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Steve McFadden on the shooting of Phil Mitchell
"A little bit of television history"
 real 28k

Steve McFadden on his new television role
"He wants to dispose of his wife"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 11 April, 2001, 17:08 GMT 18:08 UK
From Phil Mitchell to fireman

McFadden: Soon to star in Murder in Mind, a TV thriller
Steve McFadden, EastEnders' Phil Mitchell, tells BBC News Online's Helen Bushby what it was like to star in the biggest soap story since JR Ewing was shot - and reveals a new TV role.

Steve McFadden is on a high - and no wonder - the unmasking of who shot gravelly-voiced Phil Mitchell drew a whopping 20 million viewers, causing the third-largest power surge on record.

As well as gripping the nation, the story grabbed hundreds of column inches in the press and even delayed the playing of a European football match.

McFadden was understandably delighted with the show's success, and laughed as he said: "It feels fantastic, basically, that things are going so well.

"It does feel like a special time at the moment - I'm chuffed to bits and proud of the whole thing."

Phil and Lisa
More than 20m viewers watched Phil confront Lisa over the shooting
He is instantly likeable and funny, with none of the intensity of scary Phil Mitchell, who is not known for his sense of humour.

"We all worked really hard and conspired to keep it a secret - it's great that the story has captured people's imaginations," he said.

But what about keeping the mystery of who shot Phil a secret - was he tempted to tell anyone?

"It was not at all hard to keep it secret," he said. "If someone says to me don't tell anyone this, that's the end of it - I'm a very 'schtum' person - I didn't tell anyone."

Steve McFadden
McFadden will play Joe, a very different character from Phil Mitchell
He thought Lisa was the best choice, rather than Dan or Steve, for committing the crime of passion, he said.

"There was more drama to be had out of the fact it was Lisa - she was ridiculed and deeply upset by this man, so there was only one way she could fight back.

"I'm sure a lot of girls out there would pat her on the back for doing so as she'd taken a lot from Phil."

But despite all the furore, Phil Mitchell is not top of McFadden's list of priorities at the moment - instead it is another character entirely - a fireman called Joe Waterman.

Phil Mitchell
McFadden began shooting Murder in Mind after the shooting scene
The day after he filmed the shooting of Phil, the actor had a three-week break from EastEnders to star in an episode of Murder in Mind, a series of psychological thrillers for the BBC.

"I was on the floor outside Phil's house at night, and then first thing the next morning I was in a fireman's outfit up a 100-foot hydraulic ladder in Paddington."

He said he did not have much time to allow the new role to soak into his consciousness, but that with TV, time is money and so you have to just "get your act together".

Murder in Mind involves seven films exploring the psychology of murder seen through the eyes of the killer.

Steve McFadden
McFadden trained as an actor at Rada
McFadden plays Joe Waterman, who discovers his wife is having an affair with a colleague, and makes contact with a man called James Napeworth (Keith Allen) through the internet, who offers to solve the problems with a gun.

But Waterman finds himself as the prime suspect for the murders with no proof that Napeworth ever existed.

"When I got the script I loved it - someone said to me a long time ago that the sign of a good script is that you want to turn the page and see what happens next, and that's exactly what happened," said McFadden.

He admitted he had been looking to do something other than EastEnders "for quite a while" and that his producers agreed to release him to shoot the drama.

"It was a chance to play someone so complex in a different way than Phil was. He's someone who saves lives who finds himself in circumstances where he wants to dispose of his wife - he's involved in her being killed.

"That's what made it an interesting character to play."

Steve McFadden and Ross Kemp
McFadden started EastEnders 10 years ago with Ross Kemp
The actor had to spend 24 hours with Paddington fire station, and as well as being swung aloft on a ladder, he also had to crawl through tunnels and shadow the firemen as they worked.

"My respect for firemen went up tremendously," he added.

His foray into internet chat rooms was purely professional, however, as he "wouldn't know how to log on to a chat room - I use the internet for looking at cars and that sort of thing".

But despite the break from EastEnders, he has no intention of leaving, saying Phil is by far his favourite character to play.

'Not complaining'

"It's got to be Phil - I've put a lot of time and effort into it - I'm very proud of what we've created."

McFadden does not mind the fame and attention too much, although he does miss "plain, old boring anonymity".

"But being famous is nice - if I didn't want to be famous I could always leave, couldn't I? So I'm not complaining."

Flame, starring Steve McFadden as part of the Murder in Mind series, will be shown on BBC One on 29 April.

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