Two days after their youngest son Hugo turned one, James and Victoria Bye celebrated by christening the newest addition to their family.
The EastEnders star – who has played Martin Fowler on the BBC soap since 2014 – and his wife of eight years had Hugo baptised on 22 February at St Michael’s Church in Buckinghamshire, before continuing with a party back at home.
Key players on the day were, of course, Hugo’s adoring older brothers Edward, seven, and Louis, who turns four this month, as well as two very well-known godparents.
James asked his co-stars Lacey Turner – who is currently on maternity leave from her role as his estranged on-screen wife Stacey Fowler – and Davood Ghadami, aka Walford’s hunky Kush Kazemi, to take on the special roles.
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“We are eternally grateful that they accepted,” says James, 36. Victoria, 37, agrees and adds: “We wanted people that will watch over Hugo as much as we will.”
Here, the couple exclusively talk to OK! about their favourite moments from the christening – including the emotional readings and the late night after-party that ended up with James stripping off – and why they wouldn’t rule out adding to their brood…
How was Hugo’s christening?
James: It was a really magical day. We only invited close family and friends. We wanted an intimate affair, so Hugo knew everyone there.
Victoria: We had been looking forward to it for a while. Our other boys were christened at a couple of weeks old, but we kept pushing the date of this back as things kept popping up. In the end, we decided to do it as a joint celebration with Hugo’s first birthday and have a big party.
Did Hugo love being the centre of attention?
Victoria: It was nice that he was that bit older as it meant he could enjoy the day. He was smiling at everyone in the church. He was also tentatively trying to take his first steps, so we thought we might get him walking for the first time on the day but that didn’t quite happen. He said “mama” for the first time on his birthday though, which felt amazing. He has been saying “dada” for ages, so James was gloating!
James: I’ve been coaching him to say “mama”. I wanted to share the love.
What were your highlights of the day?
Victoria: The vicar was lovely. She talked about how life is a journey and asked everyone to write their name on a little luggage tag. Then she asked us all to hold our tag, make a wish and say a little prayer. At the end, we got the bag with all the tags in, which was really sweet.
Who did the readings?
James: Davood read The Parable of The Good Samaritan, which is a Bible reading. It quietened the church, he was really engaging as he read it.
Victoria: The vicar wanted us all to be involved. I started out doing a little introduction to Hugo, and James ended the service by reading the lyrics to Bob Dylan’s Forever Young. It’s always been one of our favourite songs. We asked him to sing it, but luckily he saved us from that torture [laughs]!
Did you get emotional at any point?
Victoria: We held it together, actually. It was such a happy day and because Hugo was that little bit older, any moments where we felt a tear coming, he would stick his tongue out, so everyone in the church was laughing. At the end of my reading, Hugo clapped and that set a precedent, so when Davood did his reading, everybody clapped. The vicar loved it, she thought she was at a pantomime rather than a service.
Did Edward and Louis get involved?
James: They did loads of running around getting all the bits and bobs that the vicar needed for the day. When I did my reading, Louis held my hand. The boys realised how special the day was and wanted to put their special braces on. We feel so incredibly lucky to have this little brood that just love each other so much.
Victoria: Edward and Louis idolise Hugo and they are his heroes. He was smiling and waving at them during the service and they were proud as punch looking at him.
How did you decide on Lacey and Davood as godparents?
James: I have worked with them pretty much every day for more than five years and we socialise a lot outside of work, too. We’ve grown so close, to the point where I would call them family rather than friends. As soon as Hugo was born, I knew straight away that I wanted to ask them and we are eternally grateful that they accepted. We don’t take it lightly and we know they’ll watch over him.
Victoria: We wanted people that will watch over Hugo as much as we will. Lacey always says that, in her eyes, Hugo can do no wrong and ever since he was born, she has just adored him.
Were Davood and Lacey emotional when you asked them?
James: I took Lacey out for lunch to ask her. I was quite nervous and I was getting choked up asking her. Bless her, she was really taken aback and said it was an honour. I think Davood expected it. We’re so close, we’re like each other’s shadows.
Victoria: Every night, James and Davood are just messaging each other. They both have all these in-jokes that nobody else gets. Davood is basically James… but with a six pack.
James: He is basically the better version of me [laughs].
Lacey became a mum to her daughter Dusty last July. What is she like as a mum?
James: She is a fantastic mother, a complete natural. She and little Dusty are hilarious together and completely inseparable.
Victoria: She waited so long for Dusty, so to see them together is just beautiful. Lacey idolises her and we adore Dusty as well. Because she and Hugo are so close in age, we’re looking forward to seeing them grow up together. We’re planning a big barbecue this summer with Lacey and her family and Davood and his.
After the christening, you had everyone back to yours…
Victoria: Yes. Lacey played games with all the kids while all the parents had a good time, bless her. She became chief child minder for the day!
Did the party go on late?
James: It did actually. Some of the people with kids left earlier but it was also my birthday the next day, so we got through quite a few bottles of wine. I even did a little strip at one point.
Tell us more…
James: My sister had bought me some workout clothes for my birthday. I think she’s trying to tell me to get in shape! So I decided to let everyone see it in all its glory. Someone put the Magic Mike song on and I did a bit of a show. I didn’t go the full monty though, our mums were there!
Victoria: I let him have a birthday lie-in the next morning while I tidied up.
Are you getting much sleep with Hugo these days?
James: He has been a fantastic sleeper from an early age but at the moment, he’s not in a great sleeping phase. He lets you know when he has woken up in the night and wakes the whole house up!
You said last time we spoke that you wouldn’t rule out having more kids. Have you given that any more thought?
Victoria: We always say, “We are absolutely done, no more children…probably.” [Laughs].
James: It’s a daily conversation that we have because it will all depend on the day we’ve had. But it’s so difficult to say we are never going to have any more children because we love our kids so much. The best times of our lives are with them.
You bravely opened up to us previously about the troubles you had conceiving Hugo [Victoria suffers from endometriosis]. Does that put you off trying again?
Victoria: Yeah, it’s always in the back of my mind that we might never be able to have more children. I have made my peace with that and when Hugo was born, we just wanted a healthy baby after the struggle we had to have him. It’s something we definitely think about, but we also know how blessed we are to have the three children that we’ve got.
Given how busy you are with three little ones, do you ever have any time for date nights?
James: We do really well, we have a fantastic babysitter and we always make sure that we go away for our anniversary in April, even just for a night.
Victoria: The first year after we got married, James planned the trip because I, unbelievably, forgot our anniversary entirely and he came home with all these presents! Since then, we made a pact that every year we would take it in turns to plan something. In the past, we’ve been everywhere from the Cotswolds to Paris, and this year, it’s James’s turn to pick somewhere.
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James: You might have to make do with a little trip round Walford this time.
Victoria: Great, a date at the Minute Mart it is then!
EastEnders airs Monday and Friday at 8PM, and Tuesday and Thursday at 7.30PM on BBC One.
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