In continuation of my series of EastEnders: E20 interviews, today's the turn of Sam Attwater, who plays amateur boxer Leon Small.
Along with Zsa Zsa, Leon certainly has the potential to make something of his character in the main show when he fully transitions across at the close of E20. What storyliners do with him remains to be seen but they must have something up their sleeves to be handing out six-month contracts...
How is E20 different from the main show?
"It's a lot edgier with a freehand, urban feel to it. We tackle quite a few issues over its relatively short run. There are similarities, though - we're using the same set and there are cast from the main show who make guest appearances. We had to film so much of it ourselves. In two weeks, we had to film 120 minutes of drama. It was like doing a film!"
Across the series, which members of the main cast make guest appearances? Who's been your favourite?
"All the Beales, Big Mo, Masood, Zainab, Shirley, Heather… Quite a few - more than I thought there were going to be. For me, Linda Henry had to be my favourite. We have some great scenes and she's such a fantastic actress. I've always watched her programmes, so to get to work with her is amazing - certainly a highlight of the whole project."
Do you think online drama is the way forward?
"There'll always be the need for TV, but the way things are going, it's an added extra. It's a nice treat for an audience to be able to go online and watch that something extra."
What would you say to those who have immediately drawn comparisons between Skins and Hollyoaks?
"It's not similar to Hollyoaks at all. OK, it's a young cast, but we really tackle a lot of issues, while the online Hollyoaks I watched was just one drunken night. I don't think there's a comparison to Skins, either - we have our own feel."
How would you describe your character?
"He's very strong-minded. He's a boxer, he wins in the ring and he has a way with the ladies. He can talk most into bed! That's his strong attribute! Leon's mum died when he was young, and that was a big thing for him. His relationship with his father's quite rocky, so I think that's where his weakness lies, in his family life. He tries to push that away as much as possible."
It didn't take long for the scripts to have you stripping, did it?!
"Yeah, I got down to the gym quick! My first scene was me just in my pants, so I got it out of the way quite quickly. But then the semi-naked scenes kept cropping up all over the place. I didn't mind too much because I'd been to the gym earlier in the year, so I'd got myself into pretty good shape. In the two weeks we were filming, I was semi-naked six times - hopefully it'll die down a bit now. When you're outside on the Square, it was a bit cold in the middle of November!"
Do you box in real life?
"I've done a lot of training at the gym and a lot of that was boxing exercises, but I'd never actually been in a ring. When we filmed the scenes in the boxing ring, it was a completely new experience. They wanted us to make it as real as possible, so I had a stuntman in there who I was allowed to hit - not fully! - as much as was needed. I was filming for about two hours in the ring, I think. By the end, I was so tired."
Leon's a potential new heartthrob for the show - what are your thoughts on that?
"I'm looking forward to it! Everyone keeps telling me that my life's going to change now, so I'd rather have that kind of attention as opposed to a murderous character or a serial killer character! I'm just excited about it now. Being a Lothario character, I get to work with a lot of the younger ladies in the cast, so it's not a bad life!"
How does Leon develop across the series?
"Friendships begin to build for him and there's a potential love interest, too. There's so much going on in 12 episodes. You see his strengths and weaknesses and by the end of it, he becomes quite a rounded character, which is taken on into the main series."
How long are you with the main show for?
"They've just extended our contract, so it's now the full six months. Hopefully it'll be extended after that, but who knows?!"
You were in Hollyoaks last year, too, weren't you?
"Yeah, for five episodes. There were a few storyboards which could have taken it on further and at the time, I really wanted it to continue, but now I'm quite glad that it didn't because otherwise I wouldn't be here!"
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