EastEnders’ Billy Murray says gangster Johnny Allen became ‘victim of politics’
Former EastEnders star Billy Murray has looked back at his role as the villainous Johnny Allen.
The 78-year-old actor is set to return to gangster roles with his turn in crime thriller Nemesis.
Billy played kingpin Johnny Allen on EastEnders from 2005 to 2006 and made a huge impact as the chief villain in the soap at the time.
His storylines included memorably clashing with Phil ( Steve McFadden) and Grant Mitchell ( Ross Kemp), having Sharon Watts' ( Letitia Dean) husband Dennis Rickman ( Nigel Harman) murdered, and having a fraught relationship with daughter Ruby ( Louisa Lytton).
Speaking to Mirror Online, Billy reveals his pleasure at working on EastEnders became diluted as they moved away from the darker and crime-driven elements of the show.
Billy says: "I liked playing Johnny Allen for about the first year and I got to work with some terrific actors who became friends – Steve McFadden, Ross Kemp, Shane Richie and so on.
"Unfortunately he became a victim of politics on the show when they decided there should be no more gangsters and suddenly I found myself making cups of tea for Dot Cotton."
However, there is certainly no denying the impact that his character had on Albert Square and Billy feels there was a wasted opportunity with Johnny.
"People still stop me in the street and call me Johnny Allen almost every day so it obviously made an impact," he continues, "and I wish there’d been a chance to do more with the character."
But does he still keep up with the soap as it turns 35 this week?
"I see bits of it and stay in touch with Steve, Ross, Shane and Louisa from time to time. She’s such a nice girl. I knew she was back in the show as people told me my character was being talked about."
It sounds like fans of Johnny Allen will definitely be intrigued by Billy's new film Nemesis, however.
"John Morgan in Nemesis is definitely in the Johnny Allen mould and both are inspired by some of the more interesting people I have met over the years," explains Billy.
The film is written by Adam Stephen Kelly, who co-produces Nemesis alongside Jonathan Sothcott and is directed by James Crow.
Nemesis is described by Billy as a British film that "really doesn't pull its punches" and "people will be talking about it for years."
It follows his character, John Morgan, as the underworld kingpin returns to London, resulting in a maelstrom of revenge, violence, and bloody death.
Billy adds: "There’s a fantastic cast being assembled, the script is great and fresh and the director is very passionate."
He acts in Nemesis opposite Jeanine Nerissa as John's wife, Sir Roger Moore's granddaughter Ambra Moore as John's daughter, and social media influencer Danny Bear.
The Londoner also discusses his lengthy acting career and preferred a role on another long-running drama instead.
"[EastEnders] was a great job but I didn't do the show for that long, particularly not compared to when I played Don Beech on The Bill, which was my favourite job," says Billy.
"They really should resurrect The Bill, not for me to be in it again (though I am available!) but because it was a great show and a great training ground for actors.
"I get asked when or if it is coming back every week and I know Chris Ellison who played Burnside does too.
"We actually did a movie together a few years ago called We Still Steal the Old Way with Ian Ogilvy and people enjoyed Beech and Burnside squaring off against each other."
Billy isn't a fan of reality TV, either, and won't be going in for any of the celebrity shows any time soon.
"We need more drama and less reality TV, I don’t like it at all – and I have been offered and turned down all the big ones," he reveals.
Nemesis begins filming in Spring 2020, while EastEnders' 35th anniversary week continues tonight as the boat disaster is shown from an entirely new angle.
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