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Focus on Ross Kemp: former Eastenders star

PUBLISHED: 11:03 27 September 2011 | UPDATED: 20:01 20 February 2013

Focus on Ross Kemp: former Eastenders star

Focus on Ross Kemp: former Eastenders star

Born in Barking, Ross Kemp went on to call Albert Square his home. Now he spends his time creating challenging documentaries in the world's toughest warzones...

Born in Barking, Ross Kemp went on to call Albert Square his home. Now he spends his time creating challenging documentaries in the worlds toughest warzones...

There are few more recognisable personalities on British television than Ross Kemp. From Grant Mitchell to award-wining documentarian, the 46 year old has been a virtual ever-present on our TV screens since his 1990 EastEnders debut. Having been beamed into our homes from the likes of Helmand, Juarez and Gaza not forgetting Walford its sometimes easy to forget that it all began in Barking.

His path, particularly since leaving the flagship BBC soap, has been a long and unpredictable one. Ross drifted between dramas, including 2002sUltimate Force, after leavingEastEndersin 1999. Hes now a published author releasing his sixth book, and first fictional work, Devil To Pay having achieved critical acclaim with documentaries includingRoss Kemp on GangsandRoss Kemp in Afghanistan.

But Ross hasnt forgotten his roots, admitting:The three axes have been good to me.
Im very proud. Im not trying to ignore the fact I came from Essex,
adds Ross.I boxed for it when I was younger, played rugby for it when I was younger and Im never ever going to renege on my Essex identity.

'I was born in Barking, and I grew up in a little place called Rainham, he says, laughing, which is much better than Barking!
From there the Kemp family headed to Shenfield, then Brentwood, on the verge of the green belt of Essex.

His childhood, he says, was as normal as you could imagine.Of course,he says,I had no idea how things would pan out at that point.It was fine, you know. I had my comprehensive education; wasnt too bad, wasnt too great. I enjoyed playing with my airgun, my mates, my dog, playing rugby for my school, Shenfield High School, and my local club. It was basically a very happy, rather normal, loving childhood,he says. Fame, it seems, never felt like destiny, but he credits a mentality installed by his parents for his success, as well as a county-wide hunger.

I think a lot of people who grew up in that region, particularly around the time I did, were built up to be competitive and hungry, a lot of them ending up in the City, exploding, making lots of money. There are some very good, professional people that grew up in that region.

People and places

But for Ross it was always more about people than location.The people I met probably had more of an impact than the places I lived in. There are certain teachers you can pick out, you know, and certain individuals later on in life that would be far more instrumental in terms of developing what I became and who I am now.My parents generated, in both my brother Darren and myself, a strong work ethic which had been generated in them by their parents. Ive always tried pretty hard, says Ross, before joking, and sometimes Ive been pretty trying as well!

Following his acting career, Ross reinvented himself as an investigative journalist, something he admits he could never have predicted. Perhaps this new direction was influenced by his marriage to Rebekah Wade, the former News International employee at the centre of the phone hacking scandal.

But drama was his first passion and Ross fell in love with acting at a young age, so perhaps a long stint on television was inevitable. I was like everybody. I mimicked people at school and your peers notice that youre better at it than others. I grew up during the television generation of the mid-to-late 1970s and for everybody far more than it is now the television was an extension of the family. Everything was sort of focused around it, this box in the cornerof the room.

It was an instrumental kind of device, which had an effect. I thought, wouldnt it be nice to grow up to beall of those things, rather than justone of them?

Developing into an East End hard-man, documentarian, author, andSuper Army Solider,Ross has pretty much got all bases covered.

The 47-year-old now lives in London but hes rarely there. Hes just returned from Afghanistan where he filmed the third in the series of documentaries set in the warzone, having spent a month abroad. And Essex is more a place for happy childhood memories now than a destination for family visits.

My parents are originally from Norfolk,Ross explains.My dad moved to Essex when he became a member of the Metropolitan Police, and they returned there when he retired. I go back to Essex and visit old friends occasionally, but over the last five years Ive spent so much time abroad, Im generally in London when I get back or with my parents in Norfolk.

Nevertheless, he remembers his youth with fondness, recalling his college life.I went to Southend Tech for a year. We went to Zero Sixes, Zhivagos and Dukes in Chelmsford. Wed queue up all night and then get turned away at the end of it for being too young. But that was a very long time ago!

These days, rugbys watched rather than played and drinks are bought in restaurants rather than pubs resembling the Queen Vic. If it werent for the run-ins with Mexican drug lords, heroin-pushers in Chicago and Taliban insurgents in Helmand, youd argue he was living the quiet life. But Ross shows no sign of relenting. A trip to Libya isnt out of the question and a return to Afghanistan is definitely on the cards.

Ive got a contract to do another non-fiction book and Im focusing on editing the stuff weve already shot and concentrating on making the best documentary I can.And what about Grant? Im very happy doing what Im doing at the moment, but well see how it goes. I dont know if Id ever doEastEndersfull-time again. But I didnt know Id be doing what Im doing now five years ago, so who knows what Ill be doing in the next five years?

Get the book
Ross Kemps debut non-fiction novel, Devil to Pay, is out now, published by Cornerstone.

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