Paul Nicholls on his TV return in Ackley Bridge
Ackley Bridge actor Paul Nicholls on the challenges of being a childhood star and his own schooldays
The young stars of C4 drama Ackley Bridge need not go too far for career advice because Paul Nicholls knows all about growing up on screen.
Having made his acting debut aged 10 in ITV’S Children’s Ward, the Bolton-born actor played Tim Marshall in CBBC drama The Biz before becoming a household name in 1996 after joining Eastenders as troubled teenager Joe Wicks.
In recent years Paul’s co-starred in, among other things, Law
Order: UK and In the Club, but in Ackley Bridge, his character, PE teacher Steve Bell, takes centre stage.
While Steve’s doing everything he can to make the school’s integrated rugby team a success, he worries about how closely his head teacher wife Mandy Carter (Jo Joyner) is working with school sponsor Sadiq Nawaz (Adil Ray).
Here, Paul, 38, tells us about his schooldays and reuniting with Jo…
What appealed to you about Ackley Bridge? It’s about people growing closer as human beings, whether romantically or the idea of different communities edging closer to each other. It reminds me of the first play I did called Yoiks, Oiks! It was about a private school and a low-end state school and how they had to mix. The Ackley Bridge scripts reminded me of that .
What’s Steve and
Mandy’s marriage like?
Mandy and Steve’s relationship is very back and forth and there are lots of obstacles to overcome. But there’s something holding them together. Steve likes that she’s a strong woman. He admires her and because he’s such a child, she has to take him in hand sometimes. They’re very attracted to each other and they make each other laugh.
You worked with Jo Joyner on BBC drama Candy Cabs in 2011. What was it like working with her again? When I worked with her on Candy Cabs she was like this glammed-up, blonde party girl; it was a very comical character and she blew me away. But to work with her on this, and see her play a very different character with so many nuances, was brilliant.
You filmed in the winter. Was it chilly having to wear your PE kit? Yes! The last day filming was really cold. We had a mini-van to get in, and as soon as we cut, everyone piled in. We just wanted that day to end.
What were you like at school?
I can’t tell you that! I was never there – but I did have a few detentions.
Did your acting work affect you at school? There was an episode of The Biz where I sang a song. When I walked into assembly the day after it came out, the whole school started singing the song. Everyone was pointing at me and I just wanted to die! But then I’m a bit weird –
I’m an actor, yet I don’t like attention!
Paul as Joe Wicks, with michael French
as his dad david You boy! mr Carter confronts a troublemaker
The whole school was pointing at me and I just wanted to die!