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Former ‘EastEnders’ star John Altman reveals he left soap over Nick Cotton gay storyline

The actor, 67, says he "walked away" from the show after producers planned a same-sex romance for 'Nasty Nick'.

By Will Stroude

Former EastEnders star John Altman has revealed he quit the BBC soap over a gay storyline for his character Nick Cotton.

Altman, 67, played Albert Square’s villainous bad boy on and off from 1985 until the character’s death 2015, but says he once “walked away” from the show, after producers lined up a romantic storyline between ‘Nasty Nick’ and Lofty Holloway (Tom Watt).

Altman exclusively told BANG Showbiz (via Female First): “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 lovable 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.

“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.”

Altman added that he didn’t think the public “would’ve wanted” the storyline, which, based on the fact Tom Watt departed the show in 1989, would have been planned in the late ’80s, around the time EastEnders made history with British soap’s first on-screen gay kiss between Colin Russell (Michael Cashman) and Barry Clark (Gary Hailes) (a time when LGBTQ representation on screen was almost non-existent).

Colin Russell (Michael Cashman, left) and Barry Clark (Gary Hailes) shared British soap’s first same-sex kiss on EastEnders in 1986

“If I’d have gone in playing a gay character, fine”, Altman said. “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.”

Thankfully, in an era when actors no longer walk out on roles over LGBTQ storylines, EastEnders now boasts a diverse cast of LGBTQ characters, including British soap’s first lesbian Muslim character, Irqa Ahmed (Priya Davdra).

2019 also saw the opening of Abert Square’s first gay bar thanks to the iconic Kathy Beale (Gillian Tayleforth), and Walford’s first Pride parade, which aired to coincide with Pride in London earlier this summer.