BENNY GREEN (1978-1982)
Terry Sue Patt
Benny Green was the first pupil ever to be seen in Grange Hill. Played by Terry Sue Patt, Benny became Tucker Jenkins’ best mate and was involved in some of the best remembered moments of Grange Hill’s first four series. Terry Sue Patt talks exclusively to Grange Hill Gold about his time playing football crazy Benny Green.
How did you get into acting?
I got into acting just by chance really. My English teacher at my primary school was a woman called Anna Scher. She taught English and a bit of drama on the side. She started a drama group in the flats where I grew up, and my parents thought it would be a good place to meet people and stay off the streets. I still have a lot of friends from those early days. I did a lot of extra work along with a lot of famous faces you might recognise today in the media. I did lots of Pop videos; Bob Marley and Pink Floyd. I had a great time. My dad grew up in the same town as Bob Marley, and when I asked Bob if he knew my dad, he did.
How did you get the part of Benny?
Getting the part of Benny in Grange Hill is a story of right place at the right time. I auditioned for Bugsy Malone, for the part of Fizzy, or rather didn’t audition. I refused Alan Parker’s requests three time to get up and just do something, anything. I think he really had me in mind for the part. After refusing three times, my mate Dexter Fletcher auditioned, and got the part as Babyface. I went to the cinema and saw it and regretted my decision. I was offered a job called You Can’t Be Serious for Thames Television at the same time as Grange Hill. On the day of the Grange Hill audition, I was juggling the ball in the park with some friends, when they noticed a man sat on a bench, who kept starring at me. I started to do a few ball tricks. I left the park and went to Anna Scher’s theatre and the man sat on the bench turned out to be Colin Cant, the original director of Grange Hill! Stroke of luck really. The programme at the time was called Grange Park! I got the job with Michelle Herbert,who played Trisha and Kim Benson, Lucinda Duckett and Abigail Brown. Little did I know I was to have the opening scene.
I really didn’t expect Grange Hill to be a success, which sounds really silly now but I remember the First Series not going down too well. It wasn’t till the second series that the programme really took off. However I soon realised that school children were running home to watch it. I know because they were running past me. I didn’t really watch it as I was really busy at the time, but people told me that they liked the character of Tucker, played by Todd Carty. For about five years, people expected he and I to be together 24/7.Todd tells the same story.
How similar was the character of Benny to yourself?
The character of Benny Green is similar to me, actually it really is me! Little acting required. I love football, and as a kid I was a bit of a sheep and liked knocking around in a group. I think the breakdown of the character sums me up; sensitive,a bit shy,but determined to succeed come what may. Perfect casting really!
Benny was a keen footballer; were you?
I love football period. As a kid I captained the school side, played for Islington Schoolboys, Camden School boys, turned down a trial for Arsenal, had a trial for Chelsea and Queens Park Rangers. I played with some great players who became professionals. John Barnes and I played for Camden Schoolboys. Great player John. I support Tottenham Hotspur.
The response from the general public was overwhelming. I used to get chased up the road by the local girls school, which Kathy Burke used to go to. On many occasions I had to wait till the school children had left about six o’clock, then I could make my way home. Strange things like people following you around started to happen. I am quite a private person so it was a little daunting. I’m used to it now, but at the age of twelve,it’s a bit weird. Now I would like to take the opportunity to thank everyone for their kind words. I do appreciate them and it really does make my day sometimes.
Did you get on well with the rest of the cast and are you still in touch with any of them?
I got on very well with the rest of the cast of Grange Hill. You see, at the end of the day, all you are trying to do is make a programme to your best ability. If you have ever been on a television or film set, it looks like not much is happening. Sometimes not a lot is. Lesley Woods (Madelin Tanner)and Vincent Hall (Michael Doyle) for example played rather nasty characters in Grange Hill and off set were the nicest people you could ever meet. In fact Vincent apologised to me for calling me a golliwog in the programme, part of the script, but yeah many of the cast are my mates today still. Todd and I have a great relationship. We don’t say much to each other, because we don’t have to.
Yeah, Grange Hill was a very enjoyable programme to work on. I think for many of us it was a step into the unknown. You really don’t have a clue how it will all be perceived. So really you pull together at those times, come what may. Also,you get to work with a great cast and crew and have a laugh along the way. I had a great time.
How similar was Grange Hill to your own school?
Grange Hill was nothing like my school. I went to an all boys school. No real life and drama did not merge into one. My school was a bit more animated!
Tucker’s Luck followed the character of Tucker after he left, but Benny was nowhere to be seen. Would you have liked to have been involved?
Originally we discussed a programme called Tucker and Benny, which was while we were doing Grange Hill, as a spin off. I was offered Tucker’s Luck, but turned it down. I did kind of feel the character had gone far enough and wanted to do other things.
Do you have a favourite moment from Grange Hill?
My favourite Grange Hill moment is when Todd and I do a strange routine Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise style, with the slap. We did like a bit of slapstick.
Did you expect that Grange Hill would be so highly thought of 30+ years on?
You don’t really appreciate really how much people appreciated the programme. I still get people talking about specific storylines, and watching the DV Ds with their kids. It’s really very nice to know.
I haven’t watched any of the episodes recently; I’ve been very busy so that is my excuse. Todd and I said we would watch them one day, with the kids. That would be fun.
Has Grange Hill been a help or a hindrance to your career?
Definitely a help. Grange Hill opened up lots of doors for me and exposed me to a new audience. I have had lots of opportunities that would not have happened without it.
I am proud of Grange Hill, but then I’m very proud of everyone associated with the programme. You kind of pass it on to other people, to keep the ball rolling. So yeah I do look back on those times with great fondness. It does seem so long ago, but sometimes you remember something, or something gets shown and you have a little chuckle.
What have you done since you stopped playing Benny’?
I am a Stencil Artist at the moment. I have also just played a Vicar in a new British Film ‘Akbar ,Amar and Tony’, and play myself in a Touch of Cloth, alongside George Armstrong (Alan Humphries), Erkan Mustafa (Roland Browning) and Gywneth Powell (Mrs McCluskey) which is on Sky, starring John Hannah and Suranne Jones.
Thanks to Terry Sue Patt
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