He’s been on the Square for little more than six months, but already David Witts has made quite an impact. His character, Joey Branning, has charmed Lucy, Whitney and – more recently – cousin Lauren, while Christmas 2012 saw him dealing with the aftermath of dad Derek’s untimely death. This week, Witts was rewarded for his efforts with a National Television Awards nomination for Best Newcomer – so what better time to talk to him about life in the soap spotlight?
So, David, when you start in a show like EastEnders, do you become famous overnight?
No, not at all. I think people expect that to be the case, but it takes a while. It only really happens once you’ve been on people’s screens for a few months. But I still tend to do everything the same as I’ve always done. I get the bus to the gym and the train to work. When you’re on something like EastEnders, you can afford to be as famous as you want to be. If you were to drive down the street in a stretch limousine with your window down, then people would scream. Because people totally buy into the hype. But if you do normal things, then people will treat you like a human being.
Is there a responsibility that goes with being in EastEnders? After all, the fanbase is enormous and it must make a fan’s day when they bump into someone from the show.
There is a definite responsibility there, but it’s not one I find much of a burden. Sometimes you can’t give people as much time as they want because you might be running to catch a train. But you can’t complain when people are nice and tell you they enjoy the show. That’s really lovely. Obviously, some people are slightly less nice because there are some people in this world who are less polite!
Has there been some confrontational moments?
Not confrontational. It tends to be young, very impressionable lads who, if they were on their own, might have come up and just asked for a photo. But, in a group, it’s sort of embarrassing for them to do that, and less embarrassing for them to shout out things like “Oi Joey! Lauren’s fit!” And I’m not sure how to react to things like that because they’re talking about fictional people! But generally, you don’t get abuse. It’s just young kids who are a bit silly when you walk past.
I always thought that people confusing reality and fiction was just a myth…
Well, EastEnders is shot in this natural-looking way. And, often, people in the show do resemble their characters, even it’s just in the way they speak. So I’ve often had conversations with people who are perfectly nice, but who haven’t once asked me my name. They’ve just called me “Joey”. And that is somewhat bizarre because, obviously, you never think of yourself as the character. Even when you’re at work, you’re being called “David” right the way up to the actual take, which may last, say, a minute! So that’s very odd.
So what was your initial reaction when you were told that Joey was going to be paired romantically with his cousin Lauren?
When you’re an actor in the show, you’re just thinking how fun it’s going to be to play the storyline rather than thinking, ‘Oh no, that’s disgusting!’ You’re seeing it from a different point of view. And anyway, you’re looking at two people who have only just met as adults. It’s not like they grew up together and were playing in the sand aged three. If that had been the case, it would have been very strange. But Joey didn’t think of Lauren as family because he didn’t actually have her in his family until he was in his 20s. So, I didn’t see much of a problem with it. And it is legal!