Former EastEnders star James Alexandrou says he quit the hit show at 21 because he felt he had to burst the bubble of being in a high-profile TV show.

James is starring as Iago in a production of Shakespeare’s Othello in London’s West End and told What’s on TV that he was desperate to get into theatre after leaving EastEnders in 2007, to learn his craft.

But he has great memories of EastEnders, in which he played Martin Fowler. “Lovely memories, yeah. I wouldn’t be here without it, really. I’m under no illusions why my face is on the [Othello] poster. EastEnders has done lovely things for my career. It’s put a bit of money in my pocket, gave me a bit of a profile, and I managed to get some nice jobs off the back of it and, yeah, thank you!”

James, 28, continued: “I think when you’re in a high profile TV show of any type you end up in a bit of a bubble and, for me anyway, it’s about bursting that bubble, about realising that I didn’t know everything as I thought I did at 21… I had to go out there and learn from people that knew a lot more than I did.”

James is starring in the Grassroots Shakespeare London production of Othello at London’s Leicester Square Theatre until the end of April.

Watch james Alexandrou talk about Wendy Richard, Natalie Cassidy, EastEnders and the challenge of a lead role in Othello.