Fawlty Towers and EastEnders actor Nicky Henson dies aged 74

The TV star also appeared in Downton Abbey and on stage with the RSC.
The TV star also appeared in Downton Abbey and on stage with the RSC. The TV star also appeared in Downton Abbey and on stage with the RSC.

Fawlty Towers actor Nicky Henson has died at the age of 74.

The TV star, who also appeared in EastEnders, Downton Abbey and a host of stage roles with the Royal Shakespeare Company and National Theatre, was diagnosed with cancer almost 20 years ago.

A statement from his family said: “Nicky Henson has died after a long disagreement with cancer.”

The actor, who was once married to actress Una Stubbs, found fame in the 1960s with his charm, cheeky grin and a public school accent winning fans, as well as his reputation as a ladies’ man.

Una Stubbs and Nicky Henson
Una Stubbs and Nicky Henson Una Stubbs and Nicky Henson on their wedding day in 1969 (PA)

He was best known for playing Mr Johnson in the episode of Fawlty Towers called The Psychiatrist, in which John Cleese’s Basil Fawlty becomes obsessed with catching his character breaking hotel policy by having a woman in his room.

Henson carried on working long after his diagnosis and played Honey Edwards’ father Jack in EastEnders in 2006 and Charles Grigg in Downton Abbey. He also made numerous appearances in The Bill.

He also appeared in more than 30 films, including Witchfinder General, Psychomania,  Vera Drake and Syriana.

He recorded his first single in 1961 and had a three-year contract writing songs for The Shadows and Cliff Richard.

Henson’s most recent acting credit was as Latham in the crime drama Tango One in 2018.

He was first diagnosed with cancer on Christmas Day 19 years ago.

He told the PA news agency last year: “For the last 18 years, I’ve regarded myself as ‘being in extra time’, which I never expected to have, so I’m very thankful for it.

“I got my first cancer on Christmas day 18 years ago and didn’t think I was going to survive, after I was told I had a large tumour and would have to be operated on.

“To get rid of the first tumour, I had to have half my colon and a third of my stomach removed. I was fine, but a routine scan a few years later revealed I had another tumour. I was prescribed a drug, Gleevac, for six months, to reduce it to an operable size.

“During that time, I got my dream part as Sir Toby Belch in Twelfth Night at the RSC, but the physical strain of the part and the side effects of the drug meant I had to give it up. I knew then I’d never act on stage again, which broke my heart.”

Henson said he could not have coped without his “amazing” wife Marguerite, saying she had “probably saved my life at least five times over the last few years with her quick thinking and caring for me.

“It was love at first sight when I met her, but I couldn’t get up the nerve to ask her out. In the end a friend got us together. We’ve been married for 32 years and have one son. Altogether I have three wonderful sons, all composers, and four grandchildren.”

Discussing if he had any regrets, Henson said: “Not about my career – I’ve done pretty well for someone with no ambition.

“The only regrets are the upsets I’ve given people in my life, particularly ladies, when I was young. I’ve said sorry to Una. I was always very, very immature – in fact, I’ve only grown up recently.”