Dot Cotton's Mugger Caught in LA
By Larry Jaffee
Immersing myself in the Brit expat community (albeit online) in Los
Angeles, I found my way to Darren Darnborough, a tireless actor and
entrepreneur who, when discovering the Walford Gazette, casually
mentions that he was in an EastEnders episode.
And what a memorable episode it was: when newcomer Dennis Rickman shows
his Good Samaritan side and apprehends Dot.s mugger, a good-for-nothing
Darnborough quickly emails the photographic proof: a page from the UK
magazine Heat magazine, which makes it a .pick of the day. for 1 May
2003. Further research into the actor.s CV reveals that he appeared in
other top TV shows including True Blood and The Bill, as well as more
than 40 commercials throughout the world for major brands including
McDonalds, Budweiser and Dr Pepper.
He relocated to LA from London five years ago, and hit Tinseltown
running, literally. Among his projects is a comedy, Andy and Chaz Bugger
Off to America, which started as a webisode series during the writers.
strike of 2007, was optioned for a sitcom by Warner Bros. Television
that.s now not happening, but is being prepared for a feature film.
I already knew he was Gazette interview material, and he was game for a
phone interview. But it turns out even better . he.s mates with quite a
lot of EastEnders alumni who have also relocated to LA, most of who I
know well. (More on that later.)
The whole point of the Andy and Chaz series is that we.re on the run,.
Darnborough confirms when we finally touch base on telephone and explain
my cover concept to usurp his mugshot.
. Even with his busy schedule, in which he graciously squeezed me in
between an audition for HBO.s Boardwalk Empire the previous day and a
pilot the following.
Walford Gazette: How did the audition go?
Darren Darnborough: That went well. It.s a busy time now.
WG: Was it a conscious decision for you to want to work in America.
DD: It was. I traveled around Europe quite a lot with my parents. I had
a Hawaiian girlfriend when I was 16. I loved Hawaii. That was my first
time in America. I thought at some point, I want to move here. When the
time came it wasn.t so much a conscious career decision, as I was
getting a little tired of England. I knew what was around every corner
of London, and knew what to expect. It made sense to move to LA because
I was already work on films. It seemed like the right place. I went to a
seminar in London with a British casting director who had just moved to
Los Angeles. The second half of the seminar was about the practicality
of being in LA and what it means . what kind of stuff you.ll be going
for, and how you can be auditioning every day. It sounded so exciting.
Afterwards me and my mate were sitting in a dingy pub near Waterloo
Bridge, having a beer and watching the rain outside. My friend had just
done a big Bailey.s commercial, and she said said, .I.m going to move to
LA.. I told her about my lawyer friend, who could get her a work visa
for £3,000. She said had just done this big Bailey.s commercial that
paid really well, and I told her if it was me, I.d take the gamble; she
did. Three months later I visited her, and she was just on ER. I came
out here knowing one person, and she was a British girl. She.s Judi
Shekoni. Do you know her?
WG: Of course, she was Precious on EastEnders. We did an interview with
her a few years ago.
DD: My first trip to LA I stayed at her apartment. I turned up at her
apartment thinking she was going to say, .This is what we.re going to
do.. She said instead, .Here.s the electric, here.s the gas.. I.m: .Hold
on, I just got off a plane.. She says, .I need you to drive me to
London. Can I stay at your house?. She just got a job in London. I
turned up in LA to stay with her a few weeks and I ended of being on my
own. I didn.t know anyone else apart from her.
WG: So did the move turn out like you expected?
DD: It has. When I first got here people said, .It will take time for
you to get used to it. I felt at home straight away. There was a little
adjustment period. But I never felt like I didn.t shouldn.t here. I felt
very comfortable. I know now there.s a big expat community. But I didn.t
leave home to hang out with British people.
WG: You mention in one of the interviews you sent me that you were
sitting at Cocconni.s restaurant in LA and bunch of EastEnders cast
members were sitting next to you. Who were they?
DD: John Altman (Nick Cotton), Ray Panthaki (Ronny Ferreira), Deepak
Verma (Sanjay Kapoor), Leila Birch (Teresa di Marco). I was just out the
other night with Michael Greco (Beppe di Marco).
WG: With the exception of Ray, I know them all very well. We.re all
DD: Michael just moved back here. There are probably more I can.t
remember. Charlie Clements, the red-haired guy who played Bradley
Branning. He.s a friend. We did a short film just before he got into
EastEnders. Oh yeah, Michelle Collins (Cindy Beale).
WG: She was just in New York in December. She showed up for our
Christmas party (see page 2). How did you get the cameo on EastEnders?
DD: It was a pretty standard audition. They didn.t really know what they
were going for because there were four guys in the waiting room: me, a
skinny young red-headed guy; a black guy; a fat guy; and an Asian guy.
It was wide open; they weren.t really sure. They asked if I could play
him like a proper London chav (Ed: referring to the socio-economic
British youth of underclass with no ambition, used to designate
anti-social hooligans and thugs, according to the 2011 book Chavs: The
Demonization of the Working Class by Owen Jones). I asked, .Can I do the
accent like they.re black?. They loved that idea. On the actual shoot
day, they asked me to tone it back a little bit because they thought
people might find it hard to understand. I spent the next two weeks at
WG: Must have been fun for you.
DD: I was the furniture to get Dennis into the show. He apprehended me
after I mugged Dot. That.s how Dennis meets everyone.
WG: When you were there did you hope somebody would want to give you a
DD: I don.t know how to say this without being offensive ot EastEnders,
but after two weeks at Borehamwood, it was fun and I.m glad I did the
show. At the same time, it.s a very regular job. The thing I love about
acting is the difference and the change. I remember at the time one of
my friends said, .Wouldn.t it be great if they brought you back as a
regular character?. I said, I think I would take it because it is a good
job, but it.s mundane, a normal job, going to the same place every day,
doing the same thing. On EastEnders you.re essentially doing that.
Whereas I.d prefer to do jobs here and there, do different roles and
different characters, work with different people and different projects.
Think I would find something like that very regular.
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