18/02/2013 08:24 GMT | Updated 18/02/2013 08:26 GMT

Richard Briers Dead: 'Good Life' Star Dies Having Enjoyed Long And Varied Career (PICTURES)

Richard Briers, who died on Monday aged 79, will be best remembered for his performance as Tom Good in the 1970s BBC1 sitcom The Good Life.

Briers starred alongside Felicity Kendal, about a couple who drop out of the rat race in Surbiton, south west London, to enjoy a life of simple self-sufficiency.

In an interview carried out only a matter of weeks ago, the actor told how his health was failing after being diagnosed with emphysema five years ago, which he attributed to years of smoking, although he gave up 10 years ago.

Briers and his wife, Annie

"I was diagnosed five years ago and didn't think it would go quite as badly as it has. It's a bugger, but there it is. I used to love smoking.

"It's totally my fault. So, I get very breathless, which is a pain in the backside. Trying to get upstairs... oh God, it's ridiculous. Of course, when you're bloody nearly 80 it's depressing, because you've had it anyway."

His agent, Christopher Farrar, of Hamilton Hodell, said: "Richard was a wonderful man, a consummate professional and an absolute joy to work alongside.

"Following his recent discussion of his battle with emphysema, I know he was incredibly touched by the strength of support expressed by friends and the public.

"He has a unique and special place in the hearts of so many. He will be greatly missed. Our thoughts and deepest sympathy go to his family at this sad time."

His varied career saw him narrating the 1970s children's cartoon series Roobarb And Custard, as well as adding his voice to the animated version of Watership Down.

Although long known for his comedy roles in film and TV, a new strand to his career unfolded when he joined Sir Kenneth Branagh's Renaissance Theatre Company in 1987, and went on to work on a number of classical roles.

Sir Kenneth spoke fondly as he paid tribute to Briers today. saying: "He was a national treasure, a great actor and a wonderful man. He was greatly loved and he will be deeply missed."

They worked together on Henry V, Peter's Friends, Much Ado About Nothing and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein during their lengthy association.

Rada-trained Briers made his West End debut in the late 1950s in Gilt And Gingerbread, and went on to work on a number of British films - Bottoms Up, Murder She Said, The Girl On The Boat and Fathom, alongside Raquel Welch.

He struck gold as an actor with his many sitcoms in the 1970s and 1980s, although none more so than The Good life in which he starred with Penelope Keith, Felicity Kendal and the late Paul Eddington, who died in 1995.

Briers also returned to the stage many times in his career, with numerous roles in the works of Alan Ayckbourn, including Relatively Speaking, Absurd Person Singular and Absent Friends.