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Warrington, shortly to turn 61, first tried his hand at directing at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in 2010. “I took the view: if it’s a bus I’ll get on it – and see where it goes.I enjoy directing – this was an opportunity and I’ve given it no more significance than that,” he drawls.’ “In a way, it was done with a kind of naivety – it was just stunning ignorance – and if you had said, 'This is an outrageous thing to ask me', they would have been very upset.” Rigsby’s comments do, he avers, stray into pure racism: “He’s a racist, there’s no question about it – but that’s not the real issue.” It’s the character interplay that counts and why this period-specific sitcom has stood the test of time: “What helped was the dispelling of a myth, and the myth was about black people.If you present something which is the opposite of that myth you begin to undermine it. The difficulty for Rigsby lies in observing somebody who is exactly who he would like to be – apart from the fact that he is black – and that’s very confusing for him.” Warrington was first cast as Philip when the play was revived on tour in 1973, having had an earlier tryout in Leicester, in which Wilfrid Brambell starred as Rigsby (then called “Rooksby”); it went to the West End for a short spell but it was because the production had been caught earlier on tour in Newcastle by the then Head of Light Entertainment at Yorkshire Television, John Duncan, that it made the leap to the small-screen.(“He would be rigorous but he was very generous to me.”) And he believes Richard Beckinsale (medical student Alan) was on his way to greatness too, before he died of a heart attack in 1979, aged just 31: “It was an incredible shock – at that age you don’t think about death.” Warrington has clearly negotiated difficult patches of career unemployment since Rising Damp – his CV is an interesting jumble of minor and major stage credits, sudden reappearances on TV (he has recently featured on ads for Kenco, and has a supporting role in the exotic BBC crime series Death in Paradise).The success of the show didn’t open many of the right kind of doors – and he admits he failed to recognise some that were. There was stuff that came that meant I could have built on that sort of success, but I didn’t do it because stupidly I thought, 'There’s another world out there’.
Rising Damp (1974-1978) was ground-breaking in using comedy to explore the dynamic between a white man and black man and exposing attitudes to race and prejudice. I quickly learnt how to become part of where I was.
He remembers certain lines – but that’s because he thinks they’re broadly memorable.
He has no trace of interest in interposing the way he or the original cast approached things for this reheated version – the actors, including Cornelius Macarthy as Philip and Stephen Chapman as Rigsby, are being given carte blanche to make the roles work afresh on their own terms.
And before that he’ll be heading off to the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe to film a new series of Death in Paradise. Europe has been a place of battles and political intrigue for centuries.
As we approach a vote on the UK's membership of the European Union, we look at what 50 writers, actors, historians, artists and comedians have said about Europe and its nations.
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