Saturday 16 December 2017

From the East end to the North side

Square life: Nigel became famous almost overnight thanks to his role in EastEnders
Square life: Nigel became famous almost overnight thanks to his role in EastEnders

It's a long way from the streets of EastEnders to the boards of Dublin's Gate Theatre but actor Nigel Harman has successfully made the leap. Harman played Dennis, Dirty Den's son, on the UK soap for two-and-a-half years before meeting a grisly and, he is keen to point out, unambiguous end five years ago.

"I wanted it to be in vision," he says in his soft Surrey tones, "because some characters die in a mysterious way off-screen and come trotting back. It makes you lazy if you always know you've got a safety net."

Dennis caused Harman to become famous almost overnight. Soon after joining the soap, he went on holidays and, on his return, the actor was greeted in the airport by a shelf of magazines featuring him on the cover. "That was when I went, 'Oh shit, this is gathering momentum'."

He doesn't want to talk about EastEnders now though. "It was just a step in my life and it was five years ago and we're here talking about it. I walked through those doors eight years ago so how I felt I've no idea."

Was it a thrill though? "I'm more thrilled to be on stage at the Gate," he says, referring to his upcoming role in Harold Pinter's Celebration.

He says in his heart he is a theatre actor but he has always liked to mix things up. His next ambition is to direct. "When I'm doing something, I'm always thinking of something completely opposite to do next. It just keeps it alive and we have the luxury as actors to do whatever we want. I can sing, I can act, do sitcom on telly or a snot-and-tears thing.

"My next job is opening in London's Drury Lane doing Shrek the musical. So I'm playing a singing dwarf."

Musical theatre was his first love. "I thought I was going to sing and dance my way through life until I got to 25 or 26 and I did Dancing Queen three times a night and that's when I noticed I needed a bit more weight and substance and thought I'd give acting a go."

He says combining theatre and movies is his ambition now. "That's the dream combination. Feed the soul, feed the bank account." But he won't move to LA. "It will find me and I'll find it if it's going to go that way.

"I get a lot out of working in the theatre. It's not my life. It's just a wonderful bit of my life that I'm very passionate about but I like to leave it here and go home and play golf and hang out."

So what defines him? "My home life and that is a joyful thing. Ultimately, it's lovely to feel like that because for years I used to be like 'unless I'm working I'm no one' and now I think when I'm working it's great, and when I'm at home, it's better."

Celebration runs from October 5-10. Tickets €27

Irish Independent

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