John: ‘Leaving EastEnders was overwhelming’

EastEnders actor John Partridge talks to TV Times magazine about why he made the difficult decision to call time on Walford’s Christian Clarke…

Was it hard making the decision to leave EastEnders?

“Leaving was incredibly emotional, and the last day was very difficult. You have the whole anticipation of it coming and, when it finally happens, it’s overwhelming. I was in tears; our executive producer, Lorraine Newman, was in tears; the people in props were in tears. Afterwards, I felt exhausted.”

Did you make your decision aware that Marc Elliott, who plays Christian’s partner Syed Masood, was leaving?

“Christian and Syed are a unit. I know some characters can survive having their other half leave but, for me personally, I didn’t see a future for Christian without Syed. It was very much a joint decision and it wasn’t an easy one for me to make but, at the same time, you have to serve the story and there has to be a professional happiness tied into that. In reality, I think I would’ve been slightly redundant without Marc.”

What vision did you have for Christian?

“Within about three or four months, I had my hair cut, and the jeans and tight tops came in. That was very much me changing the direction of who I wanted Christian to be and, I have to say, I think that’s when the character started to become more successful.”

Comments you made in an interview with Attitude a few years ago angered Antony Cotton, by referring to the Weatherfield knicker-stitcher as a stereotypical ‘teatime gay’…

“When I said I didn’t want Christian to be a ‘teatime gay’, what I meant was that I wanted people to actually see him being gay, as opposed to him just being gay and being there to have the odd laugh, or be the character where people said ‘Oh, isn’t he funny?’ I wanted to see some sort of struggle within him, and for him to deal with issues that real gay men of his age have to deal with, as opposed to him being just window dressing and ticking a box.”

Christian and Syed’s love story has seen its ups and downs! Most recently, it gave us one of the most poignant scenes of the year when the couple exchanged rings in a civil partnership ceremony…

“It was a nice way to underline what happened in the story. But was it important to me, personally, in as far as making a statement and being the first civil partnership on EastEnders? No, not really, because actually, we [the gay community] have moved on from civil partnerships. We want equal marriage rights and, unfortunately, Christian and Syed couldn’t have this.”

You’ll soon be starring as Prince Charming in the Theatre Royal, Nottingham’s production of Cinderella and are also rehearsing for a one-man show, which opens at the Hippodrome Casino, London on 18 February…

“It’s called Dames n Dudes – it’s a nod to my musical icons; I do everyone from Bowie to Bush!”

How will you remember your time on EastEnders?

“I have had the most amazing time, and it’s one of those jobs that I will hold dear. My memories will be kept in my heart – and I mean that most sincerely.”

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