Fans of iconic sitcom Only Fools and Horses can catch Sue Holderness, aka Marlene Boyce, in EastEnders for a guest stint from 26th April, but the star believes her famous alter ego would fit right in Walford if the two shows ever considered a crossover.
“I’ve always thought Marlene could end up in the Queen Vic and get embroiled in some adventures,” she tells RadioTimes.com in an exclusive interview. “If she fancied leaving Shropshire to visit her old friends in Peckham she could pop into Albert Square. I imagine she’d start flirting with everyone and her husband Boycie would have to rescue her!
“But perhaps there’s enough leopard print around in the show, Kat Slater has rather cornered that market hasn’t she?! I don’t think Kat and Marlene would get on, I can see them getting into a fight in the pub!”
Marlene and long-suffering hubby Boycie were close friends of the Trotters and became such fan favourites they were gifted their own spin-off series, The Green Green Grass, which began in 2005, two years after Only Fools and Horses ended. Enjoying a successful four-year run, the show took the brash Boyces out of Peckham and into the peaceful Shropshire countryside.
“After John Sullivan (creator of Only Fools and The Green Green Grass) died and the show had finished, it felt like Marlene and Boycie had nowhere else to go, but I thought the obvious place for the characters was EastEnders – get them back into London and they could have all sorts of adventures. I’ve often thought it could actually be possible.
“Of course Marlene would be flirting with everyone, all the boys in Peckham remember her. I’m sure she’d put herself about a bit in Walford. She certainly would’ve mucked around with Dirty Den in the old days, he was very much her scene. She’d definitely have her eye on Phil Mitchell these days, she likes a bit of rough!”
Holderness will be playing posh, pushy theatrical agent Estelle Jones, who sets her sights on Billy Mitchell during her week-long stint in Albert Square (the actress is definitely up for a longer stint, she admits) – a far cry from man-eating cockney siren Marlene.
“That was a draw,” admits the actress. “I’ve done lots of TV and theatre but going into such an iconic show as EastEnders doing something so different to what you’re best known for was nice, I was pleased to remind people I can play other characters! Fans are often disappointed when they meet me as I don’t sound like Marlene – they forget I’m acting! Elaine is quite posh, I hope the audience likes her.”
Rather than see it as an albatross around her neck, Holderness still embraces the part she’s most associated with, and it clearly holds a special place in her heart.
“I don’t want to put her to bed just yet,” she confesses. “I first played Marlene in 1984 and wasn’t actually in Only Fools that much. The spin-off was wonderful as we got to know her and Boycie much more, and I still make personal appearances in character.
“I always get a nice reaction from the public, now it’s kids who are forced to watch Only Fools by their parents! It appeals to every age group which I think is the enduring thing about John’s work – he had grandparents and children living in his house and wanted everyone to sit down together and watch what he wrote.
“Just like EastEnders, audiences have grown up with these characters in their living rooms over many years and they love them.”
Holderness reveals there were plans to bring Boycie and Marlene back to our screens last year as part of a charity appeal in a new sketch written by Sullivan’s son Jim, who also penned episodes of The Green Green Grass.
“It was very funny, we had Marlene and Boycie in lockdown! Boycie was stuck on the farm with Tyler and she’s locked down with mum. It could’ve been a bit like Staged, all on Zoom! John Challis (aka Boycie) couldn’t do it in the end but that would’ve been fun.
“Jim Sullivan writes very well, he knows the characters. I keep suggesting he could write something for Boycie and Marlene to bring them back – maybe we could get him writing for EastEnders and he can bring them in at last!”