James Bye — things you didn’t know about the EastEnders and Strictly Come Dancing star

James Bye
What else is there to know about soap star and Strictly Come Dancing contestant James Bye? (Image credit: Getty Images)

Strictly Come Dancing returns to our screens this week, and joining this years’ celebrity line-up, all the way from Walford is EastEnders star James Bye.

The actor, who was announced as the 14th contestant competing for the coveted glitterball trophy in Strictly Come Dancing 2022, is best known for playing market stall holder Martin Fowler in the BBC soap, a role which he’s held since 2014.

James has some big dancing shoes to fill, following in the footsteps of previous EastEnders stars including Maisie Smith, Emma Barton, Jake Wood, and of course, the current reigning champion, Rose Ayling-Ellis. But James, who admits his three young sons enjoy a good laugh at his ‘dad dancing’ has said: “It’s an honor to be asked.”

Here are a few facts you may not know about James Bye...

He’s a Basingstoke boy

James Edward Bye was born on 23rd April 1984, making him a Pisces. Brought up in Basingstoke, James went to The Hurst School in Baghurst before attending Queen Mary's College. 

His first TV appearance was in an episode of police drama The Bill back in 2006, followed by a bit part credited as ‘Tough Guy in Club’ in Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant’s 2010 comedy film Cemetery Junction

James’s other roles have included playing John Daley in the series The Great Train Robbery, and Pete the Killer in The Hooligan Factory. Then in 2014 came the call that changed James’s life when he was offered the part of barrow boy Martin Fowler in EastEnders.

He’s the third actor to play EastEnders’ Martin Fowler

Martin Fowler is one of the Square’s most iconic characters, having been the first baby born on the soap, back in August 1985. Martin was originally played by Jon Peyton-Price until 1996, then James Alexandrou took over the role and remained a regular until his exit in February 2007. 

After a seven-year absence, the show’s bosses decided to reintroduce Martin and recast James to play him. 

Although he was asked to shave off his beard prior to filming so it wasn’t such a leap from the old Martin to the new one, James insists he was encouraged to make the role his own. Speaking on EastEnders: Secrets from the Square he revealed: “I was given a really in-depth break down from the team and chats with the exec-producers at the time who said, “He’s your character now, do what you want with him.”

James Bye as Martin Fowler in EastEnders

James as Martin Fowler in EastEnders. (Image credit: BBC)

He's great mates with his EastEnders co-stars

This December will mark James’s eight-year anniversary on EastEnders and during that time he’s struck up solid friendships with several of his co-stars. 

Their characters may have been caught up in a love triangle, but off-screen James is close mates with Davood Ghadami (who played Kush Kazemi) and Lacey Turner (aka Stacey Slater). In fact, he and wife Victoria asked them to be godparents to their youngest son, Hugo. 

Speaking to OK! magazine after Hugo’s baptism in early 2020 James shared: “We are eternally grateful that they accepted. I have worked with Lacey and Davood pretty much every day for more than five years and we socialize a lot outside of work, too. We’ve grown so close, to the point where I would call them family rather than friends.”

James Bye and his co-star Lacey Turner at The British Soap Awards 2016

James and his co-star Lacey Turner at The British Soap Awards 2016. (Image credit: ITV)

He met his wife in a supermarket car park

James has just celebrated ten years of wedded bliss with his beautiful wife, Victoria. Their couple’s love story began 16 years ago when they first met in the not-so-glamorous setting of a Sainsbury’s car park. 

James, who was working on a promo job at the time, handed Victoria a fruit jelly, they got talking and he asked her out on a date to a local pub. And as they say, the rest is history! 

Victoria’s milestone 40th birthday coincided with the filming of the Strictly Come Dancing launch show, but James made up for it with a gushing message to his soulmate on Instagram, saying he couldn’t wait to celebrate properly with her. Aww.

He's a devoted dad

James and Victoria are proud parents to three sons – Edward, Louis and Hugo, and regularly share snaps of family days out with their adorable trio. James’s Instagram posts show he’s just a big kid at heart and loves larking about with his boys – having Star Wars lightsaber fights, living room discos, and pretending to be Batman

He’s also very hands-on, quite literally in the sense when it came to the birth of his youngest, Hugo. Opening up to OK! magazine, James revealed he jumped into the birthing pool to catch his son as he entered the world. “Being the first to hold Hugo made me so emotional,” he admitted.

He's had a go at being a gameshow host

Yes, you read that right. James was the hilarious host of Albert Squared², a 10-part weekly game show that aired on EastEnders’ YouTube channel and Facebook page last year. 

The program saw two teams of cast members – The EastEnd Defenders and The Walford Warriors – go head-to-head, testing their EastEnders trivia and competing in a series of silly challenges. 

James, who looked the part in Pearly King encrusted jacket, was clearly in his element as the question master. Chatting to The Mirror about the gig, the star admitted it had been a great chance for the cast to show their fans what they’re like in real life. James said: “I really enjoyed it. We were told to have fun, have a laugh and show viewers what our relationships are like off camera and that’s exactly what we did. There are ten episodes of us just having a giggle. It lifted everyone’s spirits when we needed it.”

James Bye with his co-stars Danny Dyer and Maddy Hill on The Wall

James with his co-stars Danny Dyer and Maddy Hill on Danny's gameshow The Wall. (Image credit: BBC)

James Bye’s fact file

Frequently asked questions about the actor...

How old is James Bye?

James Bye is 38, he was born on 23rd February 1984.

Is James Bye married?

James has been married to wife Victoria since April 2012.

Does James Bye have any children?

James and Victoria are parents to three young sons – Edward, Louis and Hugo.

Where was James Bye born?

James was born in Basingstoke, Hampshire.

How tall is James Bye?

James is 6 foot 1. 

Instagram: @jimmybye

We work hard to ensure that all information is correct. Facts that change over time, such as age, will be correct, to the best of our knowledge, at the time of the last article update.

Laura Morgan
Freelance writer

Laura has been a journalist for over a decade, writing about soaps, TV entertainment, fashion, beauty, and food. After graduating from university, she started her career working at a national soap and TV magazine. During her seven-year stint there she joined the cast of Emmerdale for a tour around the famous village, partied with soap stars at awards bashes, interviewed her acting idol David Suchet, and sat in the front row of Strictly Come Dancing

Her heart lies with the soaps, and her all-time favourite character has to be EastEnders' Pat Butcher - no one rocked a big earring quite like her. She's also a huge fan of detective crime dramas, particularly old school Inspector Morse, Endeavour, and adaptations of Agatha Christie's Marple and Poirot. When she's not writing, she loves a spot of second-hand shopping and going on adventures with her young son.