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EastEnders star John Altman on fancying Gillian Taylforth and wishing the door had been left open for his return

He left the soap in 2015

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Former EastEnders star John Altman has admitted he would’ve liked soap bosses to leave the door open for his bad boy character Nick Cotton to return.

Speaking exclusively to Entertainment Daily, John revealed: “It would’ve been nice to keep the door open but I did think the last scene was quite powerful.”

Nick bowed out of EastEnders in his mother Dot’s arms in 2015 after a heroin overdose.

And, John revealed, he wished the ending could’ve been a little more dramatic.

Former EastEnders star John Altman left the soap in 2015 (Credit: Splash News)

How would EastEnders star John Altman have liked to bow out?

“I would’ve liked him to have been on the top of the house with a machine gun and helicopters flying overhead and him getting picked off by a police sniper like James Cagney in White Heat,” John said.

“But they couldn’t afford the helicopters or the guns, I don’t think. An armed siege, that was it. But anyway, they said they couldn’t afford it so it was an overdose on heroin – a lot cheaper.”

John does have fond memories from his days on set and has remained friends with June Brown, who played his long-suffering on-screen mum.

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“She’s a Surrey lady, she lives not far from me, so I pop by when I can,” he said.

“The last time I saw her I dropped in a photograph that someone had taken of the two of us. I framed it for her. It was a really nice picture of us having a little hug, having a cuddle.”

John also revealed the iconic pair will reunite soon.

“I’m going to take her out for a drive soon,” said the star who’s gearing up to release a new single and album.

“I’m running around a bit with the record coming out, but in between I’ll pop over and take her out for a drive. So yes, we do keep in touch, bless her.”

nick cotton eastenders
John has stayed in touch with his on-screen mum, played by June Brown (Credit: YouTube)

‘A glint in the eye’ for Gillian Taylforth

John revealed he also took a shine to another of the soap’s iconic ladies – actress Gillian Taylforth, who plays Kathy.

After admitting he was looking for love earlier this year, ED! asked which EastEnders character past or present John would date in real life.

“Back in the day, I always really liked Gilly. Gillian Taylforth,” he revelaed.

“But nothing ever took place because we were both married.”

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So were the pair flirty on set?

“Not really, no. But we probably gave each other, what shall we say, a little glint in the eye occasionally,” he added.

John came under fire not too long ago after commenting on the recasting of Dotty.

And he’s keen to set the record straight that he didn’t say June left the soap over the change in actors.

John had his eye on Gillian Taylforth back in the day (Credit: Splash News)

He and June weren’t pleased about Dotty recasting

“She wasn’t pleased with the recasting of Dotty but that wasn’t the reason she left,” he said. “I wish people would get it right sometimes. It’s highly irritating.

“She wasn’t pleased and nor was I because the former actress, Molly Conlin, was quite capable of playing that part. She’s a lovely looking girl as well.

“I’ve no idea on God’s earth why they recast it. I’ve no idea what goes on in their brains up there sometimes. She’s done very well the new actress [Milly Zero], but why do it? It’s recast mania up there. So many actors have changed and they never look the same,” he added.

“In all honesty, I think June wouldn’t mind me saying, she wasn’t happy with the storylines. She wasn’t doing enough and that was about it really. She wasn’t happy with the storylines – no other reason.”

So does John watch the show that made him famous?

“No, I watch Coronation Street,” he laughed.

Nick Cotton vs Geoff Metcalfe

He added: “I have a friend called Ian Bartholomew who’s been playing Geoff Metcalfe in Corrie.

“During lockdown I surfed the channels to see what’s going on and I thought, oh there’s Ian. He’s not a close friend, he’s someone I know through friends, I’ve met him a few times over the years.

I’ve got the highest murder count, but I don’t know. They’re very different. His is more of a psychological villain, the dreadful things he’s doing to his wife.

“I thought what’s he up to and I started watching him abuse poor Yasmeen and I thought, oh god. It’s awful. I was doing what people do to me, shouting at the screen to him: ‘You b*****d! How can you let him do that to you?’ I was sitting there getting quite involved.

“I got hooked,” he added. “So after watching it once and seeing him do that, now I want to see his comeuppance. That’s why I’m watching Corrie, to watch the demise of Geoff or his comeuppance.”

Coronation Street Geoff Ian Bartholomew
John said he couldn’t pick when we asked if Nick Cotton of Geoff Metcalfe was soap’s biggest baddie (Credit: ITV)

So if the pair went head-to-head for soap’s worst baddie, who does John think would win, Nick Cotton or Geoff Metcalfe?

“Oooh. How can I possibly judge it?” he said.

“I’ve got the highest murder count, but I don’t know. They’re very different. His is more of a psychological villain, the dreadful things he’s doing to his wife. I’d say they’re both as bad as each other in different ways.”

Nick Cotton gay?

So is it true that John left EastEnders back in the day because producers wanted Nick to be gay?

He told us that, although it’s “ancient history”, it is, in fact, true.

“A rumour went round that Nick and Lofty were going to be made gay,” he said.

“Now, when we started the series, neither of them were gay. I couldn’t work out why they wanted to do that, I think they wanted to get two gay characters in there. But trying to make two characters become gay who weren’t gay, it didn’t work for me.

“I just said to Julia Smith [the soap’s co-creator]: ‘I don’t think it would be a very good idea.’ Apparently when I walked away from the table she said: ‘Write him out.’

“I was okay, I went back a year later and we were all the best of friends again.”

On considering Strictly Come Dancing

Back on good terms with the BBC after appearing on the Real Marigold Hotel earlier this year, could we ever expect to see John on the Strictly dance floor?

“If it could pay off my mortgage, yes!” he said.

New music coming soon

For now, John’s concentrating on his music though.

His new single, Hallucinating You, is out on October 16. It’s followed by the album, Never Too Late To Rock And Roll, on November 20.

“Because of the lockdown, it’ a miracle the album, the single and the video are there,” he said.

“We got curtailed by the lockdown. The video was cancelled twice before we managed to shoot it. It’s not been easy putting the whole thing together but we managed it in the end.”

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