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Jim's career goes pop; Hollyoaks hunk James Redmond is leaving the teen soap for Saturday morning TV. JULIA KUTTNER reports.

Byline: JULIA KUTTNER

HE'S swapped the back streets of Chester for the bright lights of the pop world, but James Redmond isn't about to let the promise of all that high living go to his head.

The Hollyoaks hunk has spent the last few years pulling in viewers to the cult Channel 4 teen soap as mild-mannered Finn.

That's all about to change when he takes over where Ant and Dec left off, presenting Saturday morning pop show SM:tv.

Joining Cat Deeley in front of the cameras in January, he will be meeting the biggest names in pop every week.

In his usual laidback style, James says: "I'm a massive fan of CD:UK and SM:tv and can't wait to work with Cat.

"If I can be half as entertaining as Ant and Dec I'll be very happy."

If recent rumours are anything to go by, the 28-year-old is no stranger to what's going on in the land of pop, as he was dating Myleene Klass from Hear'say.

James is no stranger to being in front of the camera either. He spent years pounding catwalks and photographic studios for a living before turning to acting.

But he says not one person told him he was good looking during his modelling days.

"It wasn't the way male models got treated," he says.

"Girls were always told they looked beautiful or great but the only compliment I ever got paid professionally was someone telling me I had nice hair.

"Now I get lots of fan mail and it has to be censored before I see it."

As a model, James appeared in a string of TV adverts and did fashion shoots for companies like Calvin Klein.

But it was never a lifelong ambition to go into modelling or acting.

"I left school at 15 and travelled around Europe doing lots of different jobs to pay my way.

"I left school early on the suggestion of my headmaster. I wasn't an awful pupil but we had our differences.

"I had a great time living in Greece and Italy and then I fell into modelling.

"It was a lot of fashion and adverts - I was nearly naked in one beer advert but they chopped my bits out, shame," he says, laughing.

But after a while, the world of modelling began to grate with James.

"I was modelling at 21 or 22 and I thought: 'What am I doing?' I just stayed with it, but at 26 I thought: 'No more.'

"I'd spent a lot of time just sitting around. I made it work and read a lot of books and learnt languages, but it wasn't what I wanted to do any more."

James earned thousands as a model but, after five years in the profession, was delighted to make the break into acting.

He was so successful he kept homes in London, Milan and New York, but says he spent so much money he never had any spare money to burn.

"I had apartments all over the place which I was renting out, but I seemed to spend all the cash."

James has been more careful with his money as an actor.

"Getting the full time job with Hollyoaks has made me better with money," he says.

"When I was modelling it was a bit crazy. We'd go to all these free parties but spend a fortune on cabs. After castings I'd be in all these very expensive areas, full of fashion stores, and go shopping.

"Now I don't have any time off.

"I spend money on music magazines and going to gigs but I am not a label junkie for clothes."

As a youngster, James didn't have the usual interests you would have expected.

"When I was younger I didn't look up to music and film stars - I didn't have idols - but I did write into comics all the time. That was my passion," he reveals.

"Other people used to have idols they wanted to meet, but I was just into the magazines."

In the late summer James appeared in a late night spin-off series of Hollyoaks.

"It was really good, the topics were more adult," he says.

"I haven't been stripping down and returning to my modelling days, though, but I really like my character Finn.

"Everyone seems to like him. My dad told me he had the kind of part that wouldn't be killed off because he is most people's second favourite character. He's the safe and steady one.

"He's not exactly me - he's younger than I am and been divorced and I've never even been married."

James may have had a thing with Hear'say beauty Myleene, he was also rumoured to have dated Hollyoaks co star Elize Du Toit, who plays Izzy Cornwell. He refuses to either confirm or deny anything.

"I don't like talking about partners," he says. "When I modelled, I went out with models but always kept that private then. I don't have fixed plans for the future yet either, maybe I'll marry and have a family but I'm not ready to say."

There are several tribute websites dedicated to James and his character Finn. Many of the contributors want to marry him and others liken him to pop pin-up Damon Albarn.

"It makes me laugh now. Especially when people say that they think Damon and I look alike," says James.

"We know each other and have played football together but I can't really see that we are too similar," he says.

James loves football. In his time at Hollyoaks, he has whiled away many an hour or two between scenes kicking a ball about with the other guys in the cast.

"It helped keep us all fit, too," he says. "The girls would complain that they put on weight sitting around the green room eating snacks all the time."

Being a soap star could sometimes make for a tricky social life, but James reckons that he got off lightly.

"A lot of the others in the show got a lot of grief when they went out but not me," he says. "People came up to the others and had a go if there was something happening in the storyline that upset them, but Finn has always been pretty nice.

"That's very lucky. I have had a good deal. I even like Finn's clothes. There are quite a few second hand things he wears and it's been fun.

"I have to say I am not like him in real life. He can be boring and I can be laid back - my dream is to play someone really evil. That would be a challenge."

In the meantime, James will just have to make do with the more upbeat world of pop and SM:tv.

SM:tv, 9.25am, CD:UK, 11.30am, Saturday, ITV. James takes over in January
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Title Annotation:Soap Gossip
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Dec 8, 2001
Words:1143
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