It’s no secret that EastEnders actors Ricky Grover and Jamie Foreman – who of course play the roles of Andrew Cotton and Derek Branning respectively – have something of a chequered history in terms of their upbringings…
Both were raised in households dominated by criminality, with Ricky’s step-father being a convicted and violent criminal, and Jamie’s dad being the notorious Kray twins associate, ‘Brown Bread Fred’ Foreman.
However, in an exclusive interview with the Sun today, former boxer and ladies’ hairdresser Ricky has explained that he and Jamie shunned a life of crime and “chose a different route.”
He began by saying, “My stepfather, Terry, was a bit of a villain in the 1960s and 1970s.
“He was really well known and worked with all the main faces in the East End. A lot of villains who grew up in those times felt like victims of society…
“Because I couldn’t read and had all these teachers calling me thick, I could have thought, ‘I’m going to show you how thick I am’.
“I could have easily gone in that direction. I thought about it. But thankfully I didn’t.”
He added, “[Jamie and I] knew each other before we met through other people — and we’d both heard good things about each other.
“That’s the good thing about that world, you get to suss people out.
“Me and Jamie obviously both know people from that world but have chosen a different route.”
And of that “different route”, Ricky explained, “As a big guy, I can switch on the power but I like people and would rather be known as a protector.
“So I try to turn my aggression into positive stuff. I was a bully’s bully. I always detested bullies. I would get into fights protecting people.
“You have some hairy situations on the streets of the East End, but you get used to it.”
However, of his childhood, Ricky does have fond memories of a time when there was a code of honour amongst even the most hardened criminal elements of the East End.
He said, “Although there were a lot of villains, there were lots of principles and morals around.
“People would never buy anything that was nicked out of someone’s house, for instance.
“They’d only ever buy anything nicked off a big corporation because it felt morally right. It was good growing up in that environment.
“Everyone knew each other and there was respect. I think they were, in some ways, the good old days.
“There would have been older generations keeping the youngsters in check. If someone had pulled out a knife or used a dangerous dog to attack someone they would have been labelled a coward…
“Now they are seen as heroes. It’s pathetic and a shame.”
Ricky, who now lives in Essex, decided to leave the heart of London when his daughter Lauren was growing up.
He said, “The East End changed a lot. It seemed drugs were becoming more and more rife, so we wanted to move out of it.”
“I still like the East End and will probably go back there to live one day. The Olympics is brilliant for the area and I can’t wait for it to start.
“Where I am from has become multicultural and, not being PC, I genuinely think it’s good.
“It still has that same feel. Those people are Eastenders and they rely on each other.”
And finally, of his continued support for charity Children’s Links, which works to improve the quality of life experiences for children, parents and families, Ricky said, “Links is a proper charity I will help a lot.
“I feel grateful for what I have achieved. What would be good for me is to show people round my way that you can achieve things.
“It doesn’t matter if you can’t read, you don’t need to do a job you hate. You can achieve what you want if you work hard.”
Aww what a nice guy Ricky is!