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Exclusive: Partridge: 'I'm immensely proud'

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Partridge: 'I'm immensely proud'
EastEnders actor John Partridge has insisted that he is "immensely proud" to be part of the BBC soap's ongoing gay Muslim storyline.

The 38-year-old - who plays Christian Clarke in the Walford soap - was recently quoted by a tabloid newspaper as being "fuming" over the lack of homosexual characters and storylines in the show.

However, speaking exclusively to Digital Spy, he said: "I'm a bit stung about the comments I read the other day, but you've got to move on. Unfortunately it's amazing how they can just change the tone of your comments. I did have to laugh when they said 'he fumed' - I thought, 'It's only your mum that fumes!'"

The openly-gay actor, who was ecstatic to have won this year's sexiest male award at Monday's Inside Soap Awards ceremony in London, continued: "I don't understand it. It's obviously boring to write anything positive - they have to spin it. It really upset me... and it takes away what's trying to be achieved by the storyline.

"I was saying how brilliant, how sensitive, how clever the story's been and, of course, it moved on to 'Do you think there should be more gay storylines and characters in soap?' Of course I'm going to say 'yes' - I'm a gay actor and if there were no gay characters or storylines, I'd be out of a job!"

On screen, his character Christian recently embarked on an affair of the heart with Muslim businessman Syed Masood (Marc Elliott). Their clandestine relationship has resulted in Syed struggling to come to terms with his sexuality as he attempts to battle between his faith and feelings.

He continued: "What I was trying to actually say was that what's so brilliant about this story is that it is so difficult to tell a gay story within the parameters of a 7.30/8pm timeslot - the fact that this story is so cleverly written and directed. It's about what you don't see as opposed to what you do see."

Christian - brother to Jane Beale (Laurie Brett) - arrived in Walford at the beginning of last year and at the time was the only gay character on the Square. Around this time last year, EastEnders screened a gay kiss between Christian and his then-boyfriend Lee Thompson (Carl Ferguson) which sparked 145 complaints.

Partridge said: "I'm immensely proud of Christian as a character and how the writers have brought this character in and really developed him. When I first came in, nine months down the line, I had this first gay kiss that prompted some complaints... that shocked me."

Christian and Syed's storyline officially began with a kiss in the Masala Queen catering unit on Friday, June 19. Since then, the pair have arranged numerous secret liaisons behind their friends' and families' backs.

"Even after [the gay kiss] story, Diederick [Santer, executive producer], Dominic [Treadwell-Collins, series story producer] and the BBC were brave enough to push forward with this current storyline..." he said. "Everybody learned lessons from that [gay kiss] as to how to tell this story… so as not to offend people, not to be gratuitous and not to let something like a kiss be something that overshadows the story we're trying to tell."

He added: "I'm immensely proud of that and immensely proud of this storyline. I'm honoured that they've allowed me to be a face for it."

Speaking of the fan reaction to his plot, Partridge smiled: "I get the letters, speak to people on the street and read what people say online, so I know that this storyline has had a huge impact. It'd just be nice if that message could be passed on to those who are investing in watching the show."

He enthused: "Gay is mainstream now. There is no taboo about gay. We've got Graham Norton, we've got Alan Carr, journalists, presenters... they are some of the highest paid people in primetime television who are loved and adored and they are gay. It's not that big a deal any more... I wasn't aiming my comments at EastEnders."

He jokingly added: "Plus, there's only one queen at this studio!" Get the Inside Soap magazine on your iPhone or iPad

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