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Barber, Paul (1952-)


Main image of Barber, Paul (1952-)

One of the most instantly recognisable faces on British television, this mixed-race Merseysider (born Patrick Barber in Ireland in 1952) has been equally adept at drama and comedy.

Orphaned at seven, Barber was raised in children's and foster homes in Liverpool, falling into acting by accident after accompanying a friend who was auditioning for the hippie musical Hair. Invited to try his luck, Barber was offered the part.

He made his television debut in 1974, and first attracted attention as a flamboyant gang boss in the Play for Today Gangsters (BBC, 1975) and its subsequent series spin-off (1976). His cinema debut was in The Long Good Friday (d. John MacKenzie, 1979), and he also appeared in such hard-hitting drama series as Muck and Brass (ITV, 1982) and Boys From The Blackstuff (BBC, 1982).

But he neatly avoided typecasting by taking on regular comedy parts, and was already a sitcom veteran when he shot to fame as the crooked but occasionally conscience-stricken Scouse trucker Denzil in Only Fools and Horses... (BBC, 1981-2003). Barber also played leads in the underrated black sitcom The Front Line (BBC, 1984) and the more successful The Brothers McGregor (ITV, 1985-88).

On the big screen, he is best known for Horse, one of the would-be male strippers in the surprise smash hit The Full Monty (d. Peter Cattaneo, 1997), though he also played a supporting role in the Jimmy McGovern-scripted Priest (d. Antonia Bird, 1994).

In 2007, he published 'Foster Kid', a memoir of his traumatic childhood.

Michael Brooke

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Selected credits

Thumbnail image of Long Good Friday, The (1979)Long Good Friday, The (1979)

Bob Hoskins dazzles in the defining gangster film of the turn of the '80s

Thumbnail image of Madonna and Child (1980)Madonna and Child (1980)

The second part of the Terence Davies Trilogy

Thumbnail image of Priest (1994)Priest (1994)

Powerful drama about a Catholic priest tortured by secrets

Thumbnail image of Boys from the Blackstuff (1982)Boys from the Blackstuff (1982)

Pivotal drama about unemployment and desperation in 1980s Liverpool

Thumbnail image of Gangsters (1976-78)Gangsters (1976-78)

Tough crime series set in the Birmingham underworld

Thumbnail image of Only Fools and Horses (1981-96)Only Fools and Horses (1981-96)

Hugely popular comedy about Peckham wheeler-dealers

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