Danny John-Jules – In Conversation

Best known for his irreplaceable portrayal of the half feline Cat AKA Duane Dibley in the cult sci-fi sitcom Red Dwarf, actor and entertainer Danny John-Jules has enjoyed an enormously varied career in entertainment spanning over forty years. Beginning his career in the dance group The Second Generation, Danny worked under the legendary director and choreographer Dougie Squires who became his unofficial mentor to the world of entertainment. Both working class men who had dreams of bettering themselves, Squires identified with Danny’s plight and gave him the opportunity to perform. At the age of sixteen, Danny found himself as a backing dancer for the great Jimmy Tarbuck at the Sandown Pier theatre on the Isle of Wight and from then on he never looked back.

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An archetypal throwback to the vaudevillian days of Light Entertainment Danny has always thrived upon being the ultimate showman which has always influenced his career opportunities. In 1988 Danny auditioned for a part in Rob Grant and Doug Naylor’s forthcoming science fiction sitcom Red Dwarf. As a dancer and entertainer, Danny had never entered the world of sitcom but totally identified with the character of The Cat. The Cat is essentially the Light Entertainment element of the show and himself is a throwback to the showbiz era. For Danny, he instantly was able to relate to the world of The Cat as showbiz is in his blood and he had known these types of people throughout his early career so he could get into the mind of the character. This gave The Cat a sense of truth in what otherwise remains a sci-fi fantasy.


Surviving for over a decade, Red Dwarf spawned legions of devoted fans across the world and became a cult amongst the TV fraternity. Yet for some unknown reason the BBC were reluctant to promote it to prime time BBC One despite its high ratings which out performed the BBC Two schedule. For over a decade, both cast and crew were always left wondering if another series would be commissioned until it was finally axed in 1999. The show’s popularity all over the world was quite evident and the cast members were still in demand making public appearances at international Red Dwarf conventions. In fact the cast never really disbanded and were constantly asked to reunite for charity and corporate occasions.


In 2009 the cast of Red Dwarf were approached by UKTV to reunite for a three part special in which all characters would be seen coping with life in the civilised world. Broadcast on Dave between the 10th and the 12th of April 2009 Red Dwarf: Back To Earth perfectly reminded Britain of the bizarre happenings on the famous spaceship. Such success cemented the huge appetite which the sitcom still held and a further series was commissioned two years later. With two additional hit series in the can, it was clear that the following which the original run enjoyed had never gone away and at the time of our interview Danny was preparing himself to start filming a two hour special episode which is set to premiere on Dave in 2020.


Beyond Red Dwarf, in 2011 Danny was cast opposite comedian Ben Miller for murder mystery comedy drama Death In Paradise. Playing the part of police officer Dwayne Myers, this was the first time that Danny had headed up a comedy drama alongside Ben Miller’s DI Richard Poole. Yet again this character was a cheeky chappie which somehow shared some traits with The Cat. As of October 2019, he has still appeared in more episodes of the series than any other actor, despite leaving the previous year. Originally cast as the comedy stooge for the straight laced Poole, the character of Myers grew over subsequent series and the audience were able to see a more vulnerable side.  It wasn’t long before the writers decided to introduce Dwayne’s father to the series which offered Danny the opportunity to work alongside one of his heroes. The legendary Don Warrington was cast as Commissioner Selwyn Patterson and had numerous scenes alongside Danny’s character which was a stand out moment for the star who has accomplished a great amount over his forty year career.


In 2018 Danny was delighted when his agent received a phone call inviting him to join the line-up of that year’s heavyweight Strictly Come Dancing. A Light Entertainment stalwart, Danny seemed the obvious choice to regain his Saturday night sparkle. Having known the producer for years, Danny had been desperate to be part of the show since its very conception but just had yet to receive that all important phone call. Yet when it did, it seemed to be something that he was born to do. Partnered with the current British National Champions in Latin Amy Dowden, Danny reached the eighth week of the competition before leaving following a controversial dance-off which pitted them against cricketer Graeme Swan and Oti Mabouse. Despite the early exit, Danny has no regrets about taking part in the show as it reminded audiences and producers of his unique talents as an all -round entertainer and was a contributing catalyst in the development of his new nationwide tour I’ve Gotta Be Me which is currently delighting audiences up and down the country.


Now into his fourth decade in entertainment, Danny remains in high demand on TV and theatre and despite enjoying an extremely varied career, he’s stayed loyal to his first love for Light Entertainment. Over forty years since his first pivotal meeting with  the legendary Dougie Squires, Danny owes a lot to the man who taught him the principles of the industry. In short Danny John-Jules has always been and will always be a supremely talented performer of the very highest order and it was an honour to speak to him.