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Interview Nick Bailey: The doctor they struck off; He was thrown out of drama school, but Nick Bailey knew that one day he'd be famous. Now the EastEnders newcomer is making his critics eat their words.

Byline: Angela Hagan

Although there's nothing smug about Nick Bailey, he could be forgiven a smile of satisfaction at being finally proved right. For when he was kicked out of drama school as a no-hoper he held firm to his dream of becoming a star, and is now in one of TV's top-rated shows.

He plays EastEnders' newest resident Dr Anthony Trueman, who is the target of Kat Slater's affections, much to the horror of his domineering mum Audrey. And Nick's arrival in Albert Square is one in the eye for all those critics who said he'd never make it.

"I was told in my final tutorial at LAMDA that they'd discussed my future. They went round the table and not one of them stuck up for me," says Nick, 29. "I remember looking my tutor in the eye when he told me and thinking, 'You have no idea how determined I am to prove you wrong'. I don't want to put people off drama college but I will stress that in this business you have to have a belief in your abilities which is unshakeable."

And Nick should know. He is all smiles today but still remembers that period as the worst of his life.

"I went so low the only way out for me was up, it was a very depressing time," says Birmingham-born Nick, who won a place to London's acclaimed drama school but was refused a grant.

"I tried to tell LAMDA that I was broke and it was probably better if I took a year off to earn enough to pay for my studies. But they told me to worry about the money later and that they wanted me to start at the beginning of the new term," he explains.

With pounds 100 in his pocket and only the clothes he stood in, Nick blagged a place to live.

"My mate Mike and I shared a living room for pounds 40 each a week. It was only a one-bedroom flat and there was already a couple living there. I slept on the couch and Mike slept on the floor. It was very cramped," he says.

After a full day at drama college he would rush off to work as an usher at the Adelphi Theatre in London's West End, returning home to learn his lines and catch up on his studies. Money was tight and he lived on baked beans.

"It was a very difficult time, a real struggle," recalls Nick. "I don't look back on it with fond memories at all.

The root of his despair was the way he felt he'd been made to pay for his working-class roots.

"I don't want to bad-mouth LAMDA but I did have some problems," he says. "I didn't thrive there and I'm not ashamed to talk about it. I found it difficult to focus when I was working so hard in the evenings to pay my course fees and rent. Other students were clearly very wealthy, driving around in cars and living in flats bought for them by their parents. To this day, I don't know how kids from a poor background stand a chance of getting on these courses when they haven't got any financial backing. I got very depressed. I think the tutors could see more potential than I was displaying, but no one asked me why I was not up to scratch. It was like they had no confidence in me."

With one year remaining, Nick was asked to leave. "I felt strangely liberated," he says. "I realised then that if I was to become an actor it would be down to me alone. That same day I was cast by the National Youth Theatre as Brutus in Julius Caesar at the Bloomsbury Theatre. From that I got my first agent, and by Christmas I had my first professional job."

Now he is in one of the most popular shows on television, those times seem like a bad dream, and no one is prouder of Nick's achievements than his family. Born and raised in Birmingham with his younger brother Christian, Nick was a keen violinist and chorister for the Midlands Cathedral Singers. Mum Pam, a former social worker, and musician dad Rick, are now both in their fifties.

Rick sings with a soul band, Delegation, but rather than following his dad into show business, Nick originally wanted to become a barrister. His parents scraped the money together to send him to a private boarding school in Stourbridge which he left with 11 O-levels and four A-levels. He also acquired a passion for acting.

"My English teacher put on a production every year at school," says Nick. "I played Macbeth at 16 and I enjoyed every minute of it. When I got into drama school my parents were not too impressed. They thought I should have at least got a degree behind me. My father knew the business and how hard it was to achieve anything."

His world was rocked in 1996 when his parents split up. "I realised then what it must be like for young people when their parents get divorced," he says. "You love these two people so much that the only thing more hurtful than them no longer loving you is them no longer loving each other. It still felt traumatic for me as an adult.

"Getting married is not something which I'm going to take lightly," adds Nick, even though he appears to have met the love of his life.

"I live with my girlfriend Lisa, who is 28. We've been together a year," he says. "We met at a gym in London where she was a membership manager. The attraction was instant. I was in London to do a read-through for a play and visited the gym as a one-off. We had a really interesting conversation and then I had to go back to Birmingham. I called her later and asked if she'd come out to dinner. Our first date lasted eight hours."

Within two months Nick had moved into Lisa's North London flat. He was working for an American investment bank, unloading boxes, when he got a call to audition as EastEnders' dashing new doctor.

"I was alone in the stockroom when my agent's wife rang and told me I'd got the part. I just jumped up and punched the air, then did a rumba round the room," he grins. "The first person I called was my mum who squealed and said, 'Go away, I've got to tell everyone!' Then I rang Lisa who burst into tears. She said she was very proud of me. I was elated. I still am.

"Lisa has helped me through all the stress and is still there for me. In fact, we're both there for each other. We are very much in love. You know instinctively whether something is right and with Lisa it always has been. I look back over the last year and think, 'That's 365 good days so far'."

With both his love life and career on track, it's hard to imagine that someone once thought that Nick Bailey wasn't going places...


BEDSIDE MANNER: Kat gets her claws into the new doctor; Picture: EMMA CATTELL
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2001 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Feb 10, 2001
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