Eastenders actor Steve McFadden hopes to show a ‘softer’ side of Phil Mitchell

Steve McFadden as Captain Hook (presumably)

Steve McFadden as Captain Hook (presumably) - Credit: Archant

I’ve played a hard man, an alcoholic, and a jealous lover,” says Steve McFadden. “For once I’d like to be able to show a more romantic side.”

The EastEnders actor, famed for his long-standing depiction of Phil Mitchell, has always seemed like a tough nut.

But while his character has already gone through three marriages in the ever-present soap, in real life McFadden is very much a family man and hopes that one day Phil might also reveal a softer side.

“I’d love Phil to have a big white wedding,” he says. “I remember Mike Reid’s [Frank Butcher in the soap] wedding scene and I’d like to do something like that. It would be great to ride in a horse-drawn carriage through the square.”

Family orientated

It wouldn’t be Christmas without an EastEnders plotline heating up and McFadden hints that Phil might soon find himself torn between two lovers – his old flame Sharon and love interest Shirley.

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Further changes are afoot this year with the arrival of Shirley’s younger brother Mick, who is moving in to take over as landlord of the Old Vic. Intriguingly played by Danny Dyer, Mick is just one example of why McFadden believes EastEnders has lasted so long on television.

“We need to bring in new characters to make it dynamic and fresh,” he says. “But it also needs the old guard, it’s important to have some familiar faces, to keep it recognisable as the EastEnders people know and love.”

Admitting that the demanding schedule for the soap can sometimes seem like “a hamster wheel”, when he’s away from the set McFadden likes to spend time at home with his family in Highgate. Three of his four children, aged 28, 16, nine and four, live with him.

“I have a busy life with my children – I often have to fit my commitments around the school run,” he smiles.

When he has a rare chance to relax, McFadden enjoys going out around London, particularly on its waterways. “I love the Thames, I like to take my boat out on the river and I took part in the Thames Pageant. I like to go fishing and enjoy cooking a fresh catch – I don’t eat meat, only seafood.”

A RADA graduate who first appeared in the BBC soap in 1990, McFadden says he based the character of Phil on Albert Tatlock and Fred Astaire: “A cross between a miserable character and a cheeky chappie, with a bit of charm thrown in.”

His desire to develop a multi-faceted emotional depth to his character is understandable, given that he sometimes feels typecast as the baddie.

“I don’t even know what it’s like to play a good guy, I’ve always been a baddie. I’m typecast because of the way I look. I don’t look like a bank manager. But it’s better to be typecast than not cast at all.”

Once a year, around Christmas, McFadden takes a break from EastEnders and usually spends it starring in pantomime. His favourite is Peter Pan – he’s appeared as Captain Hook five times and named his youngest daughter Amelie Tinkerbell after the fairy with the bell-like voice.

“I call her Tink as a pet name,” he says. “The kids come to see me in panto, the youngest is four now and enjoys seeing the live show. It’s a good night out – that’s part of what makes our Christmas what it is.

“This year I’m going to be giving a less conventional interpretation of Hook. He’s not a guy in a fancy wig – he’s more street cred. I’m thinking maybe tattoos... the kids have been helping me with the designs.”

Like Phil, Steve certainly has a soft spot for his family. But when it comes down to business, playing a pirate captain with tattoos and a mean left hook suggests it’s going to be hard to shake that bad guy image.

Steve McFadden is appearing as Captain Hook in Peter Pan at the Ashcroft Theatre, Fairfield Halls, Croydon, from December 6 to January 5. For tickets, call 020 8688 9291 or visit www.fairfield.co.uk.