HIS career started on the dance floor before he became a creature evolved from a cat.

The roles were literally light years apart but being stranded in space turned out to be the thing that made Danny John-Jules a star.

He was to play ‘Cat’, a vain human-like species evolved over three million years, after Dave Lister accidently wiped out the entire crew of mining ship Red Dwarf.

Part sci-fi, part comedy, no one was quite sure what to make of Rob Grant and Doug Naylor’s creation at first – including Danny.

He said: “When I first read the script for Red Dwarf, and especially after getting the job, I thought to myself: ‘This is either going to be the biggest pile of rubbish or it’s going to be astronomical’.”

Danny’s audition did not fill him with much hope either.

The 53-year-old added: “Ed Bye was the floor manager and I’m honoured to have auditioned for him when he progressed to directing.

“I was the first person to audition for Cat but a mix up in times meant that I went into the room unknowingly half an hour late.

“And with the writers, BBC’s Peter Risdale-Scott, who commissioned Red Dwarf, and producer Paul Jackson all watching, no apology was offered. The rest is folklore.”

The feline species is known for being aloof so perhaps that was what helped Danny get his claws into the role.

He joined Craig Charles’ space bum Dave, Chris Barrie’s pompous and deluded hologram Arnold Rimmer and Robert Llewellyn’s downtrodden, but mischievous, android Kryten.

Their galactic misadventures have become one of the best loved British comedies since 1988 and the series has recently been resurrected by TV channel Dave. Danny, who has written and directed a short film called Bucky, also revealed that a new series has been ‘pencilled in’ for midway through next year.

He said: “Whenever I get together with those old gits, I met all those years ago as a young, arrogant, self-centred, braggadocios, wannabe thespian, I realise that in the ‘cocky department’, it wasn't just me.

“You need those attributes to truly conquer a character.

In the meantime, Danny is returning to classic British sci-fi with the stage show of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, one of Red Dwarf’s biggest influences.

He will be the ‘Voice of the Book’ for the live ‘radio’ show at the Opera House in Manchester on Tuesday when fans will be rediscovering Vogons, Babel Fish and Marvin the Paranoid Android.

Danny, whose first experience on the screen was a crime prevention film when he was 14, is stepping into the shoes of the acerbic Peter Jones and the avuncular William Franklyn.

They narrated the original Hitchhiker’s radio series but have both sadly died.

He added: “Stepping into the shoes of one legend is bad enough, but stepping into the shoes of two who have played the same part is a double honour.

“I grew up watching these guys on TV when I was a kid.

“I think anytime you step in front of a camera, a microphone or onto a stage, you walk on carrying huge amounts of responsibility.

Danny, who was in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, has also been filming BBC’s Death in Paradise in Guadeloupe over the last three summers.

The third series is coming in January in which Danny plays laid-back police officer Dwayne Myers.

“The show has had a meteoric rise from its first airing,” he said.

“I really wanted to do a musical again and had been auditioning for The Wizard Of Oz and Shrek.

“Both endeavours were unsuccessful. Needless to say those shows have long gone and Death in Paradise is going from strength to strength, showing in about 130 territories.

“I love slipping from drama to comedy and feel blessed that I have a nice cross section of people who like the characters I perform.”

n Danny John-Jules will play the ‘Voice of the Book’ in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy on Tuesday with comedian Shappi Korshandi narrating the show on Wednesday at The Opera House.

They will join Simon Jones as Arthur Dent, other members of the original cast and comedian Mitch Benn as Zaphod Beeblebrox.

Tickets are from £19. Visit atgtickets/manchester.com or call 0844 871 3018