Photography & Editor in Chief: Owen James Vincent
Interview: Jordan Arthur
From CBBC to Hollyoaks, Doctor Who to ITV, Andrew Hayden Smith has been gracing British TV screens for over 20 years - starting all the way back in Byker Grove. Andrew joins ReVamp to talk about his career in TV and plans for the future.
Hi Andrew, welcome to ReVamp! It's a little surreal to be talking to you, I have such vivid memories of you presenting on CBBC when I was a kid. Not to make anyone feel too old, but this year marks the 20th anniversary of the CBBC channel! If I could press you for a highlight, what stands out in mind from your time on CBBC?
I can't believe it's been 20 years. That's crazy! I started just after the CBBC Channel launched, maybe six months or so later. The job brought me to London, where I've lived now for the same amount of time that I did in Newcastle.
I remember being so excited about the fact I was working in Television Centre. You grow up seeing it on TV and there's so much history there. I spent a few weeks on the digital channel and then moved over to present the afternoon slot on BBC1 with Angellica [Bell]. We had an absolute ball, which I think came across on screen. We could barely get through a link without laughing most of the time.
I always say it was the jammiest gig I've ever had. We'd rock up at 3pm, have a laugh for a couple of hours on the telly and be finished at 5:30. An absolute dream job!
Even though your route to becoming a CBBC presenter goes back to your start in acting in Byker Grove, it was pretty wild to see you appear as a member of the Preachers in Doctor Who. How did that come about, and what was it like working on such a big story, reintroducing the Cybermen?
One of the producers at CBBC was (and still is) a massive Doctor Who fan and he suggested I get in touch. I thought I'd try my luck but didn’t expect anything to come of it. Next thing I know, there's a script on the doormat with my name stamped all the way through it. That's when you know shit is about to get real!
I didn't know much about the Cybermen until working on the show but other people had told me they were a big deal. Obviously I knew about the Daleks, who doesn't?! So to work on a storyline that featured both of them was a real gift. I felt like a very lucky lad.
We Doctor Who fans can be... passionate, and are always wanting more stories. It feels like Jake and the Preachers – either from before they met the Doctor or after, when they acquired Mickey – would make a fantastic series. If Big Finish or the like called you up tomorrow and said ‘Hey, let's make a Preachers show’, what would you say?
I've always thought the Preachers would make a great spin-off show. There's a lot more that could be done there. Big Finish are great. I've worked with them before on another audio series. Obviously I'd love to see Jake reappear in Doctor Who. I want to know what he's up to now and if he still has that dodgy haircut. Russell's back in charge now so who knows...
Doctor Who wouldn't be the last time you worked with Russel T Davis, appearing in Banana, part of a series of dramas he created for Channel 4. A slightly racier role than we'd seen you in before... I imagine that was a lot of fun to work on?
It was pretty raunchy wasn't it?! But funny too, and so much fun to work on. It was my first time doing a scene like that but Fisayo - who played Dean - was a joy to work with and Lewis Arnold, the director, really helped put us at ease and made us feel comfortable.
You notably came out publicly at 21 in Attitude magazine (sporting a fetching belt buckle). Reading the article back, you didn't seem especially phased - despite how, really, it was incredibly brave to be so open at that time. Still today, people in the public eye chose to keep their sexuality private for fear of it harming their careers. What sort of reaction did you have to the article at the time?
I think I was trying to come across as if I was taking it all in my stride, but inside I was pretty nervous. I was the first kid's presenter to come out while still on the job. If I'd thought about that back then, I'd probably have freaked out.
Things were starting to appear in the press - like in the spotted pages of celeb mags - so I thought I'm gonna have to get this out of the way. I hadn't even told my parents at this point. Bearing in mind this was 17 years ago and things were a bit different back then, so of course I was worried about how it would affect my career.
I went to speak to my boss at CBBC and he was incredibly supportive. I'm so grateful to him for his help with that. The reaction was mostly positive. I've never regretted it for a second.
Finally, I know you have some things happening in the background that you won't be able to tell us about yet (boo!) so instead I'll ask; what are your main ambitions for the next years of your career? Are there any particular projects or stories you have your eyes on? Maybe something that hasn't been done yet which you'd like to be the first to do?
I've been very lucky with how varied my jobs have been so far. I do miss presenting at times - maybe one day I'll get the old ear piece back out… You can't beat the thrill of live telly. I never like to rule anything out.
I had a taste of working on a soap during my time at Hollyoaks and loved it. I was there for almost two years. I would have stayed longer but my character was such a villain, there was no going back for him - but I'd definitely like to do another soap in the future. Some proper gritty drama too. I've always had my eye on being Vera's detective sidekick actually. It's filmed up in the North East too. Imagine that, working with Brenda Blethyn and then being able to pop round my Mam's for a cup of tea after. The dream!
Thank you so much for talking to us today!