Paul   Henry   was   no   stranger   to   television   drama   when   he arrived   at   Crossroads,   with   a   number   of   small   screen   roles behind   him,   he   probably   didn't   expect   his   role   of   Benny   to become   one   of   the   most   remembered   parts   of   the   original series. What   was   your   initial   reaction   when   you   first   read   for   the part   of   Benny   -   did   you   realise   immediately   that   he   would be such an enduringly popular character? Well   it   was   very   weird   really   because   I   didn't   read   for   the   part   I   just   got   it!   What   happened   was   that   I   was   working   for   the   Birmingham   rep,   across   the road,   I'd   been   there   for   8   or   9   years,   and   I   was   sharing   a   dressing   room   with   an   actor   called   John   Rollason   who   had   just   started   writing   for   Crossroads   and he suggested me for the part 'cos he said "Paul would be able to play it". He'd   presented   these   storylines,   they'd   accepted   it   and   then   he   was   writing   the   story,   so   I   was   actually   looking   over   his   shoulder   at   this   stuff   he   was   doing when   we   were   doing   the   show.   I   finished   on   the   Sunday   night   at   the   Birmingham   rep,   arrived   at ATV   television   on   the   Monday   morning   to   be   taken   off   to   a location where I first met Sue Hanson - and the goat - and in that 1 day we did scenes for the 6 weeks of Crossroads. And   I   went   into   the   wardrobe   picked   out   some   clothes,   took   this   woolly   hat   that   was   my   brother's,   I   thought   he'd   wear   something   on   his   head   and   I   thought "Well,   I   don't   want   a   flat   cap"   so   I   picked   up   this   woolly   hat   that   he   used   to   wear   for   fishing   which   has   been   the   plague   ever   since   'cos   I   play   a   lot   of   golf and everybody wears these woolly hats and if I put one on they'll think I'm trying to, (laughs)! Benny   had   a   number   of   very   strong   storylines   down   the   years   such   as   his   engagement   to   Maureen,   which   resulted   in   tragedy   when   she   as   killed   on the   morning   of   their   wedding   and   the   time   when   he   was   falsely   accused   of   murdering   Lisa   Welch.   What   are   your   memories   of   those   storylines   and what sort of public reaction did you get from them? Well   I   think   getting   married   to   Maureen,   that's   when   we   went   to   number   one   in   the   charts   and   everything   during   that   period,   we   were   1,   2,   4,   and   5   over that   period.   I   always   said,   you   see,   Benny   was   the   big   feller,   you   know   you   always   got   the   small   feller   who   got   the   sympathy,   and   Benny   was   the   big, lumbering, child-like person, you know. I   mean   in   real   life   if   people   had   made   the   nasty   comments,   because   he   was   a   great   one   he   was   so   easy   for   the   press   to   pick   up   on,   if   he'd   have   been somebody,   'cos   I   know   lots   of   Bennys   in   this   world,   there   are   a   lot   of   them   about   and   if   they'd   have   said   the   things   they   did,   people   would   have   said   that wasn't   politically   correct,   you   know.   But   he   had   marvellous   reactions   from   the   Maureen   storyline,   when   he   was   getting   married   and   she   died   on   the   bike because   everybody   felt   for   that,   it   was   amazing. And   then   the   murdering   of   Lisa   Welch,   I   mean   that   was   just   hysterical,   everybody   loved   it   and   they   stuck up for Benny and people got really annoyed at the fact that he'd been accused. And   I   mean   students,   Birmingham   University   and   up   north,   Bradford   I   think   it   was,   as   you   went   through   Bradford   there   was   a   bridge   "Benny   is   Innocent"! And   the   universities   they   were   all   hanging   things   out   the   windows   saying   "Benny   is   Innocent"   and   that   was   the   tongue   in   cheek   side,   and   there   was   also   the side   that   really,   you   know   ...   See   it's   funny   because   soaps,   people   love   it   but   they   know   it's   not   real   but   they   love   getting   involved   with   it   and   the   students actually summed it up when there was all "Benny is Innocent". Everywhere I went on the side of vans "Benny is Innocent" it was fantastic really (laughs). How difficult was Benny to play - did it take a long time or you to evolve his way of speaking and his personality? People   used   to   say   where   does   that   accent   come   from?   Well   it   never   really   came   from   anywhere!   