NOW magazine interview Oct 2000

Jeremy Sheffield's career with the Royal Ballet ended in agonising pain, mounting debts, a court summons and depression. Now he has bounced back as Holby City's new heart-throb.

Jeremy Sheffield can see the irony of starting his new career as a TV heart-throb on the hospital wards of Holby City. It was in hospital that he saw his previous career as one of the Royal Ballet corps most promising prospects come to an early end after a fall on stage.

'I was in the middle of dancing Cinderella' he recalls. 'I landed on my big toe and broke it, I felt it snap. It was really painful and someone had to come in and take my place. But i didnt know it was the end of my career because dancers get injured all the time'.

'Dancers push their bodies to do things they are not built for. A broken toe shouldnt be a big thing, but Id also ripped the tendon that runs through the ankle and flexes the big toe. I had three operations with them shaving bits off the tendon. At the end of it all, I had so much scar tissue that there really wasnt a lot more they could do. What happened to me wouldnt be a difficult thing for a normal person. I can run and work as well as anyone. But as a professional dancer, you are an athlete and physically you have to be at your peak to work'.

The accident was seven years ago. Afterwards Jeremy endured three years of surgery. 'I was in and out of hospital constantly. It was a depressing period. I got so depressed I couldnt get up in the mornings. I got into debt because Id never been paid much as a dancer. I didnt bother to open the mail and I just stopped being able to deal with things. I owed £18,000 to the taxman and had been summonsed to appear in court. The weird thing was that the first job I got was for a TV commercial and it paid exactly £18,000. The offer came in two weeks before I was due in court. I said a quiet thank you to whoever makes those things work'.

Jeremy did more than 60 ads over four years, most memorably the Martini Dry ad in which he played the man who set off a fire alarm so he could meet his girlfriend in a bar. 'The commercials were good for me. Id lost my drive. Doing them gave me a good training and helped me to believe that I could act. In ads, you have the time to get used to being in front of the cameras, you get used to working on location and you get used to the repetition of acting, the bit where you have the patience to do the same sequence 100 times. But you also have the freedom to try things out'.

After breaking into acting, Jeremy worked in the US, where he got a lot of attention from playing Nathalie Imbruglia's love interest in the video for her hit Torn, and admits he had never heard of Holby City when he was offered the part of heart doc Alex Adams. 'I took the part because I needed a job. I didnt know the show, but I read a couple of the scripts and it reminded me of ER. Its been strange filming Holby because you get paid a lot for ads, but you dont have to work very hard. On TV you really do have to earn your money'.

Jeremy grew up in rural Essex and says that he started to go to ballet lessons as a little boy because his best friend when he was growing up was a girl. 'I wanted to go wherever she went. So when she started doing ballet classes, I went too', he laughs.

When he was nine, one of his teachers thought he showed so much potential that he was recommended to audition for the Royal Ballet School. 'They used to audition 300 children a year, but would only take 11 of them and they picked me. I didnt come from any particularly artistic background - my father worked in the electronics industry and my mum was a teacher, but they were very open-minded about me wanting to dance and were happy to encourage me to use whatever talents I had'.

These days Jeremy counts Miami as his main home and is renting a place in London while filming Holby City. Although there has been speculation in the British press about his sexual orientation, he refuses to talk about his private life. 'Appearing in Holby City puts me in the public eye, but I think the BBC would rather I didnt talk about it. So, Im trying to keep my private life private', he says.

Apart from worrying how much scrutiny his personal life is now going to come under, Jeremy is happy to be in work. 'I am 34 now and male dancers arent really able to work must beyond 37, which is a difficult time to start trying to find some other way of earning a living. So Im quite lucky that my injury forced me to find a new profession so early on. In a way, I am quite pleased the ive had the opportunity to have two careers'.