Rapper Ice-T has paid a touching tribute to John Challis.
The Bristol-born actor, who played Terrance Aubrey “Boycie” Boyce in Only Fools and Horses, died “peacefully in his sleep, after a long battle with cancer”, according to a statement released by his family today (September 9).
The 79-year-old’s death has prompted a flood of tributes, including one from US hip hop artist Ice-T, who tweeted: “I just heard John passed away.. He somehow became a Twitter friend.. I’m very sad. Although I never met him in person.. Internet friends can become close.. RIP.”
The rap legend, 63, whose real name is Tracy Marrow, shared a video of Challis playing air drums and air guitar to a cover of Ace of Spaces by Ice-T’s band Body Count.
The friendship appeared to start in December 2019, when Challis tweeted a picture of himself next to a Christmas tree and wrote a message to Ice-T and the rapper’s wife Coco Austin and daughter Chanel: “Merry Christmas to you, Coco and Chanel.”
Ice-T replied: “Merry Christmas John!” When fans asked how he knew who Challis was, he wrote: “Because I live on Earth.”
He added: “FYI: Regarding previous Tweets.. John STARTED the Tweets by wishing Coco and Chanel Merry Christmas…”
The relationship continued, with Challis even showing off Body Count-themed Christmas cards he had received from his New Jersey-born friend.
The tribute tweeted today by Ice-T has been liked and shared more than 18,000 times on Twitter, with one fan writing: “One of the best things to ever come out of Twitter was your friendship with John. Sorry for your loss”
Another added: “Your recognition of John is appreciated by us who noticed the online friendship and found it so endearing. Two legends from different worlds that shaped my musical and comedic tastes, so thanks to you both & I feel your sadness today. Rest In peace Boycie.”
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Challis was born in Sion Hill, Clifton, but when he was one year old, his family moved to south-east London. His association with Bristol did not end there, though, as outdoor scenes of Only Fools and Horses were shot in the city.
Whitemead House, the Ashton Gate tower block opened in the week that Nelson Mandela was first jailed, became the famous Nelson Mandela House seen in the show.
Challis’ family said today: “It is with heavy hearts that we bring you such sad news. Our dear friend and yours, John Challis, has died peacefully in his sleep, after a long battle with cancer.
“He will always be loved for being ‘Boycie’ and leaves a great legacy of work that will continue to bring pleasure and smiles for many years to come.
“Please respect the privacy of John’s family and friends at this difficult time, and be assured that in the future there will be an occasion to celebrate John’s life – when everyone will be welcome to come along.”
The news has seen tributes pour in for the beloved star:
His family said donations can be made in his memory to his chosen animal charities Cuan Wildlife Rescue, Tusk or the British Hedgehog Preservation Society.
Earlier this month, Challis cancelled a 30-date speaking tour — which had been set to include an appearance at Clifton’s Redgrave Theatre on September 23 — after only one show, due to ill health.