If   you   were   in   Birmingham   they   thought   it   was   Worcester, and   if   you   were   in   Worcester   it   was   Birmingham   and   anywhere   outside   of   Birmingham   they   thought   it   was   Birmingham.   What   I   tried   to   do   was   make   it   an accent that nobody could actually decide where it came from. And   I   suppose   at   times   there   was   a   bit   of   Brummy   in   it   and   that. And   the   actual   character,   I   had   played   some   characters   similar   to   it.   The   child-like   thing I'd   played   on   the   telly   I'd   done   the   "Recruiting   Officer"   I   played   Bullock   before   the   Benny   thing   and   then   I   also   did   "Mid-Summer   Night's   Dream"   with   a   great cast   and   I   played   Flute   who   plays   "This-be"   in   that   and   he   was   a   bit   of   a   child-like   figure.   So   it   was   a   mixture   of   a   lot   of   characters   I'd   played   in   theatre   and I just pulled a few of them together, plus people I've met over the years in different situations who were a bit slow. How   much   input   did   the   scriptwriters   give   you?   Were   you   ever   able   to   say   no   if   they   were   going   to   make   Benny   say   or   do   something   that   you   thought was wrong or out of character? Well   I   think   that's   where   it   went   a   bit   wrong   in   the   latter   years.   In   the   early   years   as   I   said   to   you,   the   script-writers,   John   Rollason   set   up   the   character, then   people   who   took   the   character   on,   over   the   time   I   was   in   it   probably   12   years   I   think   it   was,   although   I   never   did   more   that   6   months   in   a   year,   over the   time   I   was   in   it,   if   I   thought   something   was   wrong   because   I   knew   the   character   better   than   the   new   writers   so   really   it   was   a   together   thing   and   with the   directors   as   well.   I   mean   I   always   tried   to   avoid   making   him   absolutely   stupid   if   you   know   what   I   mean,   and   I   didn't   think   you   had   to   write   material which   was   silly.   You   had   to   write   a   situation   and   Benny   would   make   it   silly.   And   sometimes   he   didn't   have   to   say   anything.   My   idea   of   Benny   was   like   if someone   came   in   and   said   "It's   raining   cats   and   dogs   out   there"   all   you   had   to   do   is   take   a   look   at   Benny   and   you   could   see   in   his   eyes   he   was   trying   to   work it out. He took everything literally so you didn't have to have him saying, "Where's them cats and dogs?" you just knew. He   did   something   once   where   he   did   the   chicken   and   he   cooked   it   with   the   giblets   inside.   Now   everybody's   saying   "How   stupid!",   but   I   know   so   many people who've done it! But   then   in   the   last   year   the   new   producer   came   in   and   I   suppose   they   thought   I   was   being   a   bit,   you   know,   over   the   top,   "Who   does   he   think   he   is?"   type   of thing,   but   I   used   to   say   "Look   I   can't   do   that   because   the   character   wouldn't   do   it."   I   mean   there   was   one   particular   director,   this   is   when   it   all   went   wrong, who   said   to   me:   "In   the   background   I   want   you   talking   to   those   customers"   I   said   "Hang   on,   he   wouldn't   stand   and   talk   to   customers,   he'd   avoid   talking   to anybody." The   only   people   he   wanted   to   talk   to   were   people   he   knew.   He   said   "No,   well   it   looks   better   for   the   picture",   and   I   said   "No,   well   that   doesn't   work   for   me!" So   there   were   little   things   like   that   you   see   ..   but   of   course   people   thought   you   were   being   a   bit,   you   know,   because   I   did   care   about   the   character,   you see. And   because   it   was   always   on   the   line   of   being   stupid,   I   had   to   be   very   strong   how   far   I   wanted   it   to   go   because   all   they   did   was   stay   six   episodes   and then they went and directed something else - and nobody knew who they were (laughs). Benny   had   many   people   at   Crossroads   who   took   him   under   their   wing   but   none   more   so   than   Diane   Lawton   -   "Miss   Diane".   What   was   it   like   working so closely with Susan Hanson? Oh,   she   was   fabulous.   