EastEnders legend ‘Nasty’ Nick: ‘I shared my first kiss in a haystack in Berkshire’

PUBLISHED: 09:15 18 September 2020 | UPDATED: 11:18 21 September 2020

John at Sandridge Studio     Photo: Mark Christopher Lee

John at Sandridge Studio Photo: Mark Christopher Lee

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Berkshire born John Altman on his new audio autobiography, music album and film roles

John is releasing an album in time for Christmas    Photo: Paul HarrisJohn is releasing an album in time for Christmas Photo: Paul Harris

It’s not every day that an EastEnders legend comes to Cookham, but the Media Hub, in association with B7 Media, welcomed John Altman, best known as ‘Nasty’ Nick Cotton, to its gathering last week, albeit virtually.

“I was actually born in Berkshire, at Battle Hospital in Reading,” he says. “I grew up in Hurst, between Wokingham and Twyford. It is pretty idyllic with its duck pond and the River Loddon flowing through it. I used to swim in the river, I remember meeting Father Christmas for the first time in Twyford and watching the steam trains go by. I also shared my first kiss with a girl in a haystack in Hurst.”

At the Media Hub, John spoke to producer and director Helen Quigley about his colourful life, career and the release of his audiobook autobiography, In the Nick of Time, published by B7 Media. “We had a good chat,” he says. “I had lots to say about my childhood, my travels all over the world and my acting. This is all in my autobiography, which I spent a long time writing. Then I recorded it this year with Helen Quigley and Andrew Mark Sewell from B7 Media. We added in three extra chapters and had a laugh doing it. An extra five minutes of hilarous outtakes are also available.”

Under the name of ‘Johnny Altman’, his music persona, John will be releasing an album in time for Christmas, It’s Never Too Late To Rock n Roll. The first single will be out in October, called Hallucinating You. “There’s an eclectic mix of music on the album, from rock tracks to bluesy ballads, punk and one country-style track,” he says. “They’re all original tracks written by myself and various musicians I’ve worked with over the past 20 years. People know me from EastEnders. When they find out I can sing, it’s a surprise and they say: ‘I didn’t take you for a singer.’ I’m the same age as Bruce Springsteen and like him it’s never too late to rock n roll.”

Earlier this year, John also starred alongside Duncan Bannatyne, Britt Ekland, Paul Chuckle, Barbara Dickson, Henry Blofeld, Susie Blake and Zandra Rhodes in BBC One’s The Real Marigold Hotel. “It was well received,” he says. “And it was good fun. We each accepted one another for who we were.”

He’s also been working on his film career, and has recently starred in a story of redemption, Innocent Candy, and British gangster film, Lucas and Albert. “It’s my goal to do more film. I love it,” he says. “My first childhood experience of the cinema was in Wokingham and Reading and I think that’s where my passion for acting probably began.”

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He continued: “My mum was very proud of me for what I achieved with my acting, but my dad, who used to get the 6.30am train from Twyford every morning to go and work in the Bank of England always thought I should get a secure job. But once I got the part in EastEnders he too was proud of me.”

John explains he went to Art school in High Wycombe, and taught himself to play the guitar, before he bluffed his way into getting a job backstage at the Leeds Grand Theatre. He then did the same for EastEnders. “I told them I was a genuine East Ender,” he laughs. “I put on a cockney accent and Matthew Robinson, the director, along with the creators Julia Smith and Tony Holland, gave me the job.”

And that was it. John Altman burst onto our screens in 1985 as ‘Nasty’ Nick, the formidable, leather-jacketed, chain-smoking son of Dot Cotton, and changed the face of TV villains for good.

“They say that life can imitate art, but the character of Nick couldn’t be further from who I really am – although like my fictional alter ego I have had my dark times,” John said, who is the first to confess that he tested the boundaries in his younger years.

‘Nasty Nick’ was killed off in the 30th anniversary episode of EastEnders so he could pursue other ambitions, and he’s certainly doing that. What with an autobiography, audio autobiography, new single and album, and a stream of TV and film appearances, he’s certainly achieved his childhood dream. And we think he’s still rocking it.

Order John Altman’s audiobook, In the Nick of Time, from B7 Media and Audible

* The Media Hub is the south-east’s leading group of media professionals and includes print journalists, producers, directors, writers, bloggers, actors, photographers, media trainers and consultants. Previous high-profile guest speakers have included; Theresa May, Princess Esméralda of Belgium, Tim Brooke-Taylor, BBC Radio 5 live’s Dotun Adebayo and Olympian swimmer Adrian Moorhouse.

* Helen Quigley is a Voiceover Artist and Producer with nearly 20 years’ experience in producing audio for broadcast. Previously she was a Continuity Announcer and Producer for Comedy Central UK, working with up-and-coming comedians. “I was also there in the early, innovative days of podcasts,” she says, as she launched Robin Ince and Josie Long’s podcasts. “During the Berkshire Media Hub last week, I picked through parts of John’s audio autobiography, such as his first jobs, including his musical theatre work - people don’t realise he did 500 performances in Chicago! We talked about his trips to India and his darker past, and the spiritual side of his personality. We also spoke about his music and his path to Hollywood. He’s such a wonderful character.”

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