Wednesday, 30 September 2009

WHY DID YOU LEAVE, WAS IT CAUSE YOUR SHIT? - well, sort of actually...

Since leaving EE I get asked quite a few questions quite a lot. Amongst the most common ones are;

1. Aint you working anymore?
2. Why don't you go on strictly come dancing/Im a celebrity etc etc etc...
3. Can you please pay your bill?
4. Did they kill you off?
5. Can you shut up?
6. Can i see your drivers license, sir?
7. Didn't you used to be on the telly?
8. What are you doing in my house?
9. Why are you such a dick?
10. And the most common one, Why'd you leave Eastenders? (why don't you go back?)

This blog is attempting to answer number 10 for once and for all!! here goes...

The familiar sounds of Easties dramatic conclusion came to an end. I sat there for a few moments. My mum, bless her, turned to me and said, as she usually did, "you were good tonight" I sat there for a few more moments trying to work out what the bubbling torment in my stomach was, and how best to articulate it. Was it pleasurable? nope. Was it excitement? no. was it Indigestion? Nearly, but no. "I was shit!" I declared.

It was one of those moments you have, well i have had anyway, a moment of realisation that the certainty you have as a child was ill founded. That things don't always happen how you expect. That sometimes things need to be taken into your own hands. That night i saw myself on t'telly and i was shit, and i knew then that i had to do something about it. I wasn't that dismayed actually, i just knew that something had to be done.

At the time i was 14 and just about as self conscious as i was ever likely to be. Struggling with all the usual teenage boring angsty stuff which is not even worth mentioning just fill in your own and your about there, as well as also being that Kid on the telly (I'm just slightly proud to note that the show was getting about double the audience it is now... ahem) so the realisation i was a shitty actor could've gone pretty badly - could'a'been all sorts of off the rails behavior. Instead I knew that i had a few things to learn and i couldn't just go in day after day and mess about anymore. So i became very serious about things. And that hasn't really gone away since.

At about 18 or so i had another one of those realisation thingys. I had been invited to be amongst a select few from EE's to attend a certain awards show, and not a shitty one either. I took this as quite the compliment and a bit of an achievement on my part, felt like i belonged and all that jazz didn't i? (I'm wiping away a nostalgic tear) So there i was sitting on a table, all suited up and having a little look around at all the faces when a fellow-will remained unnamed - EE cast mate decided to pipe up. "where's my Champagne??" He/She spat out with all the grace of a Dickensien fat gentlemen/madam to the poor sod who was waiting our table. They persisted to whine for it and moaned that they shouldn't have to pay for it either. The rest of the table found this to be quite hilarious, out of politeness?, i don't know but in any case everyone seemed to laugh a lot. That's when the realisation hit me. This is why i get heckled in the street. This is why a certain ownership is felt by people over soap actors more then any other. I could see the looks we as a table were getting, and even heard it as well, "would be that lot wouldn't it" . The blind arrogance of said individual was seen as typical of soap actors (its not by the way, but not that rare neither) . It was then i realised that i was associated with this. It was then i realised I was also regarded like this. It was then i realised I wanted to leave the show.

At this point I'd like to say, I didn't want to leave because I looked down on the person from the paragraph above, or EE or any soaps. No fucking way. I loved that show. It was my nursemaid for years, It provided me with work, money, friends and a career. But like most kids i knew i had to leave home to grow up some.

I had to get away from being comfortable. I felt repulsed that I was pigeon holed with the likes of the champagne demander above, the kiss and tell boys, the cheeky chappy fellas that considered themselves actors because they manage to say a few words with a frown on their face in front of a camera (yes that was a rant)... anway I had a craft to learn and i got to a point where I wasn't going to learn anymore from being silver spooned. I came to despise the naivety that so called celebrity gives by default. naivety should be clarified; It bred in me a self assurance i knew wasn't warranted. I left that show having been there for 10 years. I had been closeted from a lot of things and so flew the nest and have been flapping my wings ever since.

The reason I started this blog is another blog in itself but i suppose in a simplified form i have a lot of opinions and have been afraid what people might think of them, in the past. I also don't like the idea of selling oneself private lives to newspapers and magazines either. And i won't really reveal anything private here, just its a nice unedited forum on which i can say a few things about a few things.

To wrap up I recently had another of those realisation thingymajigs, I realised that no matter how much I engage in politeness and keeping people happy i will always piss someone off so why not be happy and say what i feel, and btw I still think I'm a shit actor but thats why I'm still learning.

Anyway, as usual this is written all at speed and without much editing so please excuse spelling and i's instead of I's



  1. Great post James. Like Jerry Seinfeld, you left on a high note. Why you left makes sense to you, and we should support that. As long time viewers we are so fond of your character and what it added to the show. If you were a terrible actor, we never noticed.

    EE has quite a following in the States. We appreciate its layers and vast difference from the American dramas, where everyone has had too much plastic surgery. The continuity lets us draw connections to the families and past events on the show. You are on our current storylines on public television, so many of us are reliving the "Martin " years.

    If wishes were fishes, you would come back for the 25th anniversary next year. You've moved on to new horizons and we hope the best for you in all things.

  2. I wouldn't go so far as to say you were shit but if you think you were then it's a good way of giving you a bit of drive and energy to make yourself better.

  3. I have a lot of respect for what you are doing; taking the tougher road. Many people wouldn't have either the courage of their convictions or the self-realization, to push themselves away from such a lucrative trough, but I think, in the long run, the result will be a career that is more satisfying for you, and has more longevity.

    And by the way, you weren't 'shit'. Here in NY, on PBS, we are currently watching episodes from 2003 and so you are still in the thick of things. And watching the PBS episodes now, after already having seen the current episodes, (up until when you made your exit in the black cab), it is easy to see the progress you'd already made, by the end, from your efforts at improving your craft.

    Best of luck on your journey!

  4. James,

    You write quite well and a compelling story I might add! Have you considered writing a book? How many books have been written by young EastEnders cast members who were with the show so long? Probably next to none.

    What was it like growing up on such an iconic British show? How did it affect your family life?

    Also, the fact that you didn't take the regular celebrity route when you left, with all the reality shows, your work with Wendy Richard and the love of your craft, which you strive to make better, by study, theatre and reflection.

    I don't know, but it sounds like a good story to me!

    Anyway, as some of the others I watch the show in America and we are currently in 2003 (you're currently in prison :-( Oh, well, I have a feeling you'll be released.

    I was in London the week of your final episode and saw the three of you go away in the taxi.

    I don't think you're a shit actor! Wish I had the opportunity to see you on stage....hopefully I'll be spending more time in London and you'll be back on stage.

    Anyway, I enjoy the honesty of your blogs and wish you the best. Take care of yourself.