Equalizer star Edward Woodward joins EastEnders as Tommy Clifford. And he’s a man on a mission, as the actor explains…

Is this your first soap?
“I can’t bear that word ‘soap’. I prefer ‘long-running drama’ as I think EastEnders has some of the best acting and writing on TV.”

Were you thrilled to be asked to appear in it?
“When you are as old as me [78], you don’t get thrilled any more. I was very pleased. I only like to do a few jobs each year and I pick the ones I can’t turn down. I liked the character and six episodes suited me. I certainly couldn’t be a regular character. I can’t understand why they are such nice people at EastEnders when they sometimes have to do eight episodes at a time. It’s very hard work.”

Tell us about Tommy
“Well, he is writing a book about early immigration and he wants to interview Patrick. That’s all I can tell you. It’s not the real reason he wants to meet Patrick. That is something quite dark.”

What was your first day on-set like?
“I embarrassed myself by throwing my arms around Pam St Clement and saying ‘How are you?’ As I walked away, I realised I’d never met her before in my life. Because I watch EastEnders I, like any other viewer, think I know these people.”

Were you nervous?
“Terrified, but everyone was so friendly and it was wonderful because so many people made a point of coming up and introducing themselves.”

Have you worked with any of the cast members before?
“Yes, I worked with Barbara Windsor in musicals when she was just 17.”

Will you ever retire from acting?
“I hope not. I’ve been doing it for 60 years and I still love it. I don’t want to work a great deal, but if you can physically do a fantastic role, you can’t turn it down when you are an actor.”

Which of your roles do people ask you about the most?
“Well, I’ve just done an interview about the making of The Wicker Man and people are always coming up to me and saying it’s their favourite film.”

What do you do in your spare time?
“I live down in Cornwall with my wife Michele (Dotrice). I paint, watercolours of mostly the same view. I am not very good at it, but my friends and family all get a copy. I am also writing my autobiography, but I don’t think I’ll ever finish it. I am at age 22 and it’s taken me six years. My son Philip tells me to just get on and write it and Michele has even created a lovely writing room for me, but most of the time, I just don’t feel like it. “