Trig’s character was brought to life by Lloyd-Pack almost by not giving him one
Biography by Brian Slade
Often cited as one of the funniest moments in British sitcom history, there can surely be very few owners of televisions who haven’t seen that glorious moment from Only Fools and Horses when David Jason’s Delboy utters those immortal words, ‘nice and cool, son, nice and cool’ before leaning into an empty space and pratfalling behind the bar. The move is hysterical, but the laughter is prolonged by the bemused pirouette of Trig, confusedly searching for his missing pal. For every bit of talent Jason displayed in the fall, Roger Lloyd-Pack was perfection in the role of the ultimate straight man and typical of the acting talents of the highly trained theatre performer who graced television screens for several decades.
Roger Lloyd-Pack was born in 1944 and came from an already successful acting family in the form of his father, Charles. Charles Lloyd-Pack (the Lloyd was added to his surname to help his career in the 1930s) married an Austrian-Jewish refugee, Ulrike Pulay. Charles achieved notable success in film and television roles for many years, although his career only really took off some years after Roger was born. When dealing with his own attempts at fatherhood, years later Roger would reflect on his childhood, admitting, ‘I was so determined not to pass on to my children what I perceived to be the faults of my upbringing.’
Studying at Bedales in Petersfield, Roger would get a taste for the theatre and subsequently head off to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. The appeal of acting was not purely because of his father’s talents. He was a wordsmith and had as much admiration for the text of the theatre as for the productions themselves. It was evident in his early performances as he performed in the heavy Shakespearean parts long before finding his television fame.
Roles on screen were largely limited to the standard merry-go-round roles on shows like The Avengers, Dixon of Dock Green, The Professionals and The Protectors. But in 1981 Lloyd-Pack took on the role that would bring him into the world of nationwide fame, instant recognition and cries in the street. As Trigger in Only Fools and Horses, Roger brought his rubbery facial features to a role that on paper may have offered minimal comic value, but in his hands provided dead-pan hysterics for millions of viewers.
Trig, whose actual name was Colin Ball, was a simple but amiable road sweeper and a regular pal of Del Boy and Rodney Trotter, most frequently seen at the Nag’s Head. Trig’s character was brought to life by Lloyd-Pack almost by not giving him one. Speaking in almost one tone, Trig’s dim-wittedness extended to his most famous faux-pas – consistently calling Rodney ‘Dave’. In one early episode, Rodney asks him why he calls him Dave, only for Trig to reveal that he thought that was his name. When told that his pal’s name is actually Rodney, Trig delivers the deadpan response of, ‘are you sure?’ followed by a bemused, ‘so what’s Dave – a nickname like?’ Of course, despite admitting that he’ll have to get used to calling his mate Rodney, he never does, most famously announcing that if Del and Raquel have a boy, they would name it Rodney – after Dave!
For Roger Lloyd-Pack, the fame that went with his portrayal of Trig escalated. Trig went from a comparatively minor character to being a frequently quoted one that fans loved. As Lloyd-Pack began to fear that Trig might take over his career, his agent warned him not to quit the role as he had been thinking of doing. He told The Times shortly before he died that she had said he would be mad to leave the series as its success was gaining traction. ‘You’re not in charge of your career as an actor,’ he considered. ‘You go where the work takes you, and it took me to situation comedy.’
Trig would remain on screens for the remainder of Only Fools and Horses screen life, all bar the final Comic Relief outing that was made shortly after Lloyd-Pack’s death. But despite the potential to be typecast, Roger was able to make the jump to another comic creation short on a few brain cells when he was cast as Owen Newitt, the farmer and council member of the fictional village of Dibley in the whirlwind success The Vicar of Dibley.
As Owen, Lloyd-Pack was able to bring many of the Trig mannerisms to a new audience. Owen was somewhat of a dullard, and his life story seemed to be a never-ending tale of gruesome woe, be it from his ancestors’ questionable behaviour, the unfortunate entanglements that his animals would get into, or indeed the more intimate connection he potentially had with his animals than he had ever had with people. But once again, Lloyd-Pack made a character that could have been rather repugnant actually somewhat loveable, particularly when offering a glimpse of Owen’s loneliness.
Away from his two genius comic creations, Roger Lloyd-Pack was not short of work. He appeared in some hefty productions including Prick Up Your Ears, The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover and the obligatory ventures into the Dr Who and Harry Potter worlds. But he was perhaps most at home in the theatre. He continued performing in Shakespeare and other heavier theatrical roles, tending to keep clear of moving into mainstream comedy stage work. He was also a devoted family man, acknowledging the challenges of children having a famous father. His first marriage in 1968 was brief, but yielded a daughter who followed him into acting, Emily Lloyd, who was launched to fame in the 1987 film Wish You Were Here, faced many mental health challenges as she came to terms with her fame. Lloyd-Pack married again in 2000 to his long-term partner Jehane Markham whom he had known since they were teenagers, and together they had three sons.
Roger was also unafraid of campaigning on issues he felt passionate about. Although David Jason remembered him as, ‘a quiet, kind and unassuming actor,’ Lloyd-Pack made frequent speeches for causes close to his beliefs and was an ardent Labour supporter until late in his life, when he called for the creation of an alternative left-wing party. He was heavily involved in the communities around his homes both in North London and Fakenham, Norfolk.
At the time of Lloyd-Pack’s death in early 2014, his career was still at the top. He was one of the most recognisable faces on television, and only months before his untimely departure he had been powering through a double-header at the Globe Theatre in Richard III and Twelfth Night.
Although a later sitcom effort, The Old Guys, failed to garner the same acclaim as his most famous roles, Roger Lloyd-Pack was accepting of the fact that Trig in particular would be a never-ending companion to his fame: ‘I’ll never escape Trigger, I’ve learnt to live with that.’ And as fans of British comedy would attest, his portrayal of Trigger will probably be remembered as the one of the most successful allegedly minor characters in sitcom history. Isn’t that right, Dave?
Published on January 31st, 2024. Written by Brian Slade for Television Heaven.