I've ditched boozy nights out now I'm dad to five kids – family is my priority, says Joe SwashFebruary 28, 2022
JOE Swash has revealed boozy parties and rowdy nightclubs are long behind him with his young family now his top priority.
The TV star, 40, shares children Rex and Rose with fiancée Stacey Solomon, 32, is step-dad to her sons Leighton and Zachary and father to son Harry from a previous relationship.
While Joe made the most of his early 20s and the fame that came with being an EastEnders regular, the actor said he feels like a different person now.
In an exclusive interview with The Sun, he said: "When I first got on EastEnders I was like the ginger kid who could suddenly get into nightclubs, and I was free and easy, and I really enjoyed that period of time.
"And then you grow up, and I had Harry, met Stacey, we’ve got Rex and Rose, and Zach and Leighton. When I look back it feels like a different person. I could never imagine going out and getting drunk."
The family laid down roots at their charming forever home Pickle Cottage last year, and Joe is doing all he can to make it a place to build happy memories.
"I love my family, they’re my biggest priority," he said. "Me and Stacey try so hard to keep this house warm and friendly and happy, let the kids express themselves.
"There’s no secrets, there’s no shame in this house. Whatever you've done, me and Stacey have been there and done it ourselves. I’m so lucky that I’ve got such an amazing family."
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It's clear Joe holds Stacey in the highest regard, and having been raised in an all female household, it's important to him that the boys in the family grow up to share his respect for women.
With International Women's Day around the corner, Joe said: "It’s something that’s been important to me for a long time because I grew up with women," he said. "My dad passed away when I was a kid so it was always me, my mum and my sisters, so I watched my mum bring us up all by herself and how independent she is.
"I met Stacey, who’s exactly the same. Stacey and my mum are like peas in a pod, fiercely independent and I wouldn't want it any other way. The more awareness we can bring to it; the young generation of men seeing how important this is. I’m a big champion for women’s rights."
Another upcoming day worth marking is World Book Day, which takes place on Thursday.
Joe has teamed up with McDonald's to mark the occasion which will see the restaurant chain give away up to three free kids' books and a £1 book token with every Happy Meal.
Families can choose between Mr Silly: My Book About Me or There’s A Wolf In My Book by Tom Fletcher as well as receiving a free book with every Happy Meal thanks to the existing book or toy promotion.
"I’ve read the books, they're amazing," said Joe. "There's loads of tips as well. A lot of parents get nervous reading a book and the pressure to put voices on. There’s some tips from me how to loosen up, get into character… chuck a few yawns in, slow down. I thought it was a great idea and I was more than happy to get involved. It's a big part of my life storytelling.
"My kids love a bit of storytelling. Rex’s imagination is wild. He loves it. We’ve got this one book. It's got all of the stories, all the little rhymes like The Frog and The Princess. We do a chapter a night. He likes the classics [laughs]."
Becoming a professional actor wasn't without its struggles for Joe, who has grappled with dyslexia throughout his life.
As a child it affected his ability to read and write, and later in life he would become anxious in case scripts were thrust upon him withoutthe opportunity to familiarise himself with them first.
He said: "I grew up dyslexic. Reading was some mythical thing for me. I could never just pick up a book and read it. I was so jealous of people that could. I would love to bring out a book incorporating the fact that when I was a kid I couldn’t really read very well and for kids that are dyslexic I think that would be a nice idea.
"It was always a struggle. I was a young actor and sometimes you’d go into auditions and they'd give you a script and I’d have to take the script away for five ten minutes and look at it, go through it. I was always very anxious someone was going to spring it on me, can you read this?
"It wasn’t very widely accepted when I was a kid either, but my son’s dyslexic as well ,and I always say to him what you lose with being dyslexic you gain in other ways. I’m a lot more creative, I like the arts. I had to develop different ways of getting attention and standing out."
Like his dad, Harry, 14, is hoping to overcome the challenges posed by his dyslexia to become an actor.
"He loves the arts," said Joe. "He’s really into his acting. He goes to a drama school and he wants to do it when he leaves secondary school, so he’s sort of going down the same sort of path as me. We’re so similar it’s scary."
And later in the year MasterChef finalist Joe is hoping to have his own book on shop shelves.
He's now working on a family cookbook that's also part memoir, reflecting on how certain dishes bring back childhood memories.
It'll certainly give fans plenty to tuck in to.
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