Manchester Online Interview

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Richard lends a helping hand.

DESPITE his best intentions, actor Richard Wilson is still struggling to escape the ghost of his famous alter-ego, the nation's favourite grumpy pensioner, Victor MeRichard Wilson Image.  Red Nose Day.ldrew.

When he played crabby Victor in the sitcom, One Foot In The Grave, he had already been in the industry for more than 30 years, playing a variety of different roles. But it is his portrayal of the miserable Meldrew that he'll always be remembered for.

His whinging catchphrase, 'I don't belieeeeve it' captured the heart of the nation, was the subject of an episode of the sitcom Father Ted and now - more than four years after his character was killed off and the show ended - still follows him around like a bad smell.

"People are always coming up and asking me to say it," he says. "I don't know why it became so popular but I'm not complaining."

However, despite not complaining, the requests continue to come with such alarming regularity that he now refuses to comply unless he can elicit some money for charity.

When Jonathan Ross asked him to do it on a show, he managed to secure 10,000 from the chat show host, which he passed to cancer research.

At the height of One Foot In The Grave's success in the mid -1990s, he put the show's popularity to good use to raise the profile of Comic Relief's charitable work and helped raise millions in the process.


He did a couple of sketches that were aired during the telethon appeal and highlighted the need for aid by going to Africa to film a documentary on Sudanese refugee camps.

It was a humbling experience that left an indelible mark and made him want to get involved in this year's Comic Relief antics, too.

"Comic Relief depends on people who are at their most popular at the time, so when I was doing One Foot In The Grave I was asked to go to Africa and report on the refugees coming over from Sudan," he recalls.

"Visiting Africa, as I did for Comic Relief, changes your way of thinking. The refugees fleeing Sudan were just walking along, with bundles on their heads, but those bundles contained everything that they owned in this life. It was a very humbling experience.

"Twenty of the world's poorest countries are in Africa and people living in Britain don't have any idea of the deprivation and poverty that exists there. In rural parts, people have to walk for miles just to get water, whereas we simply turn a tap on and think no more about it."

42nd Street

This year, he helped launch the regional fund-raising appeal by attending Manchester-based charity, 42nd Street, on Swan Street, which has also benefited from Comic Relief.

"Many people think that Comic Relief just raises money for Third World countries, but it helps a lot of organisations in Britain, too," he says.

During the launch, he spent a morning chatting with a group of teenagers there who suffer from a variety of stress and anxiety disorders, and gave them an insight into his imminent appearance on our screens again - this time in Dr Who.

"I play a doctor in an episode set in the Second World War and am in two episodes," he says. "I was excited when I was approached to play a part and as soon as I read the script for the episodes they wanted me to feature in I made my mind up that I wanted the role.

"As well as the kudos of starring in Dr Who, it was also good to play alongside Christopher Eccleston, because although I know him socially I'd never had the opportunity to work with him until now.

"He's made a very good Dr Who and has brought a fresh touch to the role."

As well as knowing Christopher, who lives in Salford, Richard has his own connections with Manchester.

He lived in Whalley Range in the 1960s while a director of the Granada Stables theatre and is an avid supporter of Manchester United.

"Although I'm Scottish, I felt the need to support an English team because I was living here. I went to a match at Manchester United and another at City but the United game was much better so I decided to go with them and I've been supporting them ever since."


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