EastEnders legend Sid Owen has opened up about his past, saying that if he hadn't landed the role of Ricky Butcher on the soap, he might have ended up dead.
The actor, 51, played Walford’s hapless mechanic from 1988 until 2000, returning sporadically until 2012 and reprised his role in 2022.
And he believes that without acting, he could have easily turned to a life of crime and ended up in an early grave. Sid, 51, told Daily Star: "I grew up on a massive council estate. All my family, friends and neighbours were involved in crime. That was all I knew. I grew up as a petty thief. I did that because my three older brothers were doing it.
"It stems from where you grow up and your background and being on the poverty line. And I lost my mum at six… my dad was in prison. So I could have easily lost the plot. I could have easily gone down the wrong path."
Sid's lifeline came when he started having lessons at performing arts school Anna Scher Theatre in Islington, London, which made him realise he didn't want to go down the same road as many of his relatives.
He related how acting classes were his saviour, adding, "If I hadn't discovered acting, I'd probably be in prison or dead. People that are involved in dodgy money, they live life in the fast lane. They go down the wrong route. Things could have easily turned out very differently."
Sid cut himself off from loved ones to make sure he stayed on the straight and narrow and only visited his dad in prison once, saying he was told bad things about him and chose not to speak to him again, even though his dad tried to get back in touch.
After years of keeping on the right side of the law, Sid has been put behind bars for a new TV show. Producers on four-parter Banged Up, also starring Gogglebox's Marcus Luther and Friday Night Dinner's Tom Rosenthal, took over a disused jail and created a realistic prison environment.
That included a raft of ex-convicts who agreed to behave the way they did when they were doing time. Spending time there gave Sid an idea of what some of his relatives went through when they were inside.
He says: "It was an eye-opener for me to see what prison is like. It's sad to think about what my family went through. Prison is not a nice place. It felt very real. Being locked up for hours and hours every day sends you crazy."
Back in 2020, Sid was left needing intensive surgery after a golfball smashed his face in a freak accident while on holiday in Thailand.
Sid explained how he has spent weeks in "total hell" as he recovered from a shattered jaw and six smashed teeth. Doctors told him he could've died if the ball had hit him just two inches higher.
Speaking about the traumatic event, he explained that he was playing with a friend when a ball ricocheted off a tree and into his face.
He said: "One minute I'm playing a round, and the next I’m in total agony and on my way to hospital.
"But actually I've almost been lucky because they've told me if it had hit me two inches higher up I'd probably be dead from that sort of impact."
Then, in January 2022, he revealed how his fiancée Victoria nearly died during the birth of their daughter. Her labour was far from straightforward – she lost pints of blood and needed a transfusion, as their daughter Skye was delivered via emergency C-section four weeks early.
Banged Up starts at 9.15pm on Channel 4 from 31 October.
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