Thomas and Friends’ is one of the longest-running and most popular
children’s programmes of all time. Since its commencement in the early 1980s, there have been over 200 episodes and
a regular cast of over 60. Perhaps inevitably, certain characters have fallen by the wayside, appearing less regularly or
even, in some cases, being eliminated altogether. It is the characters in this latter category that we intend to investigate.
In a series of interviews, TOM WRIGHT asks, “Where are they now?”
BOCO and DAISY are two of the most fondly
remembered “lost characters”.
TGW: How do you two feel about the fact that you’ve
basically been kicked out of the series?
B: I wouldn’t say “kicked out”…
Frankly, I’m quite glad.
TGW: How so?
D: Well, I’ll admit it
was a good, steady income, but it just wasn’t… I was getting typecast and I was just increasingly feeling like
I was just eye candy. Someone- I think it was Mike Jarrett- called me “an eyelid-fluttering flirt and a lazy worker”.
It didn’t help that I was caked in makeup. That wasn’t my idea.
TGW: No, I-
Plus you have to remember that back then, in series 2, it was much more of a boys’ club. I mean, I was pretty much the
only female cast member. Things are better now, but back then I really did feel alone.
B: What about
Annie and Clarabel?
D: Well, that was another point. It was well known that they were getting paid
about half as much as the male cast members. Same with Henrietta. I think the only reason I got paid the same was because
of my agent. He’s a very aggressive negotiator, he also deals with Puffing Billy and he used to work with The
General, but that was a long time ago…
TGW: So you left in protest?
Partly. Partly because I was worried about getting typecast, as I said, and partly because it was just… getting me down,
you know? I mean, as an actor you learn to take bad reviews, but there were some nasty things said about me and you can only
ignore so much before it gets to you… And I saw what happened to Duke, of course…
D: Plus I could see how the wind was blowing, I think they were going to get rid of me
TGW: Boco, how do you feel about being dropped?
B: Again, I wouldn’t
say “dropped”. There’s no reason why I couldn’t come back.
TGW: Well, you
haven’t appeared since Season 5…
B: But that doesn’t have to mean I’m gone
for good. I’m still a popular character.
TGW: I understand you’ve been involved with other
B: I produced, wrote, directed and starred in my own children’s programme, it was
going to be called ‘Boco and Friends’, but nobody wanted to buy it. I thought it couldn’t fail,
a talking train show with a diesel at the centre hadn’t been done before… maybe when the time is right. Since
then, some of the cast have done other things- one of them is in, I think, ‘Tractor Tom’…
I hear there’s another project in the works.
B: Yes, Britt Allcroft and I have been working
on a new series. It’s a sitcom, and we’re pretty pleased with it.
TGW: Any details?
It’s called ‘Boco’. I play a hip young diesel engine called Boco who’s trying to make his
way as an artist in New York. David Schwimmer plays my friend James and Jane Leeves has a recurring role as my sister Janice.
The scripts are excellent, it should be premiering around Christmas.
TGW: Sounds interesting. One
last question- if either of you could go back to the show, would you?
B: Yes. Why, have you heard
they’re looking for people?
D: I might, but it would be on my terms. In some ways, I think it’s
good that we both went when we did.
B: It did bring us together.
and I wish you the best of luck for your forthcoming marriage.
SIR HANDEL was a mainstay of the narrow gauge railway in Season
4, since when he has not appeared.
TGW: How do you feel about being dismissed?
Bitter as hell, frankly. I think I was dropped for purely personal reasons.
TGW: Why was that?
I think… Can I name names?
TGW: If you want.
SH: I blame Duncan. He
always resented me. I think he felt that I cut into his screen time, and he had words with the producer. And, sad though it
is, in this industry, whoever shouts the loudest gets their way. And he was younger than me- that was a factor, I think.
Did he get any other engines dismissed?
SH: It’s no secret that Mike, Bert and Rex were
going to be in Season 5, but Duncan kicked up a stink about it. He was afraid they’d get more attention than him, you
see. And when Lady was going to come in, he stopped that happening. He wasn’t happy about Emily- you know how long it
took them to put her picture on the website? That was Duncan’s doing.
TGW: Were there any others?
I think I know what you’re getting at. You want me to talk about what happened to Duke, don’t you?
I understand you two were good friends.
SH: He was a friend and mentor- taught me everything I know.
But I… I’m sorry… I just don’t… I don’t really want to talk about this. I mean, I don’t
know… it’s all… I’m sorry, can we change the subject?
TGW: Was Duncan always
SH: He wasn’t easy to get on with. He’d be very nice to your face, but behind
your back… He wasn’t popular with the cast or crew. Oh, he’d suck up to the producers like anything. Heck,
there wasn’t much he wouldn’t do if he thought it would advance his sorry bunker, but respect for everyone at
his level? No way.
TGW: Finally, would you go back if you had the chance?
I don’t think I could unless Duncan left. Even then, I’d know the only reason I was back was because Duncan was
out. I don’t think I would.
TERENCE THE TRACTOR was in the show right from Season 1. His
last appearance was in Season 6.
TGW: You don’t seem too bothered about being dropped.
I’m not. After years as a TV star, there’s something refreshing about retiring to a farm in the Cotswolds.
Were you angry at being dismissed?
TT: Not really. I mean, right from the start I’d accepted
that I was going to play second fiddle to the engines. I had initially only signed up as a guest character, but they kept
me around. And I’m still making a pretty good income out of merchandise and such. I know there have been others who
were angry… Sir Handel in particular…
TGW: He seemed to think it was Duncan’s fault.
He said Duncan was quite dictatorial…
TT: You have to remember that Sir Handel wasn’t
the easiest engine to get on with himself. It’s true, though, Duncan did always get his way.
I heard he kicked the Small Engines off the show before they’d even been signed.
true enough. And to pour salt into the wound, he then starred in an episode that was going to revolve around Mike.
Which you appeared in…
TT: That’s right. Simple enough, I just had to chug across a field.
We did that in one take. Funnily enough, I got on pretty well with Duncan. Of course, I didn’t approve of the way he
threw his weight around, but once you got past that he was alright.
TGW: Do you believe the rumour
that he had something to do with the unfortunate events following Duke’s dismissal?
like to make it clear that Duncan did not have Duke kicked out. That was the producers. They felt there were too many old
engines, they wanted a younger cast. Duke took that pretty hard. And there isn’t much work for an engine of his age,
it’s not surprising that things started going downhill. Could have happened to any of us- “there but for the grace
of God” etc.
TGW: Would you go back if you could?
TT: No. Basically,
I’m retired, I’m happy here. Once you’ve experienced fame and fortune and then lost it, you can go one of
two ways. Either you can’t deal with it and become bitter and pathetic, or you learn from it and move on.
What have you learnt?
TT: That ultimately, and I know it’s a cliché, but fame and fortune will
not make you happy. Material things aren’t important, it’s stuff like friendship, love, these are the things that
matter. I may not be rich any more, and I might be forgotten by successive generations, but I’m content. I think, in
the end, that’s the best you can hope for in life.