Actor Danny John-Jules was a recent visitor to Stamford Bridge, filming for TV, and the man best known for his portrayal of ‘The Cat’ in BBC sci-fi series Red Dwarf sat down with the club’s official website to talk about his favourite Chelsea memories, the return of Jose Mourinho and plying his trade in the Caribbean.
For some, the football team they choose to support is based on family tradition, while for others, players, managers and even the colour of a kit can play a factor. For Danny John-Jules, however, it was simply a matter of geography.
Having been brought up not far from Stamford Bridge, there was little choice, and even less competition, for his affections, as he explains.
‘Growing up in the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea it was pretty much written in the sand,’ he says. ‘Everybody supported Chelsea or QPR and I don’t know why, but I just gravitated towards Chelsea.
‘When I got to secondary school most of the kids there supported Chelsea. I went to school with Phil Daniels, who was a massive Chelsea fan. We also had [musician] Paul Hardcastle and Courtney Pine, the saxophonist, although I’m not too sure who he supported, but there were loads of Chelsea fans there.
‘We used to go to home games mainly, we were all still at school but we used to go together, we used to have a right laugh standing in the Shed.
‘I can’t really remember my first game, it was around 1973 and I just remember the noise. I couldn’t believe how loud it was, I thought it was crazy and you were stood there thinking the stand was going to fall down because in those days they were a bit shaky and you could feel them moving, it was an experience.’
Having followed the Blues for over 40 years, John-Jules has seen it all; the highs and the lows, from European triumphs to relegations. One game, though, stands out in his memory.
‘I remember watching the 1970 FA Cup final as if it was yesterday,’ he recalls. ‘Me and my brother were sitting there with a packet of crisps and a can of coke and we were just amazed at what a great game it was.
‘Leeds United were probably the best team in the world at that time and there weren’t too many people who thought Chelsea would win the game. It was a very physical match, as most were in the 1970s.
‘Peter Osgood’s diving header was just unbelievable, he was almost eating grass, he couldn’t have got any lower, he was practically sliding along the floor.
‘I don’t think there will ever be another football match which makes you sit up and take notice in the same way as that did. I was watching a bit of it this morning before I came out, just a few clips, and as soon as you see that game it all comes back. The match is legendary and, even if you’re not a Chelsea fan, you have to hold your hands up and say how well we did.’
When John-Jules recalls his favourite Chelsea players, there is a nostalgic feel about his selections, and he recently came into contact with a tough-tackling former Blue.
‘I used to love Charlie Cooke and Alan Hudson,’ he says. ‘It was a shame Hudson’s career at Chelsea ended so early because he was a great player. Mickey Droy was another player I really liked and now he has an electrical shop around the corner from my house in Kensal Rise (pictured below).
‘I used to go in there for bits and pieces and I had no idea it was his shop but he still serves behind the counter. He’s been there for years and they sponsor local kids’ football. His son gave me a 2014 diary a few weeks ago, which was nice. He was a big, powerful player and you couldn’t get past him.’
John-Jules made his name in Red Dwarf alongside the likes of Chris Barrie – another Chelsea fan – and Craig Charles. A varied career up to now has seen him appear in films such as Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Blade II, while he can also lay claim to featuring in the video for a Wham single. At present, he is featuring in another BBC show, Death in Paradise.
Set in the Caribbean, the drama series focuses on a detective inspector who is assigned to investigate a murder on the paradise island of Saint-Marie, and John-Jules, who plays a policeman, spoke about the appeal of the show.
‘I’m quietly confident it will do well and there was a good reaction to the first episode of the new series,’ he says. ‘Whoever comes in has to pull out all the stops because TV fans are very loyal and they believe it’s their show.
‘It’s a great gig, you dream of gigs like that, it’s similar to waking up and realising you play for Chelsea I would imagine. I spend about five months of the year over there and I’ve been doing it for the last three summers. It’s filmed in Guadeloupe, in between Monserrat and Dominica, which is where I come from, so I speak the local language which is very handy.
‘The appeal is about wanting somebody to succeed against all the odds,’ says John-Jules. ‘It’s based on the former cricketer Bob Woolmer, who was found dead in Jamaica in 2007.
‘The guy who wrote it was sitting there watching the news when they said they were sending over a British policeman. He found it strange that they would still do that in this day and age so that’s how it came about. Robert Thorogood devised it and it took about four years to come to fruition but it’s going well.’
With thoughts returning to the Blues, and the current campaign in particular, John-Jules believes the squad are coming together at an important time and he has been impressed with the performances of the team of late.
‘I’m pleased, it’s nice to see the boys doing well recently and we deserve to be near the top of the table, I suppose you could say it’s the Mourinho effect,’ he explains.
‘I think we’ve needed a manager who could come in and inspire the players but it’s hard. When you’re in any profession and doing well, you can become lazy. I’ve been there; do you go to an extra dance class when you’re already in a West End show? Or do you just hang out and go straight to the theatre later? That’s what sets Mourinho apart, his ability to inspire.’