NEW KID ON THE BLOCK: Ricky Norwood
WHEN THE online spin-off of Eastenders: E20 was first streamed back in 2010 there was one character who stood out from everyone else.
He was loud, brash and each sentence he spoke was littered with slang. The character was Arthur Chubb, better known by his nickname Fatboy.
Fast-forward two years and Fatboy is now one of the most popular and instantly recognisable characters in the television soap and that’s mostly down to the charismatic young actor who plays the part - Ricky Norwood.
Norwood is the original Eastender. Born and bred in Forest Gate east London, to a Kenyan mother and an English father, he readily admits that his heritage often baffles people.
“It’s crazy because I get asked where I’m from all the time,” said the 24-year-old. “It’s a great question to get asked and I always reply where do you think I’m from? I get a different reply every time, Trinidad, Guyana, Jamaica, but that’s great for me as an actor because I can slot into any role, but I’ve exposed myself now, my secrets out,” he laughed.
Ricky’s first foray into the world of performance came not as an actor but as a street dancer, at the Tom Allen after school club in east London.
“A friend of mine was going there and I asked me to come with him to learn street dance and I started doing bits and pieces of drama there,” said the actor. “Then I went to the Theatre Royal Youth Theatre in Stratford, it was great place to learn and it just grew from there.”
But it has not been all plain sailing for Norwood, who admitted that he had done his fair share of minimum wage jobs prior to embarking on his acting career.
“Before I landed the role of Fatboy I had a job in Dixon’s, but it really wasn’t for me. I like to have a laugh and you couldn’t there, I left the job and became a theatre usher. It was less pay but it was in an environment that I loved.”
Shortly after his brief stint in retail, Ricky was offered the role of Fatboy in the spin off E20, and everything changed.
“After a few scenes, at the audition, I knew what flavour to give him (Fatboy) and they remembered me. At first people didn’t get the character of Fatboy (as) the script was very regimented, but when I moved over to Eastenders they asked me to make it more slang orientated. I gave Fatboy what I knew was the truth and I also knew that at first it is always good to shock everyone with a new character.”
He added: “I remember reading stuff saying that they (Eastenders) didn’t know what they were doing and why had they put such an out there character in the show. But Fatboy is the type person that you see in East London all the time, once the audience got used to him, then I knew could ease off a bit.”
Within a year of being on the programme Ricky was nominated and then won the best newcomer award at National Television Awards (NTA).
“At the NTA’s I never thought I was going to win, but when I did it was an amazing experience. It went from confusion to pure love and that’s all I’ve ever got on the street.”
Apart from the East End of London and life on Eastenders Ricky admitted that he has been greatly influenced by the US actor Denzel Washington.
“Denzel is always great to watch,” said the Daddy Cool star. “He has great strength with every character he plays, he will always find a part in the role that you can relate to and that’s something I take inspiration from.”
Much like the recent advice Washington gave to his own daughter, who is an aspiring actress (see page 3), the Eastenders star stresses that you have to work hard in order to succeed in the industry.
“I would say keep your head down, work hard and focus. Don’t limit yourself and be prepared for knocks. One of my favourite films is Rocky and one of the motto’s of that film is ‘it’s not how hard you hit, it’s how hard you get hit and keep going.”
Wrapping up, Norwood reveals some little-known information about himself.
“I’ve got an extreme comic collection and I like to bogle (Jamacian dance) on the weekends.”
Catch Ricky Norwood on Eastenders on BBC One