EastEnders star Aidan O’Callaghan reveals he ‘snuck behind Queen Vic bar wearing Cork jersey’

‘I think my parents are prouder of this than when I qualified with a pharmacy degree!’

Aidan in his county jersey in the Queen Vic

Behind the bar

Aidan O’Callaghan in Albert Square

Aidan with Jessie Wallace, who plays Kat Slater in the soap

Aidan has his make-up touched up

Aidan O’Callaghan

Eugene MastersonSunday World

EastEnders’ Irish actor Aidan O’Callaghan has revealed how he managed to sneak into the Queen Victoria during a break in filming on Albert Square and sport a Cork jersey from his native county.

The 33-year-old Leesider, who plays gay bartender Lewis Butler in the hit soap, managed to don the red and white of Cork behind the bar of the Queen Vic, right beside the iconic statue of the former royal.

“I managed to convince one of the assistant directors to allow me to sneak a picture on set with it one day,” smiles Aidan (33). “Between filming two scenes I put it on and got a picture behind the bar. That was a challenge I put to myself at the start and it was a great day. G’wan Cork! Pity the beer in The Vic wasn’t real to celebrate it.”

Behind the bar

Aidan, who hails from Innishannon in west Cork and went to school in Bandon and later to Trinity College in Dublin, also persuaded producers to allowed him to keep his natural Leeside accent for his role.

“Well, the role wasn’t accent specific – commonly Eastenders is written for east Londoners – but having lived there for many years myself, there is always bound to be the odd few Irish about,” he tells the Sunday World.

“I’ve a great relationship with the producers and directors and we can discuss what words to change or phrases to take out – innit bruv!”

Aidan O’Callaghan in Albert Square

Aidan’s character was recently involved in a controversial storyline in which he rapes Ben Mitchell on a night out, but he says overall his time on Albert Square has been a great experience.

“Life is absolutely brilliant. I love it here and am literally pinching myself every day,” he says.

“Everyone is super friendly and fun, great buzz on set. We always have a right laugh in the green room beforehand too. It’s been fun meeting other actors who may not necessarily be in my scenes. On day one I met the awesome Steve McFadden (Phil Mitchel) and he was really cool.

“It’s been a massive whirlwind since being offered the role back in February. Having done multiple rounds of auditions since Christmas, I was buzzing to get through each round – and to land the role was something else.

"The work pace is really fast, some days you could be filming multiple scenes, working with different teams, so you are definitely kept busy - changing costumes and rehearsing scenes.

“All the Eastenders cast have been great at giving me advice and welcoming me into the Walford family.”

Aidan with Jessie Wallace, who plays Kat Slater in the soap

He admits that he and Max Bowden, who plays Ben – Phil Mitchell’s son – had to research their roles quite intensively for the harrowing male rape storyline.

“Yeah, the storyline has been really intense, one of the hardest I’ve done as an actor, with some really demanding scenes with a very sensitive nature,” he confirms.

“I knew at the audition stages that the storyline would be around assault and sexual consent but my agent and I were reassured that the necessary support would be provided throughout. Eastenders and the BBC have been so supportive throughout.

“Max and I, as well as the directors and story researchers, worked very close with organisations such as ‘Male Partnership UK’, ‘Survivors UK’ and ‘Survivors Manchester’ to ensure it was told in a sensitive and accurate way.

"We had separate and group meetings regularly to discuss it throughout. Soap operas are all about telling important real-life, hard-hitting stories and raising awareness, and I am so lucky to be involved in such a major one this year.”

Aidan has his make-up touched up

Aidan is gay in real life and says he was “lucky” he did not suffer from homophobia when growing up in Cork, as he was surrounded by supportive friends and family.

He is also a qualified pharmacist and moved to London to pursue his career and works in chemists between his acting roles.

The Rebel County man recently finished shooting ‘The Witcher: Blood Origin’, a spin-off of the Henry Cavill fantasy series for Netflix and earlier this month he attended the British Soap awards, where he hung out with fellow Eastenders stars Jessie Wallace (Kat Slater) and Toby-Alexander Smith, who played serial killer Gray Atkins.

“I love going back home to audition,” he adds. “There is so much brilliant talent back home, and amazing TV and films coming out of Ireland at the minute - so I am always keen to be back working on the home ground when I can.”

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Aidan admits to being keen sportsman, no surprise given the lengths he went to to sport the Cork GAA jersey behind the Queen Vic bar, but says his work-life balance sometimes makes it difficult for him to train.

“I was heavily involved with athletics, mostly competitive sprinting – 100m or 200m – but too long ago to remember my personal best record,” he says.

“I’m a massive fan of CrossFit these days, but it can be tricky to squeeze in when on set, so some days I just bring some resistance bands to work - run my lines while doing a mini workout in the actor van beforehand.”

With such a high-profile role as Lewis, he confirms he does get second looks quite a lot these days.

“Yeah I’ve been recognised a good few time now, but the fans have been brilliant,” he beams. “The amount of support and encouragement they have provided online and in person is just beautiful.

Aidan O’Callaghan

"I was nervous to play Lewis Butler on such an iconic show with such a hard-hitting storyline but the reaction has been fantastic. I’ve had a couple of negative communications, given I’m playing a villain character, but this has been silenced by the overwhelming amount of positive and encouraging ones. Actors always like to hear when their work is appreciated so I am always happy when someone stops me and talks about the show. “

Aidan’s parents own a bar own Auntie’s bar in Tower, near Blarney, and are lifelong fans of the famous soap.

“Yes, they love it,” he exclaims. “They are super proud and ring me after every episode each night - even if I’m working!. I think they are prouder of this than when I qualified with a pharmacy degree! Our celebrations for this achievement have been greater!.”

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