the ex fac­tor

For­mer Eastenders star James Alexan­drou tells us about his new role in stage play The Knowl­edge…

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What are you do­ing now, James? I’m ap­pear­ing in a stage play called

The Knowl­edge at Lon­don’s Char­ing Cross The­atre un­til 11 Novem­ber. What’s it about? It’s a com­edy-drama about a group of men do­ing the train­ing, known as The Knowl­edge, re­quired to be­come a black cab driver. It was orig­i­nally a TV film made in 1979 and it’s some­thing of a clas­sic. I’d never seen it be­fore I be­came in­volved with this pro­duc­tion as it was a bit be­fore my time. But I’ve caught up with it and it re­ally is an iconic piece of film. Who do you play? A char­ac­ter called Gor­don Weller. He’s sex­ist and ig­no­rant most of the time. Think about the male char­ac­ters in cop drama Life on Mars and you get the pic­ture. He cheats on his wife and he’s re­ally not very nice – but he’s great to play. And there’s a con­nec­tion to Eastenders, as well, isn’t there? Fun­nily enough, in the TV film, Gor­don was played by the late ac­tor Michael El­ph­ick, who was in Eastenders. He played Harry Slater. Ac­claimed ac­tress Maureen Lip­man is in­volved in the stage play, isn’t she? Yes. She’s di­rect­ing it and she’s fan­tas­tic. The play is in her heart and soul be­cause it was writ­ten by her late hus­band, Jack Rosen­thal, and she played Gor­don’s long-suf­fer­ing wife, Val, in the TV film. Do you feel there’s ex­tra pres­sure on you be­cause of Maureen’s in­put? There’s maybe a bit be­cause she is who she is and she knows the play so well. But I want to do my ab­so­lute best when­ever I’m in­volved in any pro­duc­tion. Would you have liked to have done The Knowl­edge for real? Not at all! In prepa­ra­tion for this role, I went to a talk given for peo­ple who are hop­ing to do it and it’s so pres­surised. It takes about four years and you ac­tu­ally have to pay to do it. You don’t earn any­thing dur­ing that time ei­ther. My twin sis­ter started do­ing it some time ago, but she gave up af­ter a year. It was such hard go­ing. Do you ever watch En­ders these days? Oc­ca­sion­ally, if I hap­pen to be round at my mum and dad’s when it’s on. I also tune in from time to time to see how Jimmy Bye is do­ing play­ing my old char­ac­ter, Martin Fowler. I think he’s do­ing great. Do you ever wish you hadn’t left? Not re­ally. They asked me back when they wanted to bring Martin back, but I said ‘No’. It was the wrong time. I’m re­ally pleased they found some­one as good as Jimmy, though. I was at­tached to Martin and I’m happy know­ing he’s in safe hands.

For more in­for­ma­tion on The Knowl­edge, visit www.char­ingcrossthe­atre.co.uk

Emer­gency call: James in a 2015 Ca­su­alty episode… Big break: Af­ter En­ders, James ap­peared in BBC drama se­ries Miss­ing… Happy in The Knowl­edge: ‘I want to do my ab­so­lute best,’ says James… Early stage: James in the 2008 play, In My Name… Broth­erly love: A young Martin with Todd Carty as En­ders’ Mark Fowler…

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