He was named after Rod Taylor and Charlton Athletic and is the secondary main character of the series.
Rodney is the younger brother of Derek "Del Boy" Trotter, and is after Del the main character in the series. "Rodders", as he is affectionately known by his big brother, has stuck by Del through thick and thin. According to Del, he was still in nappies at the age of four when Del received a painting from their grandmother. Del also claimed in "Mother Nature's Son" that Rodney was still being breast fed, until he was three and a half years old, but this was probably not true and said only to embarrass Rodney. As a child, Rodney was "all snot and Marmite" with a "funny haircut". After leaving school with GCEs in Art and Mathematics, he was expelled from Art College for smoking cannabis. After being expelled from university, Del took it upon himself to give Rodney a job as an assistant market trader (or "Financial Advisor") and sidekick. He briefly served as Chairman of the Tenants Association. For 20 years from 1981, Rodney had worked in that pitiful position until the year 2001 when Del was banned from being the managing Director of any business by a court. When Trotters Independent Traders was about to end, Del knew that Rodney wasn't banned from managing a firm and so after 20 years as a pitiful assistant market trader, Rodney finally stepped up as Managing Director of T.I.T.Co, which allowed Del to keep on running the company secretly.
Rodney is the son of Joan Mavis Trotter, grandson of Ted Trotter, and great-nephew of Albert Trotter. He has a nephew named Damien. Rodney is not as streetwise as his brother. Del's comments whenever Rodney makes a mistake have become catchphrases. They include "Plonker", "Dipstick" and the definitive "What a 42 carat plonker you really are!".
For some time, Rodney worked as Financial Director of T.I.T.Co (a job which included such executive tasks as loading the van). Rodney has a strong conscience and is often morally outraged by Del's business activities, such as dealing in stolen goods. Despite his ethical objections, Rodney is usually enticed into Del's money making schemes by Del's persuasive charms and the temptation of financial rewards.
In the early episodes, Rodney was troubled by his drug sentence, and also by the fact that he had a very poor job, and lived in a very grotty flat. He was worried that he would never find independence, which he really did long for. Rodney found a supportive partner in Cassandra, who he met at a computer training course, and married her in 1989. Her father Alan employed Rodney at his company Parry Print Ltd (at least until Rodney accidentally quit that job), and, with some financial assistance from Del, he was able to buy a flat and finally move out of Nelson Mandela house. Rodney and Cassandra now have a young daughter called Joan, who Rodney named after his late mother.
Rodney went on the run for two days after Del Boy convinced him, as a joke, that he was known as "The Peckham Pouncer," when a mentally unstable, seemingly drunk woman accused him of attacking her when he had only helped her from falling over.
Throughout the series, Rodney's assumed father was Reg Trotter, although his actual paternity was occasionally called into question, such as in the 1983 and 1987 Christmas specials "Thicker than Water" and "The Frog's Legacy" due to the unavoidable fact that he shared little resemblance to either Del or Reg in terms of appearance or personalty. In the final Only Fools and Horses episode, the 2003 Christmas special "Sleepless in Peckham", Rodney discovered through an old photograph of the very first Jolly Boys' Outing that he and Del did not actually share the same father. His biological father was revealed to be local gentleman thief, Freddie "The Frog" Robdal. This is confirmed in the prequel Rock & Chips.
Rodney's middle name, "Charlton", was revealed to the world during his wedding in 1989. The registrar officiating wisely decided to leave it out and refer to him as simply "Rodney Trotter" when the guests from the Nag's Head could not contain their laughter. Rodney's mother Joan gave him the name because she was a fan of Charlton Athletic F.C. In the 2010 prequel "Rock & Chips", it is also revealed that Joan named Rodney after the "handsome actor" Rod Taylor.
These days the only things that trouble Rodney are his nephew Damien - about whom he has recurring nightmares - and the fact that Trigger has been calling him "Dave" since 1981, as well as the millions of pounds the family lost after they struck it rich, putting them over 50k in debt.
Rodney's personality was based on the experiences of series creator John Sullivan, who also had an older sibling and, like Rodney, claimed to have been a dreamer and an idealist in his youth.
Just why does Trigger call him "Dave"
John Sullivan says 'In the first episode Del says to Trigger "You know my brother" and Trig says "Yeah, of course, how are you doing Dave?". It was just a little gag on the fact that he obviously didn't know his name. Even after Rodney explains in "Homesick" that Dave isn't his name, Trig still gets it wrong. He's got it into his head that Del's brother is called Dave and in the end nothing Rodney or anyone else can say will budge Trigger from the fact that his name is Dave.
Confusion over age
Rodney's year of birth varies with individual episodes. In "Big Brother" (Season 1, 1981), his age given is 23 (late 1957/early 1958), in "As One Door Closes" (Season 4, 1985), Rodney is 24 (late 1960/early 1961), and in "The Unlucky Winner Is..." (series 6, 1989), he is 26 (late 1962/early 1963), and in "Modern Men" (1996), Rodney is 34 (1962). Rodney's age when his stepfather absconded also tends to vary, with an age range of 3-6. The BBC comedy guide for Only Fools and Horses clearly states that Rodney's birthday is February 26; but this is contradicted in "Sleepless in Peckham", when Cassandra mistakes Freddie the Frog in an old 1960s photo of the first Jolly Boys' Outing as Rodney, Rodney corrects her claiming that the photo was taken in July, 1960, before he was born (according to Rodney), thus making Rodney's date of birth as the date he reveals it to be in "The Unlucky Winner Is..." 2 November. This is confirmed when Rodney's birth is shown in the 2010 prequel Rock & Chips.