I   mean,   as   I   said   she   was   the   first   person   I   sort   of   got   involved   with   when   I   first   arrived   and   it   was   very   much   like   a   double   act   wasn't it? And   you   know   the   "Miss   Diane"   which   actually   was   never   written,   I   mean   "Miss   Diane"   was   something   that   I   put   in,   it   was   always   "Diane"   but   of   course   in later times as new writers came in again it would all be "Miss Diane, Miss Diane" (laughs) But "Miss Diane", I thought was just a sign of showing respect to her. [Jack Haig as Archie Gibbs had first used the ‘Miss Diane’ term in the 60s of course] Is it true that you were not allowed to shave regularly while playing Benny as the character always needed to be scruffy? No,   no   I   was   never   told   I   had   to,   but   ...   a   lot   of   the   continuity   really   you   had   to   do   yourself. You   know   it   was   so   difficult   sometimes,   'cos   I   used   to   not   shave probably   on   a   Wednesday   morning   till   Saturday,   because   we   used   to   film   Thursday,   Friday   because   I   wanted   it   more   or   less   the   same   length   which   was easier   in   those   days   because   we   just   used   to   shoot   the   episodes   -   1   episode,   2   episode,   3   episode,   4   episode.   But   of   course   when   we   started   filming   or shooting   out   of   sequence   it   was   a   bit   difficult   trying   to   keep   it   at   the   same   ...   and   make-up   never   looked   the   same   anyway.   So   it   was   just   my   own   thing   I mean I did it because I wanted to, because it was right for the character. What   did   you   think   of   the   controversial   killing   off   of   Miss   Diane   and   the   storyline   in   which   Benny   bought   a   donkey   and   named   it   after   her?   Do   you think the producers made a mistake in writing out Diane? I   think   it   was   wrong   that   they   killed   her   off.   And   I   think   probably,   I   don't   know   why,   but   in   that   last   year   it   was   like   they   wanted   to   get   rid   of   everyone eventually   that   was   of   the   old   Crossroads. And   what   people   forget   is,   that   as   far   as   I   was   concerned,   I   was   never   the   old   Crossroads,   because   when   I   came into   it   everybody   had   been   there   for   so   long   and   they   were   Crossroads,   like   Nolly   and   Ronnie   Allen   and   everybody   and   of   course   I   was   a   newcomer   so   I went   from   being   a   newcomer,   because   I   think   it   was   probably   10   or   15   years   before   you   became   a   regular   (laughs)   in   those   days   because   people   didn't change much and I was like a newcomer that suddenly became one of the old stays overnight. I   was   suddenly   one   of   the   main   characters   who's   been   in   it   all   the   time   and   of   course   whereas   it   could   be   a   bit,      you   used   to   get   a   bit   scared   in   some   ways or   nervous   when   it   was   all   the   old   guard,   suddenly   it   was   all   the   new   guard   and   they   were   looking   at   you   like   you   were   the   old   guard   and   you've   never   gone through   it! And   when   they   got   rid   of   Sue,   it   probably   was   a   toss   up   between   me   and   Sue   and   I   think   they   probably   thought   "Well,   we   can   get   rid   of   Benny eventually". And   they   started   bringing   in   these   new   families   -   not   that   they   weren't   good   -   but   nobody   was   interested   because   as   I   said   you   need   an   established   person to initiate the new characters. And then of course he brought in the upmarket Benny to work with me instead of Sue and it just didn't work. The "upmarket Benny", would that be Charlie? Yes.   And   it   just   didn't   work   because   you   were   burlesquing   burlesque.   And   I   think   what   he   (William   Smethurst)   wanted   to   do   basically   was   get   rid   of   the show,   everybody   who   was   established   and   make   his   show   with   his   own   people.   Now   all   he   had   ever   done   was   an   editor   on   the Archers   and   really   what   he should have done was say "No I don't want to do Crossroads let's finish it and I'll do a new series with my new characters." Benny named a donkey in Diane's memory. Was that storyline perhaps a bit offensive to the fans of Diane? I   thought   it   was   funny   but   some   people   think   it   was   an   insult   to   Susan   Hanson:   I   don't   think   it   was   an   insult   as   far   as   Benny's   character   was   concerned,   it wasn't   an   insult   but   they   should   have   had   some   character   say   to   him,   "Look   Benny,   it's   not   very   nice",   try   to   convince   him   to   do   it   some   other   way,   have   a plaque   made   or   something   like   that   or   something   for   the   grave.   