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Ex EastEnders star Neil McDermott: 'When you're playing an animal on stage there are far fewer rules!'

Neil McDermott, EastEnders, Wind In The Willows

Former Albert Square actor Neil McDermott talks about playing a weasel in the musical Wind In The Willows…

Neil McDermott chats about his new role as a comedy baddie and the chances of him bringing Ryan Malloy back to EastEnders…

Tell us about your new stage role, Neil? “I’m playing Chief Weasel in the musical Wind In The Willows at the Palladium in London. It’s adapted from the famous book of the same name by Kenneth Grahame. It was written back in 1908, so nans and granddads, great nans and granddads, mums and dads, as well as kids, are familiar with the story.”

Remind us of it again? “It’s the first day of spring and Mole is setting out on a journey across the countryside. He meets his friends – Ratty, Badger and the outrageous, car-mad Toad, who ends up in jail. It’s at this point that the Chief Weasel and his band of weasels take over Toad’s house, Toad Hall.”

Is Chief Weasel a real baddie, then? “He’s a comedy baddie. We’ve turned him into an anarchic punk, although he wears pinstripes and a gangster’s hat. He’s also got a tail and whiskers! He’s a fantastic character to play. When you’re playing an animal on stage, there are far fewer rules!”

It’s a new musical. Do you prefer that to being in a revival? “Yes. It’s great to be in at the beginning and create your role from scratch rather than be following in anyone else’s footsteps. We took the show on tour around the country last year and the response was fantastic.”

How does it feel to be performing at the London Palladium? “Amazing. It’s not my first time here... It’s a huge venue, but it feels quite intimate when you’re on stage.”

Neil McDermott arriving for the 2011 National Television Awards at the O2 Arena, London.

Neil McDermott arriving for the 2011 National Television Awards at the O2 Arena, London.


Although you stopped playing Ryan Malloy in EastEnders in 2011, you have popped back every now and again… “It’s a great thing to be able to do. I love EastEnders, but I left because I wanted to play other characters. I wanted more variety. But dipping back in from time to time, if it works for both me and the show, is perfect.”

What do you think Ryan is doing now? “He’s up north in Wakefield, isn’t he? He’s got a girlfriend, who he met in jail and who may even be his fiancée, and a wedding is possibly on the cards. Knowing Ryan, though, there’s bound to be trouble!”