Former EastEnders star John Altman has revealed that he was written out of the show after he rejected the writer’s plans of a same-sex relationship for his character. In an interview with Bang Showbiz, Altman said, “they suddenly decided that he weren’t gay, they were gonna make him gay, and I didn’t think that was a good idea as it would’ve changed Nick’s character completely, really.”
From 1985 to 2015, Altman played the villainous role of Nick Cotton. After his original exit, he would make one-off appearances throughout the years.
During the interview, the actor described what brought about his character’s initial departure from EastEnders: “So I went to the producer, I said, ‘I hear you’ve got this idea, but I don’t think it will work’, and she said, ‘Well, write him out,’ and I walked away. She was really harsh.”
In 2012, June Brown, the actress who played Dot Cotton, Nick’s mom in EastEnders, spoke to the Guardian about the character Altman played being written off: “In the early days, we actors had no input. Julia was quite a taskmaster. When Nick was supposed to start a gay relationship with Lofty, John Altman, who played Nick, told her he didn’t feel it was in character. When he left the room, Julia said: “Write him out!” They did.”
Altman further told Bang Showbiz, “If I’d have gone in playing a gay character, fine. But to suddenly make the character… I dunno, to me, as an actor, it would’ve been wrong. I don’t think the public would’ve wanted it either.”
In recent years, the show has been praised for its LGBT+ representation as fans have fallen head over heels for characters such as Paul Coker and Ben Mitchell as well as its portrayal of a Muslim LGBT+ story line. EastEnders hosted its very first Pride Parade in May.
Though there is a strong push for further inclusivity under the vision of new senior executive producer Kate Oates, these storylines feel an organic part of the characters rather than an afterthought. During The Guardian interview, Altman said, “I did sometimes feel frustrated that they didn’t make more of Nick. They’d use him to pack a punch and make a headline at the expense of longer-term plots.”
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