I don’t give a flying one about celebrities. Zero interest.
But, hand on heart, I started watching Eastenders due to Danny Dyer. Not because he is a good actor, but because the actor and the man were, to my eyes, almost one and the same. But not quite.
It jumped out of the telly at me one evening, as we were eating our dinner. You couldn’t miss it. He seemed to be in this liminal space where all his vulnerability poked through, and yet he had the confidence to improvise more than anybody else in the cast.
Can I do this? My old man will be watching. Shit, let’s try something difficult.
I didn’t previously watch soaps, because they seemed to show characters going around in circles. Miserable. Not evolving. Being victims, submitting to smaller and larger constraints. Not fascinating. An underlying message that our lives have impenetrable ceilings. Which isn’t how I feel.
Anyway, there he was, landlord of the Queen Vic. As he moved and talked, I saw doubt and swagger wrap themselves around each other, locked in battle, grinding out the fruitful unknown. The crucible of being human. Many others probably just saw a cockney blagger making the most of a lucky break, getting to play himself.
My notion that there is more to him was reinforced just now when a quick use of the search engine revealed that Harold Pinter was Danny’s mentor.
That’s the intro.
Instead of going back to work yesterday, after lunch, I sat with Maureen and watched Danny excavate his heritage in ‘Who Do You Think You Are’, recorded in 2016. I came to it not knowing a thing about him, except that he is a West Ham fan, with an East End background. As was Pinter. But you can blow those starting gifts from the Gods, as Ray Winstone has shown with his Bet 365 adverts. Like I say, you can shove celebrity lives.
But again, as Danny raked back through his family tree, that captivating mix shone through – humility meets wide boy. I was fascinated as he chatted to his older female relatives, who so reminded me of how my dad’s aunties spoke. Self-effacement, right in your face. Family lore had percolated down the years that his ancestors had owned a workhouse in Poplar, but it turned out (of course?) they had been forced to take refuge there. Disappointment written deep all over Danny’s boat race.
Yet, working way back, he eventually found the treasures he had hoped for. The Gosnold and Tollemache families in Suffolk, where Danny shook with joy as he found a “geezer with a moat” to be his relative.
Even better for Mr Dyer, his 15 x great-grandfather was Thomas Cromwell. Who clawed his way up from a blacksmith father in the back streets of Putney to be the second most powerful man in England. TC does it every time for me, having surmounted those impossible odds.
And further back in the DD tree, the jewel in the crown. King Edward III.
When he arrived home to tell his missus, she ran round shouting that she was a “princess”. I yelped with joy. Not because of Danny’s royal blood, but the overgrown state of his lawn. Just like mine. Love it that a guy with a few quid in his pocket and an audience of millions couldn’t give a fuck about mowing the thing. That lack of bourgeois pretence endeared him to me further.
But he should have left it there. Dwelling quietly on his joy. Instead, he is the MC for a new history series, ‘Danny Dyer’s Right Royal Family’. What are the chances he’ll make a dick of himself? I’m inclined not to watch. Hope he proves me wrong.