Ricky Grover, who of course plays the role of Andrew Cotton in EastEnders, has revealed that he’s faced a lifelong battle with dyslexia, and now wants to help other sufferers to overcome the obstacles they face.
Ricky – who was formerly a ladies’ hairdresser and a boxer – told The Daily Record that his dyslexia wasn’t recognised when he was a child, and most people branded him “thick”.
And as that cruel label stuck and given his younger years were surrounded by criminal activities, his life may have been very different to how it is today.
He said, “My stepfather was an armed robber, and for a long time it looked like I was going to go that way too.
“When you come from quite a rough area and you grow up having problems reading and writing, you feel like society is against you.
“That’s certainly how I felt and you can go astray, to try to get your own back on society.
“Thank God I never did. I stayed on this side of the fence and I think I got my aggression out in the boxing ring…
“In school, I was just labelled thick. The way I used to deal with it, when the book came round for reading, I’d say ‘I’m not reading that, it’s rubbish’ or storm out or something.
“Even as an adult, if anyone gave me a form or asked me to write out a cheque, I would go to pieces. I couldn’t face it.”
However, when he decided that he wanted to be an actor, Ricky knew he’d need to learn to read properly.
He explained, “I decided out of the blue. It was a brainstorm because I had tried lots of other things.
“I was a boxer, I was a hairdresser, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I went to a place in East London and said to the teacher there, ‘I want to act but I have dyslexia quite bad’.
“I thought she would say, ‘Well, fine, you can improvise around the lines’, but she said, ‘Well, you better learn to read then, hadn’t you?’
“I was gutted but it started me off, getting me to read out loud and face my fears. Even now, I’m not a brilliant reader.
“I put a lot of my lines into a dictaphone and listen to them and memorise them.”
He added, “When I was offered EastEnders, I thought, ‘Hold on a minute, this has all got to be word for word, and you’ve got to churn out script after script, and I am not going to be able to do it’.
“So I kept saying no. They were saying, ‘This is going to be brilliant for you, you’ll fit right in’.
“When I eventually read the part, I really liked it and I thought, ‘I am just going to give it a go’.
“It has been a great discipline for me because I have had to learn lines and what I didn’t realise was they are really good about you being loose, as long as it works.
“Even just last year, I was asked five times to be in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and I kept saying, ‘No, it’s not for me’.
“But if I put my hand on heart, the reason I never went to meet them was because I was scared of the speech they had sent me.
”There is still a lot of stigma around dyslexia and I would imagine there are so many talented people out there who are just too scared to make a go of it.
“The good side of it is I can go round my area, or other areas, and say, ‘Don’t let it hold you back. Anyone can do anything’.”
For more information on dyslexia, click here.