Ice-T Mourns Loss of Surprising Twitter Friend John Challis, 'Only Fools and Horses' Actor

John Challis, the British actor who starred in the long-running BBC sitcom Only Fools and Horses, died on Sunday following a battle with cancer. Law & Order: Special Victims Unit star Ice-T shared a tribute to the actor, noting that the two became unlikely friends on Twitter. Challis, who was planning a speaking tour until his poor health forced him to cancel, was 79.

"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," Ice-T tweeted. He included a video Challis tweeted to him in March 6, in which Challis played air guitar to Motorhead's "Ace of Spades." "You haven't got any ABBA have you?" Challis asked Ice-T in the clip.

On Sunday, Challis' family told the BBC he died "peacefully in his sleep, after a long battle with cancer." BBC chief content officer Charlotte Moore also called Challis a "wonderful actor who will forever be remembered for playing Boycie in Only Fools and Horses - a character so well loved by millions." His family added that there will be "an occasion to celebrate John's life" in the future.

Challis was born in Bristol, England and began his career on television in the late 1960s. In 1981, he earned his career-defining role as Herman Terrance Aubrey "Boycie" Boyce in the BBC sitcom Only Fools and Horses. The show ran seven series, produced between 1981 and 2003. Boycie was such a popular character that writer John Sullivan created a spin-off for Challis, The Green Green Grass, which aired from 2005 to 2009. Challis continued playing the persona at fan conventions and other events. In January, he played Boycie in a clip encouraging people to wear face coverings during the coronavirus pandemic. This year, Challis planned to tour the U.K. for a speaking tour, but it was cancelled after only one performance.

After Challis' death was announced, many of his co-stars shared tributes on social media. "I am heartbroken to hear the news that the legendary actor [Challis] has sadly passed away," Chrissy Rock, who starred in Benidorm with Challis, tweeted Sunday. "John you were a true gentleman and always so loving and supportive towards me. I am thinking of your family and close friends at this hard time. Rest well."