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Programme Name: EastEnders - Portraits 2017 - TX: n/a - Episode: EastEnders - 'Woody' Woodward (No. n/a) - Picture Shows:  'Woody' Woodward (LEE RYAN) - (C) BBC - Photographer: Jack Barnes

‘I’m the new Peggy Mitchell!’ says Lee Ryan on his role in EastEnders

EastEnders newcomer and boy band Blue member Lee Ryan talks more about his new role in EastEnders…

He’s been part of the chart-topping band, Blue, and he caused a stir in Celebrity Big Brother. Lately, Lee Ryan has been adding another string to his bow – a part in EastEnders! The 33-year-old plays Woody Woodward, a cheeky traveller who takes an instant liking to Whitney Carter (Shona McGarty).

“I’ve got acting experience, but this is a totally different kettle of fish,” Lee told Soaplife. “The pace is so fast. When I come off set, I go home to learn lines. One time, I was up until 3am and I got up at 5am to make sure I’d learned them. I don’t mind being tired, but I do mind forgetting my lines!”

Did Duncan James, now in Hollyoaks, give you any tips?
“Hollyoaks is quite different to film as it uses a single camera. Antony Costa did Holby City, too, don’t forget. We should go into the Guinness Book of Records as the band that’s done the most continuing drama!”

Were you nervous on your first day?
“I don’t really get nervous. I’m actually a trained actor. I went to drama school and, before I joined Blue, I went to LA to meet a producer. But I was only young and my mum said I couldn’t go back until I’d finished school. When I did, I was all set to go to America to start an acting career, but I got a call from Duncan, who said to come and audition for this band called Blue.”

So acting had to take a back seat?
“It really did. Just before the band signed with EMI, I got a call from EastEnders to say they had a part for me. I said it was too late as I’d signed with Blue and they said I should ring them if the band didn’t work out!”

And you have auditioned for EastEnders since, haven’t you?
“Yes, I went up for the part of Martin Fowler. I did a scene with Lacey Turner (Stacey Fowler). They said, ‘We really like you, but we’ve got to give it to someone else because this role isn’t you’. Now I know why as Martin Fowler isn’t right for me.”

How did you get the part of Woody?
“I was making a solo album in Germany. It was about some of the stuff I’ve been through, my experiences after Big Brother, after rehab, etc, and I did it for a whole year. While I was out there, EastEnders called me and asked me to meet the new executive producer Sean O’Connor about a part.”

What happened?
“They told me it was just a meeting. I did a monologue and they rang me the next day to say I’d got the part. I was at the gym. When I phoned my mum to tell her, she burst into tears. She has in a hairdressing salon and I said ‘Don’t you dare tell anyone!’”

Do you think it’s better coming into the soap slightly older?
“Yes. You can put more light and shade into a character when you’ve lived. I’ve had enough trials and tribulations to do that. You have to put some of your own personal life into a character.”

Were you pleased to be behind the bar at The Vic?
“I’m the new Peggy Mitchell! I want to be on Pointless. You know, it will be the question where they ask ‘Who managed the Queen Vic?’ and Lee Ryan will be the top answer. Well, the one that hardly anyone guesses…”

Have you ever worked in a bar?
“Yeah, I lied about my age and said I was 16, but I was only 15. I got sacked because I sprayed everyone with the water pump. I went into Blue a year later.”

Are you going to focus more on acting from now on?
“I’ve got a few things going on at the moment. Blue might do another album, I made a solo album and I’ve written a movie, which I’m also producing. It’s a horror. I’ve also written an eight-part TV mini series. I love writing. If I’m not watching movies or playing my guitar, I’m writing.”

What do you think when you look back at the early Blue days?
“I was 16 and I was a really young 16. Most people of that age go on Club 18-30 holidays and do silly things, but I did them all in the public eye. People were like ‘He’s bad!’ But I was just a kid, that’s all. I don’t moan about it, though, because I’ve had a fantastic career and it still continues. Whenever I fall off the ladder, I land on my feet… so someone up there’s looking after me.”

Do you think Celebrity Big Brother was good training for a soap?
“Yeah! Part of me wishes I’d never done that because I got a lot of flak. People forgot that it’s a game show and that’s what it’s all about. I kissed a couple of girls. So what? I’ve never watched it back. I refuse to. They asked me to go back, but I declined the offer.”

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