SID Owen claims he would be “dead or in prison” if it wasn’t for EastEnders.
The 51-year-old is best known for playing Ricky Butcher in the BBC soap, making his debut in 1988.
Sid was just 16 when he landed the role, which he has continued to play on and off until as recently as January this year.
And Sid credits EastEnders with saving him from a potential life of crime, saying: “I grew up on a massive council estate. All my family, friends andwere involved in crime. That was all I knew.
“I grew up as a petty thief. I did that because my three older brothers were doing it.
“It stems from where you grow up and your background and being on the poverty line.
“And I lost my mum at six… my dad was in prison. So I could have easily lost the plot. I could have easily gone down the wrong path.
“Thank God I went on my own path and stayed out of crime in the area where I grew up. I shied away from it.”
Thankfully, Sid’s life changed when he joined performing arts school Anna Scherin Islington, London.
Sid – who only visited his dad in prison once – continued: “Acting classes were my saviour. I enjoyed them,” he recalls. “If I hadn’t discovered acting, I’d probably be in prison or dead.
“People that are involved in dodgy, they live life in the fast lane. They go down the wrong route. Things could have easily turned out very differently.”
Sid gets to experience what life could have been like if he hadn’t become an actor in new series Banged Up.
The Channel 4 show sees famous faces take over a disused jail and recreate a realistic prison environment with the help of ex-convicts, who agreed to behave the way they used to when they were serving their sentences.
Sid said: “It was an eye-opener for me to see what prison is like. It’s sad to think about what my family went through. Prison is not aplace. It felt very real. Being locked up for hours and hours every day sends you crazy.
“I thought, ‘We’re making a TV show, it can’t be that bad.’ But it genuinely was tougher than I thought it would be.
“When you’re banged up with people who are screaming and shouting, it’s depressing.”