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Joe Absolom — things you didn’t know about the Doc Martin actor

Joe Absolom on the red carpet at the NTAs
Joe Absolom has starred in Doc Martin since 2004. (Image credit: Getty)

Joe Absolom is best known for playing plumber-turned-restaurateur Al Large for almost two decades on ITV’s Cornish-based drama, Doc Martin. But Joe has been on our screens for a lot longer than that. 

After starting out his career as the cheeky-faced kid in a string of TV adverts, Joe’s big break came in 1997 when he was offered the role of Matthew Rose in EastEnders. His character hit the headlines when he was wrongly imprisoned for murder and fans across the country campaigned for Matthew’s release.

After saying so long to Soapland at the start of the millennium, dad-of-three Joe’s proven himself to be a versatile talent. He’s starred in several prime-time series, playing everything from a cold-blooded killer to a volleyball coach. Here are a few facts you may not know about the actor…

His first job was a peanut butter commercial

Joe Absolom was born on 16th December 1978 and raised in Lewisham, London. His mum Kate and dad Tom were both teachers, and he has an older brother Dan and younger sister called Cassie. A former pupil of Forest Hill school, Joe got into the acting game at the tender age of nine when he landed the lead in a TV advert for Sun-Pat Peanut Butter. 

In an interview with Metro (opens in new tab), Joe reveals it was his parents who put him forward for the gig, saying: “It was the late 80s and the interest rate had just gone up to 16 per cent on my mum and dad’s mortgage. I didn’t know this at the time, but they were skint, so they went, ‘Well, let’s get the kids to work!’ My dad sent off a picture of me and my sister and we suddenly had an agent and then I got called in for the advert. At one point I was doing adverts every week.”

EastEnders made him a household name

In 1997, 18-year-old Joe was just about to start studying for his A-levels when he got the call to join the cast of BBC’s EastEnders. After wowing the soap’s producers in his audition, the character of Matthew Rose was created specifically for Joe. Not much excitement happened during Matthew’s first year on Albert Square, but that all changed on Valentine’s Day 1999 when club boss Steve Owen (played by Martin Kemp) framed him for the murder of his ex-girlfriend, Saskia Duncan. 

Matthew was subsequently put on trial and sent to prison, sparking nationwide campaigns for the character’s release. Eventually, justice was served and Matthew returned to Walford one last time to exact his revenge on Steve. The explosive scenes, which aired in February 2000 were Joe’s last on the show and earned him the Best Actor gong at the British Soap Awards that same year.

Joe Absolom as Matthew Rose in EastEnders

Joe played the role of Matthew Rose in EastEnders. (Image credit: BBC)

He enjoys being a jobbing actor

Pre-soap, Joe had bit parts in The Bill, Casualty and Silent Witness, and since making the decision to leave EastEnders over twenty years ago, his career has continued to flourish. Clearly a fan of gritty roles, Joe has played a criminal in the thriller Girl Number Nine, starred as Ivan in horror flick I Spit on Your Grave 2, and received a BAFTA nomination for his portrayal of real-life murderer Christopher Halliwell in A Confession

In 2015, Joe spent two weeks in the Caribbean shooting a guest role as a volleyball coach for Death in Paradise and more recently he starred in the second series of ITV’s crime drama, The Bay. They say variety is the spice of life, and Joe admits he gets a buzz from being a jobbing actor, finding it interesting and good fun.

He moved his family to Cornwall

Nowadays Joe is probably best known for his role as Al Large in the long-running ITV drama Doc Martin. Set in the fictional Cornish town of Portwenn, filming largely takes place in the beautiful Port Isaac. Joe, who’s been a series regular since 2004, fell in love with Cornwall so much that he and his family decided to relocate from London to the county of cream teas and pasties. 

Discussing the move, he said: “Basically when we film each series of Doc Martin we are in Cornwall for four months, which is really nice. After the last series, we really thought about it and then spent six months making it happen.” However, Joe admits there is one slight drawback. “The only problem is after filming everyone goes back to the pub in the village, and I live quite a way out. I don’t get to have quite the same fun as before because I have to go home, make dinner and put the kids to sleep.”

Joe Absolom in Doc Martin

Joe and his family relocated from London to Cornwall for Doc Martin. (Image credit: ITV)

He got married twice in one month

Joe tied the knot with his long-term partner Liz Brown in 2019, a whole 17 years after their eyes first met across a crowded bar. The couple, who are parents to Lyla, Casper and Daisy celebrated their big day at the beautiful Pencarrow House in Bodmin, and guests included Joe’s Doc Martin co-stars Martin Clunes and Ian McNeice. 

Then, just four weeks after his real-life nuptials, Joe was saying ‘I do’ again when his character Al Large got hitched to doctor’s receptionist Morwenna. In a sweet touch, Joe’s three children were extras for their dad’s on-screen wedding.

He's a Total Wipeout celebrity champion

Who remembers Total Wipeout? You know, the extreme obstacle course where contestants had to make it across those Big Red Balls then tried to defeat Crash Mountain? Well not only did Joe take part in the celebrity version of the BBC show back in 2010, he also won it. The actor’s agile performance earned him a trophy and a rather handsome £10,000 cheque for the charity of his choice. Way to go, Joe!

Joe Absolom in Death in Paradise

Joe played a volleyball coach in Death in Paradise. (Image credit: BBC)

Joe Absolom’s fact file

Frequently asked questions about the actor...

How old is Joe Absolom?

Joe Absolom is 43, he was born on 16th December 1978.

Is Joe Absolom married?

Yes. Joe married his long-time partner Liz Brown in 2019 after being together for 17 years.

Does Joe Absolom have any children?

Joe and Liz are proud parents to three children – Lyla, Casper and Daisy.

Where was Joe Absolom born?

Joe Absolom was born in Lewisham, London.

How tall is Joe Absolom?

Joe is 5 foot 11.

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.