EastEnders star Danny Dyer says the soap has turned his life around and admitted he was once considered “a joke”.

The hardman actor, 36, has defied expectations in his new role as Queen Vic landlord Mick Carter.

He told Radio Times magazine: “My life as an actor has turned around so much these past four months. I went through a stage … where I was respected and then I made some bad decisions and became a joke. I did start to doubt myself.

“Now people are saying that I’m a good actor again.”

Danny added that he had not won over all fellow performers: “There is still snobbery about working in soaps from other actors who turn their nose up. And, at one time, I would probably have been one of those people.

“But now I realise how hard it is. If you’re blagging it as an actor, you’ll be exposed once you come into a soap. That’s what I’d say to the snobby mob.”

He continued that he wanted to age on EastEnders: “I’m here for the 20-stretch. As long as they want to keep me, I’ll stay.”

The Football Factory star said that, despite his hardman image, he is a fan of TV shows like Countryfile, because “it gives you a cuddle”, and Antiques Roadshow.

“Countryfile did make me cry once when a lamb didn’t make it. I get very emotional about things,” he said. “The end of Breaking Bad choked me up – it’s the kind of show where you put the first episode on and then sit up for three days off your nut on coffee because you’ve got obsessed.”

Asked what makes him switch off the TV, he named his soap rivals. “Corrie. Nothing to do with the cast, it’s just never been my sort of thing. I’ve never really got my head round Emmerdale either. They’re not something I can have on my telly,” he said.

He said of his Albert Square alter ego: “He’s the closest character I’ve ever played to myself. Mick’s a man with a heart who’s still the alpha male, and what’s wrong with that? I’m a man’s man, but I will cry, I’ll tell my kids I love them and I’ll cuddle them when they need it.”

Danny laughed off his nomination for sexiest male at the British Soap Awards, saying: “I’m pushing 40, I’ve got a beer belly and I’m growing a pair of moobs. To every pot-bellied man out there, there’s hope for you all.”