Ex-EastEnders star John Altman criticises the BBC soap for being 'politically correct'

John Altman, best known as EastEnders bad boy Nick Cotton, has said the BBC One soap is too politically correct these days.

The 64-year-old actor played Albert Square’s villain full-time from the show’s debut in 1985 until 1991. Thereafter, he made several returns as Nick, the son of Dot Branning (played by June Brown) until the character was killed off last year.

Talking about EastEnders to Metro newspaper, John said the soap is too cautious in its approach compared to the 1980s.

“In the old days, you could decide if your character was going to have a cigarette in a scene. Now, you need written permission from someone. June Brown still gets away with it, though.”

He cited another example in which his character Nick, who had long been a racist, had originally used the P-word to describe Arthur ‘Fatboy’ Chubb (played by Ricky Norwood).

John said: “The other occasion was when Nick had a line about Fatboy saying, ‘At least that P**i has gone’ and then Dot told him off. Nick Cotton is a racist psychopath. They stopped filming and changed it to: ‘At least that illegal immigrant has gone.’ It’s not what Nick Cotton would say.”

During his stint on the long-running soap, Nasty Nick repeatedly piled misery on his mother Dot with his crimes including murder, racist abuse, pimping and stealing.

At one stage, he even tried to poison Dot, but then had a change of heart.

Nick’s heroin addiction was used as the plotline for his exit – with his “Ma” Dot buying the bad batch of smack that ultimately killed him.

Nick Cotton battled heroin (BBC)
Nick Cotton battled heroin (BBC)

On the subject of how EastEnders differs compared with its earlier days, John said the increase in the number of episodes and characters has had a detrimental effect on the quality.

“In the earlier episodes, the storylines went deeper and you got to know the characters better. When you have more characters, you can’t spend as much time with each of them. When we started there were 24 characters and when I was last in the show there were over 50. Doing four episodes a week is hard work.”

More in this Section

Emma Bunton: Mel B and I cried when we saw our children dancing togetherEmma Bunton: Mel B and I cried when we saw our children dancing together

Viola Davis: The Help was created in the cesspool of systemic racismViola Davis: The Help was created in the cesspool of systemic racism

Johnny Depp’s security guard recalls actor’s ‘distress’ after finger severedJohnny Depp’s security guard recalls actor’s ‘distress’ after finger severed

South Kensington museum district announces reopening plansSouth Kensington museum district announces reopening plans


The world is in chaos and fascism is on the march. But enough about 2020 – what about America in 1940?The Plot Against America: Sky Atlantic series shows a parallel history that has echoes of today's world

Ubisoft has given us a look of some of their upcoming releasesGame Tech: A glimpse of Far Cry 6 and Assassin’s Creed Valhalla

Exfoliating cleansers are the first step in upgrading your skincare routine.The Skin Nerd: How to get active when it comes to cleansing

The arrival of the new baby has led to a tricky family dynamic in the Cork-set show, writes Georgia HumphreysBaby's arrival leads to more adventures as the Young Offenders return

More From The Irish Examiner