Bearwood actor Nicholas Bailey was a fixture in the EastEnders cast for more than four years, but unlike some of his contemporaries the star of screen, stage and radio has refused to become pigeon-holed by his TV role
Success in a TV soap that’s a national institution can be a double-edged sword for an actor. On the one hand there’s the fame and fortune it brings. On the other side of the coin is the danger that it will pigeon-hole your career and future opportunities. Nicholas Bailey has skillfully managed to achieve the former while avoiding the latter.
The Birmingham actor spent four years starring in EastEnders, playing Dr Anthony Trueman, the son of rum-drinking father Patrick and love interest of Kat Slater and her daughter Zoe. More than 10 years after leaving the show Nicholas looks back on his time in Albert Square with nothing but fondness and positivity. Although he’s been back several times since for brief appearances in the soap, his career has moved on through Shakespearian stage acting, TV drama with the likes of Silent Witness star Emilia Fox, a long stint in the West End musical Dreamgirls, a role in The Archers on radio and even his own one-man show about a mixed race footballer who died in World War One.
NEVER SAY NEVER
“I meet actors all the time who are struggling to get on, so I view being in EastEnders as only a positive,” he explained. “As actors we do what we have to do and I don’t mind in the least that 98 per cent of people know me from the soap even though I have done a lot of very different work since leaving the Square. And, I’d never say never to going back if I was to be asked again. Dr Trueman, the character, wasn’t killed off, he’s still alive. So who knows!”
As well as continuing his acting career, 47-year-old Nicholas, who lives in Bearwood, is keen to give the city which brought him up and shaped him something back – particularly its young people. The former pupil of Blue Coats and Old Swinford Hospital schools remembers finding his love for acting as an eight-year-old at Birmingham’s Old Rep. The theatre is now run by the Ormiston Academy and Nicholas loves going back there – he went to see their panto Pinocchio over Christmas, and says: “One of my dreams is to perform my own production on that stage.” (Nicholas has his own production company, Rapscillions, and is working on plans to put on Othello in Birmingham within the next year or so.)
As a product of the National Youth Theatre, he is passionate about bringing young talent through in his home city and has launched Fly Performance for kids who love to dance, acts and sing. Fly Performance runs courses every day for five to 11-year-olds during the school holidays at West House School and uses creative specialists and experts to help youngsters gain self-confidence and realise their potential across a wide range of arts, crafts and drama.
Starting this Easter, Fly Performance will run similar clubs for 11 to 16-year-olds at a location to be confirmed. And later this month, Nicholas is looking to launch a weekly 16-plus, all ages fun drama club in Harborne. “I’m also in conversation about running residential holiday camps,” he adds. “I’ve done work over the years as a supply teacher in drama, so I know the potential there is in Birmingham’s young people,” explains Nicholas. “I am passionate about taking my skill set to help them fulfill their potential. This is what really interests me. When I was at school I always felt a bit of an outsider so I like to create an environment to build kids’ confidence.”
Nicholas is also an educational ambassador for Learning Labs, the Birmingham-based company behind the innovation-in-education, award-winning FlashAcademy app which has already been adopted by more than one-in-five schools and allows EAL (English as an Additional Language) pupils to learn English independently and at their own pace and level via visual lessons in their home language.
“This is extremely important,” says Nicholas. “It was only when I got to talk with educators across Birmingham that I realised the challenges schools are facing. In the UK, there are 1.5 million pupils with EAL. Here in the West Midlands, EAL students make up nearly half of Birmingham’s pupil population.”
Nicholas’s ambassador role sees him seek out and tell stories to create and encourage media presence and create a conversation by, among other things, going into schools and meeting teachers and families. “I’m a Brummie through and through and even when I have had to be away at times for my work in London, Birmingham is always my home. I was raised here in West Brom, my family still lives here, my wife and myself and the kids live in Birmingham and are happy here. I have pledged my future to being here.”
He adds: “It used to be the case that you had to live and work somewhere else than Birmingham. It is not the case anymore. Major and exciting things are happening in Brum in the way it is changing and growing. In the arts, we have always had so much talent here and I would love to see more producing of theatre done here. So, more studios here, producing things ourselves here. That needs more funding support but
I believe things are moving in the right direction. We just need to up the pace a bit.”
Talking of pace… Nicholas’s enjoys challenging himself in his personal as well as his professional life. He’s currently training to compete in Spartan races, a series of assault-style obstacles races from four miles up to marathon distance. “By the time I am 50, I want to have a decent Spartan ranking,” he says. Who would bet against him?