Sam Attwater says EastEnders changed his life

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A STRAPPING lad; that’s the best way of describing Dancing on Ice champion Sam Attwater, which makes him perfect casting for backwoodsman Adam Pontipee, in Seven Brides For Seven Brothers.

Attwater stars in the evergreen musical at the Playhouse all this week, and, sitting in his dressing room the morning after opening night, the 27-year-old ex-EastEnder reveals it’s not the first time he’s appeared in the show, although last time the starring role eluded him.

Actor Sam Attwater. Picture: Julie Bull

Actor Sam Attwater. Picture: Julie Bull

He recalls, “I did it at college and I really wanted to play Adam... but I had to play The Preacher.”

Laughing, he quips, “My college didn’t believe in me, but I’ve showed them. So yes, it’s quite nice to come back and do the professional job and play the part I should have played at college.”

Attwater’s days of playing second fiddle are a thing of the past now, thanks in no small way to his stint as Leon Small in EastEnders, a role that could not have come at a better time in his career.

The actor, who has also appeared in Hollyoaks, explains, “I’ve been quite fortunate since I left college. I’ve done everything from cruise ships to Bollywood films, to pantos. I’ve ticked everything off apart from a film with a nice gala.”

As a dancer, however, it was musical theatre that proved the mainstay of his career after training, not traditionally one of the best paid jobs in showbusiness.

“So I said to my agent, don’t send me up for musical theatre. I want to do TV and film. If I keep getting musicals, I’ll never give myself a chance,” says the star. “So I took out a credit card and stayed out of the business for nine months, racking up seven and a half grand worth of debt. Then I said to myself, ‘I’m going to have to get a job now.’

“I went for an audition for a job on a cruise ship. Got it, sorted my visas and had my medical done. On the Friday before I was supposed to go, I got EastEnders: E20. It could have gone a completely different way, instead it just worked out nicely.”

It worked out more than ‘just nicely’. Half way through filming EastEnders’ online spin-off E20, Attwater’s character was written into Albert Square proper.

“Originally, I was only supposed to be in the online spin-off for two weeks. It was literally two weeks of filming from nine in the morning to 11 o’clock at night. We had to get 13 episodes done in two weeks, which was unheard of, especially as there were just four characters.

“Half way through they said they would like to take three of us into the main show and gave us each a three-month contract.”

Renewed again and again, Attwater’s contract ran for a year before there was nowhere left for Leon to go.

“I went straight into Dancing on Ice,” grins the actor.

EastEnders, Attwater concedes, changed his life. Getting used to that, however, took some adjustment.

“It’s a weird one. You get a mentor at EastEnders and mine was Cheryl Fergison, who played Heather. She took me to lots of charity events and such like to get me used to being in the public eye.

“She said, ‘Your life is going to change now.’ And I thought, ‘No, I’ll be fine.’

“Then, I remember filling up my car at the petrol station one day, and this guy was just frowning, staring at me.

“I really thought it was going to kick off, my heart was pounding, and I was thinking ‘ Why is he looking at me like that? What’s going on here? This is getting freaky.’

“Then he came up to me in the shop - I had my fists clenched just in case, ready to swing, and he was like, ‘Are you off EastEnders?’ There was this moment... I didn’t know how to deal with it. I got all fidgety and mumbled ‘Yeah..’ So from then, things did change.”

With recognition comes additional pressure believes Attwater. “Now I feel I’m judged more because people know who I am. If they’d seen me in a show before they would have gone, ‘That guy was good.’ Now, because some people recognise me, they are more judgemental.”

He laughs, “That means I can’t go out as late any more. Before, if my voice had cracked during a song, I wouldn’t have worried so much. Now if my voice cracks, I think, ‘Oh no! They’re going to remember that.’ So it’s a pressure I never had before.”

Set in Oregon in 1850 Seven Brides For Seven Brothers is the story of Adam, the eldest of seven brothers, who goes to town to get a wife. He convinces Milly to marry him that same day.

They return to his backwoods home. Only then does she discover he has six brothers - all living in his cabin. Milly sets out to reform the uncouth siblings, who are anxious to get wives of their own. Then, after reading about the Roman capture of the Sabine women, Adam develops an inspired solution to his brothers’ loneliness - kidnap the women they want!

“I love the Playhouse, and Edinburgh full stop,” says Attwater, who played Brad in the Rocky Horror Show at the venue earlier this year. However, the most bizarre credits on his CV remain the three Bollywood movies he made.

“A friend phoned me up and said do you want to go to Paris for a week to do a Bollywood film. I said, ‘I don’t know if you realise, but I’m not Indian’,” he laughs.

“It didn’t matter, so I went. While there they asked me if I’d like to do two more films in Mumbai, so I went over and filmed for two most surreal weeks of my life. I don’t know how they manage to make these films because everything is so disorganised. I swear they were adding scenes in as they went because they seemed like a good idea.”

Thankfully, Seven Brides For Seven Brothers is a lot more organised, as you can discover at the Playhouse until Saturday.

Seven Brides For Seven Brothers, Playhouse, Greenside Place, until Saturday, 7.30pm (matinee 2.30pm), £12.90-£38.90, 0844-871 3014