'Cos   I   mean   I   think   that's   where   the   humour   was   with   Benny   he   didn't   think   there   was anything wrong with things. As   Benny   you   had   a   particular   affinity   with   animals   -   you   also   had   Starry   the   goat,   Moses   the   dog   as   well   as   several   creatures   that   Mavis   Hooper wasn't too keen on! Did you enjoy working with all these animals? The   actual   goat   was   at   the   beginning   and   that   was   the   first   filming   we   did. And   I   think   you   know   a   lad   on   the   farm,   I   mean   I've   been   to   farms   where   people have had the sheep that's been the kids' favourite and it's a great big fat thing in the garden and it's their pet and they had a name for it. So   I   think   it   was   the   same   as   any   child,   he   had   these   animals   and   of   course   working   on   the   farms   he   spent   a   lot   of   time   on   his   own   -   I'm   going   by   what   the character to me had done in his past. So   he   did   love   the   animals   and   he'd   feed   them   and   he'd   probably   go   down   and   sit   for   hours   feeding   the   wild   ducks.   I   mean   I   have   somebody   where   I   live now   and   he   goes   down   to   where   all   the   wild   ducks   are   and   they   know   the   colour   of   his   buggy   and   he   goes   down   and   sits   there   and   these   wild   ducks   come and sit on his lap and he feeds them, which is incredible. And how did you feel: did you enjoy working with the animals? Well   there's   a   funny   story   about   Starry   and   the   first   day's   filming   I   did,   that   it   had   been   in   with   a   dead   nanny   goat   so   it   stank. And   the   first   scene   I   did   was putting   my   arm   around   this   goat   and   it   absolutely   stank,   you   know,   saying   "This   be   my   goat"   sort   of   thing   (laughs)   and   that   was   the   last   time   I   ever   saw Starry! I   think   it   was   in   a   few   episodes   but   only   at   the   very   beginning,   and   that   was   because   we   did   filming   one   day   for   several   episodes,   it   was   only   in   probably about 4 or 5 times if that, I can't remember now but it wasn't in a lot but I probably referred to it a lot. In   one   well-known   storyline   Miss   Diane   taught   Benny   to   read   which   I   believe   led   to   a   national   literacy   campaign.      Can   you   tell   us   about   the   impact that that storyline had? I   recall   there   was   a   storybook   character   called   Clumsy   Charlie   who   made   Benny   giggle   a   lot.   I   think   the   storyline   probably   made   people   aware   that   there was   a   lot   more   people   than   they   realised   that   had   difficulties   through   one   reason   or   another.   I   mean   Benny   could   learn   to   read   but   nobody   had   taken   the time. I mean don't forget we still do that now don't we? In   a   slightly   more   unusual   storyline,   Benny   developed   psychic   powers   in   the   80's   when   he   foresaw   the   death   of   his   landlady   Mrs.   Price   and   then   a bus   accident   which   Mavis   Hooper   managed   to   avoid   after   Benny's   warnings.   What   did   you   think   of   this   storyline   and   did   you   get   any   public   feedback from it? I   don't   really   remember   much   about   that   I   think   it   was   one   of   those   that   you   played   it   and   I   tried   to   do   it   and   stop   it   being   too   ridiculous.   I   know   there   was something   funny   that   happened,   I   can't   quite   remember   what   it   was   in   that   storyline   but   I   know   it   was   something   like   I   was   in   trouble   or   something   and   it was   ridiculous   because   it   was   in   the   middle   of   the   bit   where   I   had   the   psychic   powers!   (Laughs)   I   think   it   was   a   storyline   that   somebody   wrote   and   thought "Oh   this   will   be   fun"   but   it's   the   old   story,   the   people   playing   it   are   the   ones   that   have   to   see   it   through   and   you   know   on   the   whole   I   didn't   too   badly   with the stories. But   it   was   one   of   the   hardest   things   in   the   world   because   that   was   almost   impossible   to   play   if   you   know   what   I   mean!   But   when   you're   in   a   soap   for   a while   I'm   sure   every   soap   actor   will   say   they   had   storylines   that   were   absolutely   ridiculous.   But   you   can't   have   great   storylines   52   weeks   of   the   year.   If   you get 2 or 3 in a year, and everyone gets 2 or 3 good storylines, you've got a successful soap. I   mean   I   always   find   now   that   people   come   up   to   me   now   and   say   "Oh,   get   back   there!   That   EastEnders   and   that   whatsit,   it's   terrible   now."   But   you'll   find that   every   show   has   its   down   times.   And   I   think   what   they   did   with   Crossroads   at   the   end,   well   I   think   it   was   self-inflicted   in   a   way.   