Hollyoaks star Duncan James talks about playing killer Ryan Knight, shares his plans for the future and reveals why he loves being a baddy but would never do Strictly....
Singer and actor Duncan James, 39, has gone from being one quarter of best-selling boy band Blue, to treading the boards in the West End and last year, the popular star, turned his hand to soaps when he joined Hollyoaks as copper Ryan Knight.
This week, after months of whodunnit speculation, and with many alternative suspects in the frame, Ryan was finally revealed as his wife Amy Barnes' true killer who was murdered on their wedding day!
What’s On TV caught up with Duncan, 39, to give us the lowdown on killers, kissing and comfort food and heard how he’s still missing Tara Palmer- Tomkinson, his ex and close friend, who tragically passed away in Feburary aged 45.
Duncan James' What's On TV interview
WOTV: How are you enjoying playing baddie Ryan and was it a shock to find out you were going to be Amy’s killer?
Duncan James: "It’s great being in the thick of it at the moment. I loved the fact we managed to keep the fact that Ryan was Amy's killer a secret for so long so it could be a shock to viewers. There have been so many twists along the way although as soon as it was on the telly people were saying, 'I always knew it was Ryan!'"
WOTV: Did you know you were going to be a baddy when you joined?
DJ: "No! When I first came in I was told I was going to be straight, that I’d be marrying a woman and that I’d have children. I thought ‘Great!’ but then I was told, 'Actually we’re going to make you gay and turn you into a killer.' Welcome to Hollyoaks! I was doing a scene the other day when I was kissing a girl and then later I was kissing a boy. It’s quite nice to have a little snog at work …an innocent snog. Perks of the job I guess!"
WOTV: What’s going to happen to Ryan next?
DJ: "The plot thickens and things are going to get very dark for him indeed over the next few months. Will he get his comeuppance? Well, I think it’s fair to say with anyone who’s killed anyone in Hollyoaks there has to be some kind of justice - but then again look at Mercedes: She’s killed lots of people but she keeps on coming back!"
WOTV: You’re in Hollyoaks, your bandmate Lee Ryan is in EastEnders. Maybe we could have fellow Blue members Simon Webb in Emmerdale and Antony Costa in Corrie!
DJ: "Ha ha! I’m really proud of Lee in EastEnders. He’s doing a great job. I’m just happy that after 17 years of starting in Blue we’re all still doing stuff. I’m sure there are lots of people who wish we’d all just go away! I’m going to be 40 next year and it can be tough in this industry. It’s very easy to disappear and it’s also very hard to go back to a normal job so to speak, so I’m just grateful to be working!"
WOTV: It’s full on being in a soap. How have you found learning your lines?
DJ: "When I first started I was terrible. I’ve been singing Blue songs for 17 years and I still forget the lyrics to my own songs! I’ve got a terrible memory but I’ve actually found the discipline of having to learn lines has helped. Anyone struggling to remember stuff, pick up scripts and start learning lines. Train your brain!"
WOTV: How do you chill out when you’re not working?
DJ: "I’m a workaholic. I don’t really stop. Monday to Friday I’m with Hollyoaks and then Saturdays and Sundays I’m usually with Blue. I’m up and down from Liverpool to London about three times a week and I live on about five hours of sleep a night. I can just about survive on that and coffee definitely helps."
WOTV: You’ve done presenting, acting, singing, what else would you like to try?
DJ: "I’d love to do fashion and design a brand of clothing or something like that, maybe underwear or swimwear. I love being creative but it would be nice to do something that doesn’t involve being on a stage or performing."
WOTV: You could model your own range!
DJ: "No! (laughing), No-one wants to see an obese 40 year old parading about in underwear. I’ve put on so much weight since I’ve been on Hollyoaks. When you’re in a soap you’re in at 7.30 in the morning and finish at 6.30 at night. All you want to do is go home, eat, learn your lines, and go to bed. The six pack has gone! They tried to get me topless the other day for a scene and I said, ‘Do I have to, I’m feeling fat?!” You definitely become more conscious about weight being on TV."
WOTV: What’s your favourite comfort food?
DJ: "At work they do these big Yorkshire puddings, roast beef, sausages, gravy and mash. It’s my favourite meal of the week. I love a good Yorkshire pudding – my grandma taught me how to make good ones."
WOTV: Are you handy in the kitchen then?
DJ: "Yeah I’m a pretty good cook. I love all the traditional stuff. I’m good at roasts and my speciality is gravy. Everyone who comes to my house when I've done a roast says my gravy is amazing. It’s nice to come home, cook a bit and take your mind off work especially recently when it’s been quite full on being Ryan. The other day I’d just finished filming and I went to the supermarket to get some food and this lady, who was drunk, started hassling me and grabbed me trying to get a photo. I just snapped, I was really furious. Afterwards I though, ‘Oooh, I think that was a bit of Ryan coming out there!'’’
WOTV: It’s been nine months since your close friend Tara Palmer Tomkinson passed away. You must miss her a lot…
DJ: "Ah yes, I really do. Tara was just hilarious. She was bright as a button, so sharp and so quick, always coming out with her brilliant one-liners. I used to go round to her flat all the time and we’d mess around making up songs on the piano. I’ve got hundreds on my phone saved on Voice Notes of us mucking about and also making little videos and stuff. I miss her a lot. I rang her mum the other day and we had a lovely long chat talking about Tara and sharing some of the fun memories."
WOTV: Your bandmate Simon went on Strictly. Is that something you’d like to do?
DJ: "I would absolutely have loved to if I hadn’t injured my back and had complications. I’m partly paralysed down my left leg and can’t run or bear much weight on it. It happened about a year and a half ago when I was doing the stage musical Priscilla Queen Of The Desert. I was having to dance around in high heels every night on stage and my back was getting so painful I ended up having injections in my spine to numb the pain. Unfortunately one day of my discs just kind of went and because I left it too late to get it treated at the hospital the nerve just died."
WOTV: What about I’m A Celebrity. Your bandmate Antony did that...
DJ: "I have a MASSIVE phobia of snakes. I think if I saw one, or one fell out of a tree or something, I’d pass out or I’d literally pee myself. I know for sure I would never, ever be able to put my head on one of those tanks with creatures crawling about. I’d have a heart attack. I think Masterchef would probably be more my thing!"
WOTV: Blue have just published an autobiography. Tell us about that..
DJ: "Yes, it's been brilliant to work on. The four of us have all had pretty colourful lives since the band formed. It's been lovely going through old pictures and memories and reliving some of the the good times we've shared. There have been plenty of highs and a few lows so there's definitely plenty of material!"
Hollyoaks, Mon-Fri on Channel 4, 6.30pm and E4 7pm
Tess is a senior writer for What’s On TV, TV Times, TV & Satellite and WhattoWatch.com She's been writing about TV for over 25 years and worked on some of the UK’s biggest and best-selling publications including the Daily Mirror where she was assistant editor on the weekend TV magazine, The Look, and Closer magazine where she was TV editor. She has freelanced for a whole range of websites and publications including We Love TV, The Sun’s TV Mag, Woman, Woman’s Own, Fabulous, Good Living, Prima and Woman and Home.
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