Nick Berry was born in 1963 in Woodford. He first came to fame for his performance as ‘Wicksey’ in “Eastenders” from 1985 until 1990. In 1992 he began a six year run in the very popular ITV series “Heartbeat”. His most recent series was “In Deep” which ran from 2001 until 2003. His films include “Forever Young” in 1983 and “Paparazzo” in 1995.
When Nick Berry gets stopped in the street, the questions are usually the same. ‘It’s, “Didn’t you used to be on EastEnders?”, or, “Are you that bloke from Heartbeat?”‘ he smiles. ‘People aren’t always sure.’
The answer, in both cases, is yes, and although it may seem a long time ago now, between the mid-Eighties and late Nineties Berry was barely off our screens.
After springing to fame as Simon Wicks in EastEnders in 1985, Berry left in 1990 and decamped to the Yorkshire Dales for a six year stint as Heartbeat’s Sergeant Nick Rowan, before taking on the role of harbour master Mike Nicholls in Harbour Light.
Stay-at-home dad: Nick Berry left acting to focus on his family
There was even a brief pop career too: in 1986 Berry released a single, Every Loser Wins, which became the second biggest-selling record in the UK that year.
And then – nothing. Save for a stint in the early Noughties filming police drama In Deep alongside Stephen Tompkinson, Berry disappeared from view, turning his back on acting aged 39 to become a stay-at-home father to his two sons Louis, now 16, and 13-year-old Finley.
Today, nearly ten years on, not only are there no regrets, but Berry insists he has no desire to throw his hat back in the ring. ‘I chose to be a stay-at-home dad and have loved it. I always said that when the boys were teenagers I could go back, but the longer you don’t do something the harder it is to do it, and I haven’t really missed it. While I’d never say never, I’m genuinely happy as I am.’
We’re only meeting today because In Deep has been released on DVD.
Filmed in 2002, the series was effectively Berry’s swan song, and he admits to being taken aback by its resurfacing now.
‘I was in my garden tending my peas when I got a call saying, “We’re going to bring it out again” and I thought, “That seems an awfully long time ago.”‘
Those with long memories will recall that Berry was a genuine screen heart-throb in his time, besieged at the BBC studios where EastEnders was filmed by hoards of screaming women.
It was fun for a time, he admits, but marriage in 1994 to former Levi jeans model Rachel Robertson, now 39, and fatherhood changed his perspective.
‘The job was great,’ he says. ‘You’re driven everywhere, fed every five minutes and told what to do and where to go. What I struggled with was that the boys were very young and I felt like I was away filming all the time. I’d been blessed with these little people and yet I wasn’t really there. I realised I wanted to be at home.’
Of course, cynics may point out that Berry didn’t exactly bow out at the top of his game – Harbour Lights struggled to attract viewers – but by then he had the money to do so.
‘I was rewarded amazingly well for what I did,’ he admits. ‘It was that Eighties/Nineties thing when no one thought it was going to end and people were throwing money around. I was very lucky.’
At one point, he was rumoured to have been offered a £2 million golden-handcuffs deal by EastEnders executives when he resigned in the late Eighties, and he’s amassed an estimated £5 million from his time in the spotlight – certainly enough to fund a rambling house in Epping, Essex, and a beach house in Hove where he boasts Norman Cook and Zoe Ball as neighbours.
‘We all say hello, it’s pretty friendly,’ he says. ‘In the summer, we’re all out playing with our kids on the beach. It’s very chilled-out.’
Despite his spectacular screen success, east London-born Berry says he wasn’t a natural actor. ‘I was never that comfortable in the spotlight. Some of the egos you can do without. A lot of actors take themselves so seriously but, by and large, you’re getting paid to show off.’
Berry is too discreet to identify any culprits, although one must assume that, given his formative years in the soap, he must count some of his former EastEnders castmates among their number.
Although he has a drink from time to time with former cast mates Sid Owen, who played Ricky, and Todd Carty, who played Mark Fowler, he admits that ‘You can’t keep up with everyone.’
Shunning the spotlight certainly seems to suit him: at 48, he is trim and tanned – a product, he says, of long hours in the garden.
‘I’ve basically turned into my dad. I’ve got a shed and a vegetable patch, and I’m pleased to report my peas are doing very well. I’m at my happiest there.’
He and Rachel celebrate their 17th wedding anniversary this year and have been together for nearly two decades. Berry clearly adores his wife, to whom he refers as his ‘soul mate’.
The two of them are business partners too, having set up a production company several years ago, though Berry jokes that it’s ‘not terribly productive’ at the moment. I
n time, however, he says he might be persuaded to work behind the camera, if he finds a project that suits them both. ‘To be honest, I was luckier than I ever thought I would be,’ he says. ‘So, while everything in the garden’s rosy, I’ll carry on growing my peas.’
In Deep is out now on DVD
The above “MailOnline” article can also be accessed online here.