EastEnders star Danny Dyer has discovered he is a direct descendant of two kings of England and has blood ties to Henry VIII’s adviser Thomas Cromwell.
The soap star will be the first subject of the new series Who Do You Think You Are?, which will reveal that Danny, 39, is related to William the Conqueror and Edward III.
However, he said it was the connection to Cromwell, who was played by his mentor Mark Rylance in the BBC adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s novel Wolf Hall, that was particularly meaningful.
Danny, who comes from the Canning Town area of East London, told the Radio Times: “He came from a slum, I come from a slum.
“Cromwell left the country at 14, I started acting at 14. He was a self-taught lawyer. I’m a self-taught actor. Cromwell had two daughters and a son. I’ve got two daughters and a son. Cromwell wrote his last letter to Henry VIII begging for his life, on July 24, which is my birthday … And I drink in the Anne Boleyn pub.”
Dyer revealed he watched Wolf Hall again after learning of his connection to Cromwell and said he cried though most of it because of its “sheer brilliance”.
Rylance became his mentor when Dyer was just 17 and the pair both appeared in the BBC’s romantic comedy Loving in 1996.
Danny said it is his experience in films and the number of roles he has auditioned for that has made him a “brilliant actor”, adding: “Out of every soap actor I’ve got the most experience. Adam Woodyatt [Ian Beale] has played one role.
“No disrespect to Adam, but that’s not an actor. He’s very, very efficient, but he’s auditioned once in his whole career. And acting’s about auditioning. And Steve McFadden, brilliant – but only ever played one role.”
He said even Sherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch could not cut it in Walford, saying: “He would be useless. Could he do a cockney accent? Of course he couldn’t. But then I can’t do what Benedict Cumberbatch does.
“We all do what we can do, whether you’re Idris Elba, whether you’re me. No one else can do what Damian Lewis does, which is why he’s got a career. And no one can do Danny Dyer like I can do Danny Dyer.”
The full interview is in this week’s Radio Times, on sale from November 15.