Inside EastEnders Nasty Nick star’s life – music career, soap snub and sexualityMarch 3, 2022
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EastEnders Nick Cotton star star John Altman celebrated his 70th birthday this week.
The actor, real name John Clarkson Stewart, was among the show's original cast members appearing in the first episode in February 1985 and appeared on the show on and off as a recurring character.
His character, the son of Walford icon Dot Cotton (June Brown), was killed off in the 30th anniversary episode of the show which aired in February 2015.
The soap star has also appeared in several films, television series and stage productions.
In 2010, he became the new frontman of the band Heavy Metal Kids following the death of former frontman Gary Holton in 1985.
As John turns another year older, Daily Star has taken a look into his career.
Walford bad boy
Making his acting debut in the 1979 film The First Great Train Robbery, John also appeared in Quadrophenia and American Werewolf in London before being cast as Nasty Nick in EastEnders.
The Albert Square bad boy was involved in a number of grisly storylines including killing Eddie Royle, drug addiction, causing the death of his son Ashley and several murder attempts on his own mother.
Nick was responsible for the BBC soap’s first ever murder, with the body of his victim Reg Cox being discovered in the opening episode.
John had a record six separate stints in the show over the years, appearing in the first episode in 1985 and continuing for another 30 years.
Since leaving the soap in 2015, John has claimed that EastEnders is losing viewers because it has lost the ability to tell new stories or break new ground.
The actor thinks most of the big shocking storylines have been done.
He said: "EastEnders had dramatic divorces, drugs, it opened with a murder.
"It also had different cultures, different races, I don’t know if there had been any Asians or Afro-Caribbean characters in a soap before, EastEnders may have been the first for that.
"It also had the first gay couple, played by Gary Hailes and Michael Cashman."
John also revealed he thinks it would be a "good idea" if the soap became available to binge watch like shows on Netflix.
John previously explained that the actual reason he first left the soap in 1991 was because writers wanted to change his character’s sexuality.
He told BANG Showbiz in 2019: "They tried to make Nick Cotton gay, it was years ago now.
"I went in there straight, and so did the other guy, Lofty, who was a bit of a loveable bozo in the early days.
"Anyway, they suddenly decided that he weren’t gay, they were gonna make him gay, and I didn’t think that was a good idea as it would’ve changed Nick’s character completely, really.
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"So I went to the producer, I said, 'I hear you’ve got this idea, but I don’t think it will work,' and she said, 'Well, write him out,' and I walked away. She was really harsh.
"But, I went back. I was just written out for that period.
"If I’d have gone in playing a gay character, fine. But to suddenly make the character … I dunno, to me, as an actor, it would’ve been wrong. I don’t think the public would’ve wanted it either."
Away from acting, John appeared in Daz adverts with other soap actors and joined a band called Heavy Metal Kids in 2010.
"A lot of people just think of me as Nasty Nick, but I’ve always been involved in music as well as acting,"he told press in 2010.
“I’ve always been in bands – played the drums, guitar, done punk.”
He spoke to Daily Star Sunday last year to open up about his bid for pop stardom.
John said: “I thought because there is so little going on at the moment, this would be of great interest to people.
“I play guitar and drums and I am a songwriter.
“I have a reputation from my days on EastEnders, so people probably wouldn’t have thought I’d do this.”
John says his style is influenced by superstars including Jimi Hendrix, David Bowie, The Who and Queen.
He added: “I was brought up in the 60s and there was some great music around then. My stuff is quite eclectic.
"There are elements of everything from punk to blues.”
Playing a screen baddie for 30 years has made dating difficult for John.
He told Daily Star last year: “I am cautious when it comes to relationships.
“Dating could be tricky. They might think they’re going on a date with Nick Cotton.
“But that isn’t going to happen because I’m completely different to the character.”
John married Bridgette Poodhun in 1986, with whom he has a daughter, but they divorced in 1997.
His daughter Rosanna now lives in Luxembourg and John looks forward to reading his six-year-old granddaughter Lily her Famous Five bedtime stories over Zoom.
EastEnders airs Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays on BBC One
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