Tom Watts, best known as EastEnders George ‘Lofty’ Holloway, guests in Doctors this week as a man forced to face his demons. Here he talks about his new troubled character and his love for Lofty…

Tell us about your character in Doctors, Ray MacGyver?
“Ray MacGyver is a decent bloke, doing his best, who finds himself a bit out of his depth in terms of his role as a husband and as a father and he’s feeling like every new day brings another knock. And he usually reacts to that by getting out on the ale and getting into a bit of trouble.”

Ray has got quite a lot on his plate though hasn’t he?
“Well, Ray’s wife Brenda has got the big C and his daughter is stepping out with a young man who Ray hasn’t even been introduced to. His daughter is convinced that Ray’s a racist and that the problem is that the boyfriend is black. That’s not the case at all: it’s simply that here’s his daughter about to have a baby and he’s never exchanged a civil word with the father. This is a family ready to have a row at any given opportunity.”

But surely Ray must keep it together for his sick wife Brenda, who secretly reveals to doctor Zara that she wishes to end her cancer treatment?
“Our first introduction to Ray makes it pretty clear that he’s not keeping it together. He goes out for a ‘pint of milk’ and ends up at the pub having a fight with the landlord who suggests that his wife might be fiddling her incapacity benefit. Ray is not really handling things at all but over the course of the episode he finds a way of starting to deal with things.”

What was it like working with Sue Jenkins?
“I’d never met her before so we’d never worked together but she was as good as gold. And our daughter in this episode is played by her daughter in real life [Emily Fleeshman], so it was all happy families.”

Was it strange being back in a soap having not been in one for so long?
“With a soap, you have to just get on and do it and I like working in that kind of environment where there’s a certain amount of pressure; getting it right first time if you can. I like all that.”

You’ve become known in recent years as a sports writer. Do you want to focus on that or acting?
“I had a spell in my life where there was a lot of great work around to do with football and also where I was loathe to be away from my young family for too long. But now the family is grown up I’d love to do more acting and I don’t think there’s any reason why it has to be one or the other. I do have a new book out. It’s called The Beautiful Game and it’s about football and childhood around the world.”

Soap fans will remember you for your role back in the 80s as Lofty in EastEnders. Many characters have returned to the soap – is there a chance that Lofty could make a comeback?
“I get the feeling that people think I’m ashamed of EastEnders; like it’s some dirty thing in my past. But I had a fantastic time on that show and Lofty was loved by nobody more than the person who played him. I cannot think of anybody who had a better character to play. But I haven’t been beating a path to their door, they haven’t been beating a path to mine. Ray MacGyver on the other hand…”

Catch Tom Watt in Doctors on Thursday July 30 at 1.45pm on BBC1.