Amen to that, Sarah. I remember Vicky's episode very well - still wince as I think about it. :)

Loved Citizen Smith (made me a lifetime fan of Robert Lindsay) and Just Good Friends.

John was just brilliant.

Jim Murdoch said...

I didn’t hate Only Fools and Horses but I didn’t watch it faithfully – I don’t remember you in it at all – but I did watch more of the others in fact I modelled by character Truth off Paul Nicholas’ performance in Just Good Friends. I’ve always liked the fact that British comedies are mostly the work of one (or frequently two) writers as opposed to a team thrashing it as I envisage shows like Friends being written. Of course these shows are funny and polished but they lose a lot along the way. Give me writers like Roy Clarke, Johnny Speight or John Sullivan any day.

Debs Carr said...

I was sorry to see he'd died and thoroughly enjoyed both programmes, and the re-runs too.

Sarah Duncan said...

He was extraordinary the way he dominated the genre in the 80s. I'm really lucky to have been a teeny tiny part of it.

James Harding said...

He was extraordinary. One of the things that I love so much about Only Fools and Horses it the little details and how everything in some way or another ties together. A great program which I love so much