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Young Gifted & Slack

Young, Gifted & Slack #016: John Henshaw (Cracker S2E3)

Here we have John Henshaw – in only his second IMDb-credited performance, coming three years after his role as ‘Minder 1’ in Bleasdale’s G.B.H. – as an unfortunate quarry foreman who discovers Albie Kinsella (Robert Carlyle) rummaging around in the explosives store during the seminal Cracker storyline ‘To Be Somebody‘.

Henshaw later became more familiar through roles such as the cynical tetanus-jawed northern pig Roy Brammell in BBC2’s The Cops and weary landlord Ken in pub sitcom Early Doors. Oh, and starring in them Post Office ads.

It was after twenty-odd years of proper jobs – including being a milkman, a street sweeper and a binman – that at the age of 40 he decided to have a crack at that there acting lark.

Young, Gifted & Slack #015: John Challis

Some years before finding fame as nasal used car blowhard Boycey in John Sullivan’s Only Fools And Horses, John Challis was just another jobbing actor selling himself round whatever telly show bit part would have him, as here in ‘Stay Lucky Eh?‘, a second season episode of The Sweeney (which also features a host of other familiar faces, like Alun Armstrong, Sandy Ratcliff and Peter Vaughan).

After the horror of The Green Green Grass it seems likely that to this pasture he shall return.

Young, Gifted & Slack #014: George A Cooper

Young, Gifted & Slack #014: George A Cooper

More from 1960’s Hell Is A City, and it’s an early featured part for George A Cooper as an honest gambler resisting the squeeze being put on by hard-nosed copper Stanley Baker.

Whilst his career extended more than fifty years into the mid-1990s, Cooper is perhaps best known for his latter-day role as donkey sanctuary-providing school caretaker Mr Griffiths from the Gonch/Hollo era of Grange Hill.

You can always rely on the likes of The Sweeney for supplying jobbing actors with work, whether they’re known faces or just starting out.

Here’s Sandy Ratcliff, who went on to be nationally recognisable as Sue Osman in the original cast of EastEnders, with an early bit-part in second series episode ‘Stay Lucky, Eh?‘. She plays the wife of a robber, Alun Armstrong, who gets shot in the leg by a standover man after a job.

Ratcliff had started her screen career strongly, beginning with the lead in Ken Loach’s Family Life, but between then and The Sweeney she only scored a handful of roles. EastEnders proved to be the peak of her career, and a heroin addiction scandal in the papers got her axed.