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Sue Lawley's castaway this week is the actor Geoffrey Palmer. Best known for his roles in The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin, Butterflies and As Time Goes By, he had to wait a long time to become a household name and national treasure. Unsure what career to pursue after a spell in the army, he fell into acting because a girlfriend was involved in amateur dramatics. He worked in repertory theatre throughout the 60s and 70s and ended up working with John Osborne during the Royal Court's heyday in West of Suez, and later with Laurence Olivier.

With a face "reminiscent of a bloodhound mourning a lost scent", Palmer has, by his own admission "cornered the market in playing dull, plodding men". Many of his characters live out lives characterised by petty worries, suburban frustration and missed opportunities, but he plays them brilliantly, and with a sympathy that elevates them to the status of unlikely heroes. Geoffrey's grumpy on-screen persona has also recently led to him doing the na