Actor Alex Newman tells us why he’s waving goodbye to Waterloo Road (BBC1, Thursday) and Michael Byrne for ever…
Michael has a showdown with Waterloo Road’s benefactor, Lorraine Donnegan, and walks away from the school next week. Why does he leave?
“Michael’s boundaries have been pushed and he’s finally had enough. Certain factors have been bubbling for a while now which contribute to him leaving. He blows off a bit of steam and his exit is not without its fireworks! It’s very much in keeping with his character.”
You’ve been playing Michael since 2011, was it a tough decision to leave?
“Although it was my decision to leave, it was arrived at very organically. We’d done everything we wanted to with the character and this seemed like a very natural end. I’ve enjoyed playing Michael very much and I’ll always have a place in my heart for the show. It was a very special time for me. I even met my fiancee on the job in Scotland! So I’ve every reason to be grateful for this great chapter in my life.”
Which have been your favourite storylines?
“I really enjoyed Michael’s arrival when the story was focused on the staff and his dynamics with science teacher, Sian Diamond (Jaye Jacobs). I also really enjoyed looking into Michael’s past. A real highlight was his back-story concerning his father, played by Ron Donachie (Game of Thrones), who is just terrific. Naveed Choudhry, who played Tariq Siddiqui, and I started at the same time and we also had some great scenes together.”
What will you miss most?
“I miss the people most of all. I even miss Philip Martin Brown (Grantly Budgen) and his terrible jokes between takes! I’m still in touch with Phil, Jaye, Melanie Hill, Jason Done and Mark Benton. When you’re working intensely with people for that long you can’t help, but become good friends. It was a great cast and still has lots of talent in the form of Georgie Glen (Audrey), Laurie Brett (Christine) and so many talented younger actors playing the pupils. It’s a great place to work.”
Did the cast and crew throw you a leaving bash?
“They had a little send off for me and I was really moved – it was quite emotional. They also gave me Michael’s Barbour coat as a keepsake. I think Wardrobe knew it was going to disappear if they didn’t give it to me! I also have Michael’s fictional degree upstairs in my office.”
So what’s next for you?
“Immediately after leaving the show I made a film called Greyhawk about a reclusive Afghanistan veteran who was blinded by a roadside bomb. Its in post-production now, so hasn’t been released yet. I also did an episode of NBC’s Dracula series in America, and that led me to the play I’m currently in, These Shining Lives, which finishes soon. It’s been good to have a little run of work since leaving something that’s been part of my life for so long now. The opposite is horrific! I’ve been very fortunate in my career to date.”
What do you think is the secret of Waterloo Road’s success?
“It’s about to enter its ninth series, which is a testament to the show. It’s truly an ensemble piece – no character or actor is greater than the sum of its parts. It’s also got an amazing fan base. I’ve thought it was a very neat trick to set a show in a school as everyone can identify with it. The show always moves with what’s happening and no doubt it will grow from strength to strength.”