EastEnders star Marc Elliott reveals why he’s so proud to be part of the controversial Syed-Christian storyline…
How does Syed really feel about being gay?
“He would prefer it if he wasn’t gay, but he realises he can’t turn off his feelings for Christian. A lightbulb goes on in his head as his mum Zainab is preparing to be the matchmaker from hell again and explains what the perfect requirements are for a wife. Syed realises that all those things apply to Christian. He kisses his mum on the head, pats his dad, says goodbye to Tamwar and leaves to be with Christian.”
Do you think it will be a happy ever after then?
“No! They are very different gay men. Christian is out and proud, but Syed doesn’t want to be public about it. Also, this is a soap, so there has to be some drama to make it interesting. They can’t just be arguing about who emptied the bins or washed the sheets.”
What has been the reaction of people to the storyline?
“I’ve had lots of letters from teenage girls who for some reason, love to see two men getting it on. I got sent a scrapbook from one girl, which charts Syed and Christian’s relationship. It’s massive and must have taken her a lot of time to put together. I was really touched. There was a story in the papers about me getting homophobic comments in the street, but that was absolute rubbish. People have responded really positively. I’ve had lots of letters from gay men saying that they have been through similar experiences and are really pleased we’ve been tackling these issues on TV.”
How do you feel about the kissing scenes?
“I’m quite a touchy-feely person, so I don’t mind doing the physical stuff. I’m happy to snog John. I was happy to snog Preeya who played Amira (even though she wore 6in heels and I’m a bit of a dwarf) and if there was an incest storyline, I’d be more than happy to snog Nina Wadia!”
So life a lot different to you days as a barman, then?
“I was a bloody brilliant barman! And I really enjoyed it. I get really annoyed when I go to a bar and somebody gets served before me even though I’ve been waiting for longer. When I was a barman, I always knew who was next! I can never complain though because people would think, ‘It’s that bloke off EastEnders, who does he think he is?’ I do miss the bar work.”
You might have to give it up now though?
“Before, I’d dip in and out between acting jobs, but if and when EastEnders comes to an end, I won’t be able to do that because you need to be anonymous. I still hang out with the same friends and go to the same places that I did before I joined EastEnders, but I can’t go anywhere really without people wanting to talk to me. They want photos and autographs and they often go on about how short I am in real-life – I’m 5ft 9in. My friends get more annoyed with it than I do. People are generally really friendly and I’ve learned to wear headphones or talk on the phone when I’m out and about. People tend to ignore you then.”
Do you have any future plans?
“At the moment, I have no plans to leave EastEnders. I’ll either be pushed or go when I think things are getting stale, but I think there’s a lot more to come from Syed.”
What was your first acting job?
“My first job was as Romeo in a tour of Romeo and Juliet that played outdoors. We had to carry all our own costumes, props and even the scenery. And you know what British summers are like. We did quite a few shows during thunderstorms. At one point, Juliet was convulsing with cold when Romeo was supposed to think she was dead. I thought ‘Nobody is going to believe that!’ EastEnders is definitely the biggest thing I’ve done. I don’t think I got the part of Syed due to my talent. I was in the right place at the right time and I feel grateful to have been given this opportunity.”