But   every   soap   goes down and then comes up. Benny, like Miss Luke, regularly disappeared from the motel for long periods - was this to enable you to appear in other things? At   the   beginning   it   was   because   they   didn't   have   storylines   for   us   and   later   on   we   were   always   involved   in   other   things.   I   always   did   something   on   stage and   then   I   started   doing   pantomime   so   it   was   always   put   in   that   I   did   my   pantomime   and   things   and   I   always   worked   on   stage,   at   least   did   one   play   once   a year which I liked doing because it kept me going on stage. There   has   been   a   lot   of   talk   about   a   possible   return   for   Benny   -   in   fact   the   Crossroads   Fan   Club   has   been   running   a   campaign   to   bring   Benny   back   to Crossroads. Are you still prepared to return and can you say anything at the moment about the likelihood of this happening? The   man   who   brought   the   show   back   didn't   want   the   character   in   it,   he   said   "over   my   dead   body".   He   must   have   disliked   the   character   intensely!   (laughs) So   we'll   just   have   to   see   what   the   new   production   team   feel   regarding   the   character.   People   have   said   to   me   that   they'd   have   2   or   3   million   extra   viewers   if Benny   came   back.   But   as   I   said   to   them   he   might   get   people   who   tune   it   just   to   see   him   that   remember   ..I   mean   I   just   get   amazed   how   many   people   still remember the character. I   was   in Aberystwyth   last   week   with   my   grand-daughter,   and   we   parked   outside   this   fish   and   chip   shop   in Aberystwyth,   when   I   came   back   to   the   car   there was   this   big   note   on   the   window   saying   "We   love   you   Benny,   miss   you,   wish   you   were   back".   So   people   still   remember   the   character   but   it's   whether   they're interested ..but as I've said before, I mean that's not saying I definitely want to go back! So you wouldn't definitely go back? I   don't   know   I   mean   it's   like   everything   in   life   isn't   it?   I'm   not   saying   I   wouldn't   and   I'm   not   saying   I   would.   I   mean,   to   say   I   wouldn't   would   be   the   wrong   thing because I'm not sure. It would depend on how I felt, if it was right. Do you still have the green woolly cap? Oh   it's   probably   somewhere   about,   I've   had   hundreds   over   the   years!   I   mean   I   used   to   send   them   off   to   charities.   There's   one   story   that   I   got   more   for   my woolly   hat   than   Edward   Heath   got   for   one   of   his   ties! All   the   little   ladies   used   to   knit   me   them   and   send   them   to   me.   But   some   of   the   ones   I   used   to   get sent were all colours. (laughs) One   character   that   Benny   was   very   friendly   with   was   Joe   MacDonald   -   Mac   from   the   garage.   Sadly   Carl   Andrews   who   played   Mac   passed   away   some years ago. Could you tell us a little about him and what he was like to work with? Oh   he   was   a   great   lad,   I   mean   Carl   was   on   of   the   early   coloured   lads   on   television   wasn't   he?   And   he   had   this   lovely   ..he   had   the   West   Indian   thing   you know, laid back and never got himself in a panic (laughs). What would you say are your fondest memories of Crossroads? I   suppose   all   the   things   that   went   with   it.   First   of   all   I   loved   the   character   he   was   a   great   character   and   for   an   actor   I've   said   this   before   I   believe   there's about   7   things   you   that   have   in   a   character   and   with   Benny   you   could   use   all   7   to   extremes.   He   could   cry,   he   could   lose   his   temper,   he   could   do   whatever and it's great for an actor to be able to go to these extremes with his emotions which you could as Benny. And   so   basically   it   was   the   character   I   loved   playing   you   know   each   storyline   was   a   bit   of   a   challenge   (laughs)   and   perhaps   that's   why   1   or   2   people   used   to worry   about   me   but   I   did   care   about   the   show   and   the   character. And   I   think   that   towards   the   end   there   were   people   trying   to   use   it   as   a   stepping   stone   or were   taking   the   micky   because   they   were   only   in   for   say   a   few   weeks   or   they   were   going   off   to   do   something   else   or   they   were   just   directing   3   or   4 episodes   and   they   didn't   really   care   that   much,   don't   get   me   wrong   there   were   lots   of   people   who   did,   but   there   was   that   little   influx   of   "were   we   really interested"?
 © Crossroads Fan Club 2018.