Famous for a Documentary He Was in at 7, Real-Life Cabbie Played One in EastEnders

LONDON—Inquisitive Walford Gazette reader Suzanne Morine recently stumbled upon an interesting piece of EastEnders trivia while surfing the Internet.

According to IMDB.com (Internet Movie database), the English actor Tony Walker is the same person who played the precocious 7-year-old in Granada Television’s Up documentary, in which filmmaker Michael Apted (director of the last James Bond movie) every seven years goes back to interview a group of people who were first filmed in 1964 when they were children.

The latest edition, 42Up, was released on DVD two years ago and in fact reviewed in the Walford Gazette in issue No. 36, page 12.

Wrote Larry Jaffee: “Especially endearing to EastEnders fans, no doubt, will be ‘Tony’ who starts out a 7-year-old rascal, who by 14 is dreaming of being a horse jockey, and by the time of his earning years ends up a taxicab owner.”

Last names are not revealed in the documentary series, but as it turns out “Tony” is the same Tony Walker who played a taxi driver on the 26 April 2002 episode of EastEnders.

The companion book to 42Up leads off with Tony, and provides an excerpted transcript of his interviews throughout the years. He has plenty to say about living in the East End.

“The poverty was there,” says Tony, recalling his childhood in London’s East End, “but I never knew what it was. I would honestly say I had more than other kids. You know why? Because I had adventure.”

At 21, he was asked what he liked about living in the East End, he responded:

“There’s nothing false, only the police [laughs]. I’m firmly placed and there’s no way I can get out. I wouldn’t want to get out really. It’s very hard to make it in the East End. I’ve got my roots firmly stuck in the ground and I’d have a big hard pull to get ’em out.”

At 28, he was working as taxi driver in London and taking acting lessons, as well as being married with two children. “I love being a taxi driver. I like the outdoor life, the independence. There’s no one to govern me.”

Tony tells of picking up passengers “Kojak” (presumably Telly Savalas) and also Warren Mitchell (the actor who played Alf Garnett in the U.K. television series ’Til Death Do Us Part, which inspired the U.S. version All in the Family).

EastEnders fans might know that our Gretchen Franklin (Ethel) played opposite Mitchell in ’Til Death Do Us Part in the pilot, but she turned down the series for a theatre part, she once told the Walford Gazette.

When asked by Apted what he liked about acting, Tony replied: “I think to myself, I can do that. I sort of want to have a go at it. I mean, nothing for fame and fortune or anything like that. Big Hollywood and bright lights. It’s nothing like that, it’s just a sideline. I’ve been a film extra for six years and it may not go further; I mean I’m just having acting lessons.”

He cites making appearances in the police series The Sweeney and a Masterpiece Theatre mini-series about Winston Churchill.

By 35, Tony and his wife Debbie were working as cab drivers, they had added another child and tried opening a pub. His mother had recently died.

“With respect to Debbie, she (Tony’s mum) was and is still the best girl in the world. I’m sorry but East Enders, they’re close to their mums.”

At 42, he lamented how the East End was changing.

“It’s very cosmopolitan now, Bethnal Green in the East End. The mash shops and fish-and-chip shops are closin’ down, and for me it’s quite sad. I mean Hackney Wick was my hunting ground. It’s where it all happened to me.”

That’s a real East Ender!

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