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Richard Briers: Briers says goodbye to The Glen; Richard Briers leaves the Monarch of the Glen tomorrow. Phil Gould finds the comic actor in good spirits as he plans ahead for the good life.

Byline: Phil Gould

There won't be a dry eye among viewers when residents of Glenbogle are hit by tragedy in this week's Monarch Of The Glen.

Potty patriarch Hector MacDonald, played by actor Richard Briers, dies after three seasons of the popular BBC1 drama.

Briers is staying tight lipped about the way he departs and will only say that it was his choice to bow out. The popular actor, who is 68 the day after the final episode is screened, wants to spend more time with his wife and family.

He has been married to actress Annie Davies for 45 years and they have two daughters Kate and Lucy - the latter also treads the boards for a living.

'I'm a homebird at heart,' confesses Briers. 'I have lived in the same house in Chiswick for the last 34 years. Doing Monarch Of The Glen meant that I was spending six months at a time away from my family.

'I was getting a five day break every fortnight but two of those days would be spent travelling. The next series would have been even longer so I decided that it was time to call a halt.'

Despite his decision, Briers says it is a wrench to leave the Glenbogle community.

'Of course I will miss being in Monarch Of The Glen,' he says. 'Everyone involved in the show is wonderful. The crew were the best I have ever worked with.'

Briers admits he had a soft spot for the eccentric laird. 'I liked the part of Hector. 'I knew there would be a great deal of fun in his character.

'Monarch Of The Glen is good old-fashioned family viewing. Everything on television seems so depressing these days.'

Briers first shot to fame 27 years ago as the suburban self-sufficient Tom Good, opposite the pert Felicity Kendal in the 70s sitcom The Good Life. He has fond memories of the show which turned him into a household name.

'It's nice to be remembered for doing a show like The Good Life,' he says. 'I think it became an evergreen show because it had a happiness about it, it had charm and it's silly in a way that you don't see these days.

'We all got on genuinely well and I think you can see that. It really was a remarkable show.'

Although The Good Life is still regularly repeated on cable TV channels, Briers can no longer watch it. He says it is too painful to watch his friend Paul Eddington, henpecked neighbour Gerry in the show, who died six years ago after a long battle against cancer.

'We were such good friends that I feel very sad and can't watch The Good Life now.'

Born in Merton, Surrey, Briers left school without any qualifications. He became an office clerk but noticed that he had a gift for making people laugh.

Encouraged by his father's cousin the comic actor Terry Thomas, he auditioned and won a place at RADA where he trained alongside Peter O'Toole and Albert Finney.

While he made his name appearing in TV comedies - his other famous role was pedant Martin Brice in Ever Decreasing Circles - Briers caused a stir in later years as a serious actor.

At the age of 55, Kenneth Branagh cast him as Malvolio in Twelfth Night at London's Riverside Theatre. This was followed by an appearance on stage as King Lear and in the Branagh-directed film Much Ado About Nothing.

Briers says: 'Thanks to him the whole thing opened up. People realised that I could act and it changed my whole career.

'He told me comedy actors were always good Shakespearian actors and suddenly I was off on a world tour as King Lear.'

Despite such accolades Briers strikes you as a very ordinary man who is not enthralled by the showbusiness spotlight. As well as living in the same house for the past three decades he travels everywhere by underground.

'Now I'm a pensioner I get a free travel pass,' he laughs. But Briers still enjoys being recognised in public. 'I love it when people come up to talk to me. Most of them are very, very nice about my work.'

And, unlike many of his showbusiness counterparts, Briers has also enjoyed a long and happy marriage.

He met his wife while they were appearing in repertory theatre together. Six months after they first met they tied the knot at the register office next to Liverpool's famous Liver Buildings.

The couple enjoyed a short honeymoon. 'Somebody stood us a hotel room for the night and we were back acting the following day,' he confides.

While both of them were ambitious, it was Briers who seemed to get all the breaks. However, he insists that he couldn't have done it without his wife. 'She has always been a wonderful support and I couldn't have done it without her.'

Richard Briers' last episode of Monarch Of The Glen is on BBC1 on Sunday
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jan 12, 2002
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