A WEARSIDE actor is taking on the coveted role of apprentice to one of TV’s most iconic characters.
James Baxter, who played Jake Doland in ITV soap Emmerdale, has landed the part of Granville Arkwright’s son Leroy in the BBC revival of sitcom Open All Hours.
The 23-year-old, of Ashbrooke, says working with one of his “comedy heroes”, Sir David Jason, in the Christmas special – called Still Open All Hours – is a dream come true.
“I would go to bed watching Only Fools and Horses,” he said.
“I would go as far as to say that with comedy, he is the first actor I really fell in love with and admired.
“He really helps get the best out of people and he’s so switched on.” The episode, which has been penned by the show’s original writer Roy Clarke, comes 28 years after the last series in 1985.
It sees Granville taking over the corner shop after inheriting it from his miserly uncle Albert – better known as Arkwright, who was played by the late Ronnie Barker – and deciding to run it with the help of Leroy.
The actors will be joined by returning co-stars Lynda Baron as nurse Gladys Emmanuel, Stephanie Cole, Delphine Featherstone, and Maggie Ollerenshaw as Granville’s former flame Mavis.
James, who has a role in the current series of BBC2 programme Hebburn, spent time bonding with David to make sure their on-screen relationship is believable.
“We would sit after filming in the hotel bar,” he said. “We have to make sure our chemistry is there.
“Once I got over that ‘pinch myself every 15 minutes’ stage, it was just amazing.
“I’m just watching a master at what they do.”
The former Farringdon Community Sports College pupil finished filming outdoor scenes for the programme with David, 73, in Doncaster last week – in front of hundreds of the programme’s fans.
“So there was no pressure,” said James, who also starred in a new series of TV hit Red Dwarf on channel Dave earlier this year.
“It’s that sort of show where essentially everything’s there, the idea is to just bring it forward three decades.”
The remake of the programme, produced by Gareth Edwards, who has hinted that a full series could follow the one-off episode, is set to raise James’s profile.
But James, who lives in London with wife Dominique, 23, says he likes to stay under the radar.
“In London nobody really recognises me, which I kind of like,” he said.
“When we were filming Open All Hours, there were photographers out and about which I’m not really used to.
“If I did get recognised loads, I don’t know how I would react to it really.”
And, despite his career going from strength to strength, James still has his heart in Sunderland.
“When I come up I like to spend time with my family and friends,” he said. “I always call Sunderland home.”