EastEnders star Jamie Foreman on the moment he could have turned real life killer

by Lynn Connolly

Millions of EastEnders fans know Jamie Foreman best as shady gangster Derek Branning, however, what viewers may not know is that Jamie’s real life has been lived in the shadow of gangster violence.

Jamie’s father, Freddie ‘The Enforcer’ Foreman, was sent to prison when Jamie was just 10 years old for disposing of the body of Jack ‘The Hat’ McVitie, who was murdered by London gangster Reggie Kray, who, along with his brother Ronnie, ruled the East End in the ‘60s.

Freddie later admitted to murdering two other Kray twin rivals, despite having been found not guilty of the slayings at the Old Bailey.

Speaking to the Mirror about his autobiography, entitled, Gangsters, Guns and Me, Jamie – the paper is serializing the book – said, “Derek is the man 10 million viewers love to hate, and I’m thrilled at the impact he’s made.

“But Derek is so nasty he even makes me cringe. And, trust me, I’ve met some REALLY nasty b******* in my time.”

In his book, Jamie also reveals that at one time, he became a wanted fugitive having fled the country with his dad when a botched £20million drug-smuggling deal ended with a customs officer being killed…

And he also revealed that he nearly became a killer himself.

Of that, Jamie said, “It was the darkest period in my life. I found out I was capable of doing things I’d never imagined… even capable of killing.

“We’d been on the run for almost 18 months after the drug deal was botched. An innocent family man had been killed for doing his job and dad was horrified and furious that it had gone so wrong.

“We spent six months in Tenerife then moved to Pennsylvania where dad and I had to start from scratch.

“No one knew the Foreman name out there, but we built up a successful business running a games room full of state of the art machines.

“We were under a lot of pressure. It’s not a glamorous thing to be hiding abroad. When your freedom and liberty are at stake it wears your life away and becomes a prison in itself.

“I became very frustrated and depressed but I bottled up my feelings for the sake of the family.

“But all that frustration started turning to anger and one day I just snapped.

“Tyrone was a local guy who did a good line in nicked gear. He was funny and we usually got on well.

“But that day he waltzed into my office with a load of stolen designer shirts… and jokingly threw one at me.

“Within seconds of it hitting my chest, I was out of my chair, across the room and pointing a cocked .32 automatic against Tyrone’s head.

“I just completely flipped. I was growling every swear word under the sun into his face: I was going to maim him, I was going to put one in his nut…

“He was shaking and trying to calm me down. But for the first time in my life I wanted to kill and I came terrifyingly close.

“I remember thinking how easy it would be to pull the trigger. I knew I was capable of it. I had it in me.

“Thank God I calmed down enough to realise what I was doing. I slung Tyrone out of the building and eventually, the adrenaline died down.

“But I’d threatened to end a man’s life over a shirt, for f**** sake! That was the point I realised I had to come home and get back to my ‘other’ life.

“I’d always lived a strange dual existence – my secret life and the public persona I had as an actor.

“I’d never traded on my family name, it would have been disrespectful to my father. I grafted and got every part on my acting merit.

“But I was able to mix with the ‘upperworld’ and the underworld and felt comfortable wherever I was.

“I like myself now… I didn’t back then in America. But I know who I am now and I am comfortable with what I’ve done.

“I honestly wouldn’t change a minute of my life because it made me who I am. And I could never, ever condemn my dad for who he was and what he did.

“He only ever showed me love and kindness. I know in the world my father moved in, certain deeds went with the territory.

“There were men out there he might have hurt – killed even – but those men would have just as happily got him first.”

Of his book, Jamie added, “I wanted to explain what it was like to be born into that world and to grow up around these characters – the real people, the strong men and women, not the gangster caricatures.

“When I leave EastEnders I’m hoping to produce and direct my own film about that world – and plan to play both the Kray twins myself.

“Yes, the 60s was an exciting time because you had the explosion of the pop world, film world, fashion, the political situation…

“But I will never glamorise the world that I came from like other films have done in the past.

“I wouldn’t change a thing about my life. This book only covers the first 25 years, so there’s plenty more to tell.

“Our family would rise and fall, then rise again. I’d even have to go on my toes again, but I always bounced back.”

Gangsters, Guns and Me by Jamie Foreman is published by John Blake and is out now at £7.99.

Lynn is an editor and writer here at Unreality TV and is trained psychotherapist and the author of two books. She's addicted to soaps, period drama and reality TV shows such as X Factor, I'm A Celeb and Big Brother.