Bright-eyed cheeky chappy Andrew Hayden-Smith is one of British television’s most recognizable stars. From his fresh-faced career beginnings on CBBC and the iconic Byker Grove, to higher profile roles in shows like Doctor Who and Cucumber, Andrew always tackles his work with irresistible enthusiasm and an instantly likeable energy.
This Christmas he was watched by over a million people as the brilliantly villainous DS Armstrong in Hollyoaks.
Dylan Jones chatted to him about his sparklingly fun career, and what it’s like being an out gay man in Britain’s TV industry.
So I remember seeing you on Doctor Who, fighting Cybermen! Doing stuff like that must be so much fun.
Yeah I was a freedom fighter! I’d love to go back now and do it again. Because you’re so critical when you watch yourself back – I want to do it again and do it better. It was so long ago and I was so young. I think I was 21. And I didn’t appreciate it at the time. I think I’ve been very lucky in that I’ve been handed a lot of jobs on a plate.
Don’t say that! I’m sure you’ve done stuff to deserve it.
Well, I do work hard. But I never went to drama school. It all started when I got given the role in Byker Grove by chance. And then other things snowballed from that. I knew Doctor Who was a big deal but I didn’t realize HOW MUCH of a big deal. I just wish I could go back and appreciate it a bit more. But it’s weird how I still get asked to do stuff because of it.
How long have you lived in London then?
Fifteen years. I can’t imagine myself leaving now. As soon as I got here I loved it.
What are your stomping grounds?
D’yknow what, I haven’t been out clubbing much this year. When I first moved to London, Soho was the one. I used to go out clubbing there all the time. Heaven and Shadow Lounge every weekend! But it’s so different now isn’t it. XXL’s great! And I go over to East London sometimes too. And occasionally Vauxhall.
If you go out in Vauxhall, you have to be in it for the long haul.
Yeah and you have to make sure you’re off work until Wednesday.
So, you’ve pretty much always been out publicly…
Yeah, pretty much! I did a coming out article in Attitude when I was like 21. And I was a presenter on CBBC at the time. We got a call from a newspaper saying they were gonna do a story on it. And my boss was like “we’ve just had this phonecall…do you wanna just do it yourself in Attitude and get it over with?” So I did it, and then nothing more was said about it. It was great.
That’s cool, because a kids’ TV presenter being out as gay could be something people might have a problem with.
I got lots of nice letters from parents actually! It was honestly fine. I think the press can sometimes make celebrities coming out seem like a bigger deal than it is. Most people really don’t care. And these days there are loads of gay presenters! In fact, the majority are gay. Some people were quite surprised when I came out though. I think because I was from Newcastle, and a little bit laddy, and on Byker Grove.
A lot of people say if an actor comes out it can affect their career…that doesn’t seem to have happened to you.
Well, I’ve had periods of time when I haven’t been working as an actor. I’ve always worked in television in one way or another, but not always in front of the camera. A researcher did once ask me the question “do you think you’d be doing more acting right now if you hadn’t come out?”
Well whenever we miss out on something I guess there’s always something at the back of our mind thinking “is it because of that.” But usually it’s actually not.
Well yeah, remember that guy from Downton Abbey…who said he hadn’t got parts because he’d been typecast as gay. Maybe the audition just didn’t go well.
So what are your plans for 2018?
I definitely wanna get out there and act lots! I’d love to do theatre. And a long running series, like a drama. Holby would be fun! Playing a doc in Holby.
Like David Ames!
Yes! He was in Doctor Who as well. We once got shitfaced at a Doctor Who convention in Wales.
Amazing! Have you ever thought of trying America? I think you’d do well there.
People have said that, yeah. They love an accent! But then, Ant and Dec went over and they didn’t do well because no-one could understand them.
So to finish off…do you think gay men are happy right now? Quite a deep question.
Well it depends on the person really doesn’t it! I don’t really want to speak for gay men as a whole, but my friends and I are certainly happy. I do think gay men need to stop coming for each other on social media though. Let’s all just fucking get on!
Andrew Hayden-Smith’s deliciously murderous Hollyoaks storyline is available to stream now on All4. Follow him on Instagram @andrewhaydensmith