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Daily Mirror
Daily Mirror
Frances Kindon & Danielle Kate Wroe

Strictly: James Bye got EastEnders gig after original Martin Fowler refused to return

EastEnders actor James Bye is currently swapping market stalls for glitterballs on the Strictly dance floor, where he's competing alongside professional dance partner Amy Dowden.

James is best known for playing Martin Fowler on the BBC show Eastenders. The character is one of the longest running in the soap, having been in and out of storylines since 1985.

And James took over the part in 2014 when Martin - who was married to Sonia Fowler, played by Natalie Cassidy - returned to Albert Square for the first time in seven years.

Before that, the part was played by Joe Peyton Price between 1985 and 1996. However, James Alexandrou was the most notable incarnation thanks to the storylines of underage pregnancy, and even a stint in prison.

James Alexandrou was 21 when he stepped down from the role in 2007, with the storyline seeing him go traveling around the world with Sonia. Shortly after, Alexandrou ruled out the possibility of a return, explaining it would feel "like someone asking you to go back to school".

He said at the time: "They were talking for a while about me going back. They made it very clear that they were bringing the character back and they would really like me to go back, but it just wasn't right for me at the time.

"The attraction in it would be to see some of my old mates and have a bit of nostalgia, and that wasn't enough at the time to do it. I've decided to leave the show to experience other aspects of my industry.

"Having turned 21, I felt it was a good time to leave. I owe everything to the show and would love to come back one day - that's if EastEnders would have me."

Leaving the soap gave him a chance to branch out and explore other areas of the film industry, but it also cost James his relationship with EastEnders co-star Kara Tointon, who played Dawn Swan.

James and Kara started dating in 2006, but the pair drifted apart when James stepped away from playing Martin Fowler, and they eventually called it quits in 2007.

James went on to have a successful career, making a name for himself as a theatre actor, and starring in many plays such as Romeo & Juliet at London's Globe Theatre in which he played the titular character.

Kara Tointon and James Alexandrou dated, but called it quits in 2007 (PA)
James Bye has been busy tearing up the dance floor on Strictly (PA)

He also appeared in films including 2014's Semper Fidel, and made further TV appearances in Silent Witness, Casualty, and Missing.

After making waves in the acting world, James now prefers to be behind the camera, and has amassed a series of credits as a director and writer - including a number of short films and the music video for Anne-Marie's 2015 single, Karate.

In 2018, James founded Actors East, an acting studio in London's East End, to help students gain access to the arts, and he graduated with an MA in Directing Fiction at the National Film and Television School in 2021.

Who do you think should win Strictly Come Dancing 2022? Have your say in the comments section below...

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