When the actor was a child, his father was sent to prison for armed robbery, and his mother died of cervical cancer. He discusses learning to fight, being mentored by Al Pacino, and the soap that saved him

EastEnders was already a national phenomenon by the time Sid Owen auditioned for the role of Ricky Butcher in 1988. The soap had been running for three years and producers wanted a new drama-torn family in Walford. Owen was 16, had left school with no GCSEs and was living in a squat with two of his older brothers in north London. He was desperate for the part, but the cramped flat had no phone so, after his third audition he called his agent every day from a phone box for news. When he got the part it made him a star almost overnight. Famed for his on-screen relationship with Patsy Palmer (who played Bianca Jackson), their soap wedding in 1997 drew in 22 million viewers. He would arrive on set to fans screaming; rarely could he walk down the street without someone yelling “Ricky!”.

The trouble, as he puts it, is that when you are famous, people tend to come out of the woodwork.

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