It’s a milestone day for EastEnders actor Jamie Borthwick. He’s now been a mainstay as Jay Brown for a decade, but despite the 10-year stint, he won’t be celebrating with a high-profile party.
“We might have a little drink somewhere with the family,” he says. “But I’m quite anti-celebrity. I just prefer to go about my business in a quiet, under-the-radar way.”
He made his debut on the soap at the age of 12 and has been quietly producing high-quality performances ever since. For Borthwick, the nightclub and reality-show circuit just doesn’t appeal. Instead, he wants his work to do the talking.
“I feel very proud to be on EastEnders,” he states. “When I look back on my career and life, I want to be proud of the decisions and choices I’ve made. I really love being on this show. This is what I know. I’m not sure I’d ever be able to do a reality show”
His years as Jay have seen his character embroiled in no end of drama, from a stabbing during his early teens and the murder of his on-screen dad to a controversial plotline in 2016 that saw him put on the sex offenders’ register after getting involved with a girl he didn’t know was only 14 years old.
Looking back on those formative years in Albert Square, Borthwick says of his experiences: “I was cheeky when I was young. I’d been brought up in pubs, so when I was with my chaperone, I’d always want to be off having fun with the grown-ups. If I was able to go back in time and give myself some advice, I’d say not to worry and that it would all come in time.”
And having now done his growing up on screen, is he tempted to find work away from EastEnders? “It’s something I’ve never thought of doing,” he says. “I’m still being offered work at EastEnders that I’m enjoying. So as long as I’m happy, I think it’s important that I stay. I tend to just take my life and my job a year at a time.”
At the time of our speaking, the Christmas episodes are in the can and, as Borthwick reveals, it’s once again set to be a fraught festive season for his adoptive clan:
“Jay is very much back in the Mitchell family fold, which personally I’m very happy about. It’s lovely to be back with my second family. But it’s a tense time with Phil, because he’s saying that it’s going to be his last Christmas. So everyone is on tenterhooks. And we don’t know what the outcome is going to be.”
Yet despite the on-screen tensions, it’s obvious that being made an honorary Mitchell has been the highlight of the actor’s time in Walford. And he’s quick to praise such mentor figures as Steve McFadden (Phil) and Perry Fenwick (Billy).
“It’s an amazing thing for me to be in the company of these two legends of British television, who have been making top drama for more than 20 years. The advice they gave me was to be good and always learn my lines.
“And something that Steve once said has always stuck in my mind – on the rare occasion that you get a member of the public shouting something at you on the street, you just have to remember, ‘even idiots are due an opinion.’ That made me laugh.”
The other big influence on his Walford life has, of course, been Harry Reid, who joined in 2014 to play Phil’s son Ben. Their on- and off-screen bromance has become a fan favourite thanks to Carpool Karaoke-esque Instagram posts and a recent video message of support from their idol David Jason.
“I’d love David Jason to do a guest turn on EastEnders,” Borthwick enthuses when I mention that particular clip, “Him, Ray Winstone and Gary Oldman. That’d be my dream three. As for Harry, he now feels like my brother in real life. We’re part of each other’s lives and we’re together all the time. We quote lines from Only Fools and Horses or Harry Potter in between takes. He only has to do a little gesture and we’ll be off. We know what the other person is thinking – other people look at us like we’re crazy, but that’s how close we are.”
It’ll come as no surprise therefore then when asked about an ideal future plotline, Borthwick jokes that he has a big idea for Jay and Ben working as a team to seize control of Walford:
“I’d love for Jay and Ben to take over the Square properly. Get control of the business and take over the pub, but also have some rivals. You know, how Phil and Grant used to go up against rival gangsters. I’d like to see some Mitchell solidarity like that between Jay and Ben. I love all that stuff.”
So, ten more years down the line, it looks like Jay and Ben could be the crime kingpins of Albert Square. Mitchell Brothers: the Next Generation? Sounds like the plan for Borthwick’s 20th anniversary is already being mapped out…
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