One Strictly tradition that never changes is soap stars transforming into dance stars during the show. One heading into the competition this year is EastEnders and Casualty actor Nigel Harman. He found fame playing doomed Dennis Rickman 20 years ago and Nigel reveals he’s already left his role as Max Christie in Casualty.
“I left at the beginning of August and I’m on screen until the end of February, with no plans to return at the moment,” he says. “I dedicate my life to sweating and feeling anxious!”
However, Nigel, 50, does have a way of battling pre-show nerves and helping his fellow contestants – he’s a certified meditation coach.
“I did a little bit of meditation today because I could feel my heart going fast,” he says. “When the Saturday shows come and you’re in the stream of this brilliant show, finding the time to take for yourself – a little breath here and there – can do wonders.”
The celebs started training prior to the launch show and Nigel confessed it was tougher than he thought it would be.
“It’s a little bit overwhelming, he says. “Like being fired out of a cannon and you’re not sure where you’re going to land and hoping it’ll be safely and sometime soon. At the moment, I feel like I’m chasing my body down the road going ‘come back!’”
After appearing in EastEnders, Nigel has been used to public attention, but says it’s calmed down since he left the BBC soap in 2005 – until now.
“It was quite full on when I was in EastEnders, I haven’t had that for a while,” confesses Nigel. “But even dipping your toe back in, suddenly it’s like vum, everyone’s really excited. And if you can keep them on side, that’s great.
“People have got in contact with me who I haven’t spoken to for 400 years going ‘can I get a ticket to the show?’. Everyone suddenly wants to be a part of it. And there’s brilliantly with the public, a sense of ownership with the show.”
Nigel has some dance experience, saying, “I did a diploma in musical theatre when I was 16, so I’m used to dancing. I wasn’t in A, the top stream. I was in C and ended up in B. When I left college, I was on a cruise ship for six months – as a dancer, I hasten to add. Not just doing the bingo.”
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