Nicky Henson – From ‘Fawlty Towers’ to ‘Downton Abbey’

Prunella Scales and Nicky Henson in Fawlty Towers. Photo: BBC

As we close in on the forthcoming release of Downton Abbey:The Movie, it’s our duty here at Tellyspotting to supply you with a bit of cocktail party trivia should you find yourself out and about this Summer and in dire need of some good British telly trivia.

In a tip of the hat to Jeopardy, the answer is Nicky Henson. The question? What well-known British actor appeared in one episode of the greatest British comedy of all-time (Fawlty Towers) AND played a returning character in Downton Abbey?

You might vaguely remember Charles Grigg from series 1 of Downton Abbey and his pivotal role in threatening to ‘expose’ Carson as his former stage partner in The Cheerful Charlies, something that would mortify Carson should anyone find out. Later, we learn in the first episode of series 4 that Mr. Grigg and Carson shared more than just the stage.

A woman named Alice enters the picture, for which Mr. Grigg apologizes to Mr. Carson and, ultimately, admits that she loved Carson more and that Grigg didn’t set out to steal her from Carson. All ends well with a train station handshake as Charlie Grigg heads off to Belfast and a theater job.

Photo: ITV

Back in 2005, we had the great good fortune to work with Nicky and interview him for our PBS documentary, Fawlty Towers Revisited, celebrating the 30th anniversary of the iconic British situation comedy. Nicky played Mr. Johnson, the bane of Basil’s existence in “The Psychiatrist” episode. Basil, you might remember, is determined to catch Mr. Johnson with a girl in his room which is, obviously, against the hotel’s policy. Unfortunately, the only girl ‘caught’ in Mr. Johnson’s room is his mother.

One of the absolute nicest individuals on the planet, Nicky used to tell us that even after all the theater, stage and film work he has been a part of in nearly 50 years of professional acting, he expected to see on his tombstone “Here lies Nicky Henson – he was in one episode of Fawlty Towers“. Now, I’m guessing, he’d probably joke that you will have to add that he was part of ‘The Cheerful Charlies’ with Mr. Carson.

In: Actors/Actresses,Comedy