BBC EastEnders star Sid Owen says he’s only person in his family who hasn’t been to jail

Sid Owen, who has played hapless Ricky Butcher in BBC soap EastEnders on and off for 35 years, still remembers the moment his dad was arrested - and when he went to see him in prison

Sid Owen

Sid Owen reckons he is the only member of his family not to have done jail time 

One of Sid Owen’s earliest memories is being marched off a plane when police came to arrest his dad for robbing a bank.

The family were supposed to be taking their first holiday abroad, to Spain, but it didn’t happen, and Sid says he never saw his dad outside of prison visits again. EastEnders star Sid, 51, reckons he is the only member of his family not to have done jail time.

So when Channel 4 asked him to take part in Banged Up, a new series in which famous faces are locked up in a high security prison with murderers he felt he couldn’t refuse. He says: “I feel like the odd one out – everyone in my family had done time. Even my mum was a petty thief. I wanted to see what my brothers and Dad had to deal with.”

Al Pacino with Sid Owen, who plays his son, in 'Revolution'

Al Pacino with Sid Owen, who plays his son, in ‘Revolution’ 



Sir Owen as Ricky Butcher and Patsy Palmer as Bianca Jackson in EastEnders

Sir Owen as Ricky Butcher and Patsy Palmer as Bianca Jackson in EastEnders 



Sid, who has played hapless Ricky Butcher in BBC soap EastEnders on and off for 35 years, grew up on a council estate in Islington, North London, the youngest of four lads. With dad David in jail, Sid’s mum Joan, a barmaid, brought up the family alone until her death aged 35 from cervical cancer.

Sid says: “I was two when they came on the plane and took us off and arrested him for armed robbery. Then I vaguely remember being about four years old, going to visit him in prison.

“After that, all I heard was bad stories of him and he was banged up for a long time. So it was just my choice to cut all that off and do my own thing.”

Sid was seven when he went to live with his aunt and says if he hadn’t got into acting classes, he would have followed his family into a life of crime and drugs. He adds: “I went to drama group after my mum died, so that sort of took my mind off going out thieving and robbing.

“I’m not lying, I would’ve gone down that route, because that’s all I knew. Thank God I took my own little path and I got out of the crime that all my family and friends in the area were doing.”

While he grew up on the poverty line he laughs that life wasn’t always so bad. “We never wanted for anything,” he quips. “We’d just nick it.” In the opening episode of Banged Up a terrified-looking Sid is taken into the now-closed Shrewsbury prison, which has been fitted up as a working jail once again.

He is strip-searched, warned to hide photos of his young daughter because “that’s currency for nonces” and told to share a cell with a former money launderer. The programme aims to show what it is like to be locked up. Producers found 23 ex-convicts, some former prison officers and an experienced governor.

Tory MP Johnny Mercer gets banged up with a kidnapper/murderer, who served 24 years. Other ex-cons include a drug dealing pimp and an armed robber. Even though they have all moved on from their criminal pasts, they quickly put on their “jail-heads” for the experiment.

The actor has spoken about his childhood

The actor has spoken about his childhood

Sid Owen pictured as a child

Sid Owen pictured as a child

The other famous faces who took part were actor Tom Rosenthal, shamed former Tory MP Neil Parish, singer HRVY, writer Peter Hitchens and Gogglebox star Marcus Luther. Marcus said he prepared by watching films like The Shawshank Redemption and went in trying to be tough, but came out “bawling”. The South Londoner said: “I am from an area where everybody gets in trouble with the police.

“My brother’s been stabbed, been shot at. When I was younger, I had a life that was like that, but I thought, ‘I cannot do the time’, so I would never be the one to do the crime.” Marcus, who teaches at a boxing gym, added: “The low point [on the show] was looking at some people you’ve been around for a long period of time and seeing so much good in them but knowing there’s a big possibility that person is going to be back behind bars.

“It was eating me up, thinking ‘what can we do to make this system better?’. When we were leaving, I was bawling my eyes out.” Ex-MP Neil had to start by dealing with the jibes about being caught looking at porn in the Commons. He revealed the show made him realise how much the prison system is in need of reform.

Neil said: “Too many people go to prison, especially for short sentencing. As far as I can see they land in the best school of criminality you’ll find.” He added: “I found the whole process fascinating, terrifying and very illuminating.” Sid – who is greeted everywhere he goes with cries of “Ricky!” – snaps first, deciding to stage an escape attempt. He doesn’t get far. He says: “I wanted 10 minutes on my own. It was a very intense atmosphere and very scary.”

Sid tried to quit during filming, saying: “After day two or three, I was like, ‘I’ve had enough’. I spoke to the psychiatrist and he said, ‘Come on, be strong’. But every day you just want to go. I’ve got a newborn baby at home. I’m like, ‘What the f*** am I doing?’. I like the idea of the experience but it’s horrible being surrounded by 25 lunatics screaming and shouting.

“It’s enough to put anyone off. It did feel very real. It was scary. These hardened criminals are unpredictable – there were a few that actually got outed because they were a bit too much.” Now it’s all over he is hoping to get invited back to Albert Square. Ricky is currently in Germany, running a garage, but Sid would love to do another stint with Patsy Palmer as his old flame Bianca.

Sid, whose big break came aged 13 when he played Al Pacino’s on-screen son in 1985 movie Revolution, adds: “I think they need to get Ricky and Bianca back together. People come back from the dead, so anything could happen.”

Channel 4’s Banged Up starts on Tuesday, October 31.

Source: https://edition.cnn.com/

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