EastEnders’ Shaun Williamson talks being typecast after leaving soap ‘Nothing happening’

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Shaun Williamson, 54, has admitted that after appearing on EastEnders as Barry Evans for a decade, he found himself being typecast, as the show was very popular. However, the actor said he has no regrets after he continued to work in television, even starring as a parody of himself in award-winning programme Extras, in which he was called “Barry” all the way through by Ricky Gervais’s character.

Shaun revealed: “I think you realise you’re being typecast, 20 million people use to watch it, so you’re bound to get typecast because so many people use to watch the b****y thing. 

“There were only four channels you see, so everybody just watched the soaps, 20 million people did. You know you would get 12 million on a Tuesday night when there was nothing happening.

“It was extraordinary really, so you get a bit typecast, of course when I started working with Ricky Gervais it got more… they called me Barry all the way through it so I got even more typecast. 

“You might as well be typecast and busy than not,” he added.

The actor began his career “very late” after first attending drama school aged 27.

Therefore Shaun was open for taking any opportunity thrown his way, he said: “I thought ok, this is my chance, if I don’t grab this with both hands, I’m a mug. You have really got to knuckle down so I literally stopped drinking.

“I really knuckled down and concentrated like hell. It worked, I’m not saying I’m the best actor in the world but I left and got my agent straight from drama school. I got into EastEnders. 

“My first job was in EastEnders, as an ambulance man, as a paramedic, straight from drama school, but that was only one episode. Then six months later they remembered me as that paramedic and cast me as Barry.”

The actor admitted that his exit from EastEnders back in 2004 was so he could explore new ventures, claiming BBC bosses “wouldn’t really let you do much”. 

He explained that it is very different for the soap’s actors today, who are often able to join reality programmes such as Strictly Come Dancing and Dancing On Ice.

Shaun continued: “The reason why I had left [EastEnders] was because I had done 10 years of it and it was all I had done. 

“It’s not like now where they let people go off and do Strictly Come Dancing whilst they’re still in the show. 

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“They wouldn’t really let you do much, so I just wanted to do something different.”

“It just so happened my first Job was panto, there was a headline that was like, ‘He left Eastenders to do panto’. 

“It just happened to be my first job, it was great fun and it pays well,” he added.

However, Shaun has not ruled out a return to soap acting, as he admitted being a “massive fan” of both Emmerdale and Coronation Street.

He shared: “I’d gladly go in another soap for a few years. It hasn’t put me off going back into one, probably just wouldn’t stay ten years. 

“I’m a massive fan of Emmerdale and Coronation Street!”

A Matter of Facts by Shaun Williamson is published by Cassell, priced £16.99.

EastEnders airs on BBC One tomorrow at 8pm.

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