Northern Echo 2005
Moving from the Royal Ballet School to the world of acting has landed Jeremy Sheffield a series of heart-throb roles on television. He talks to Steve Pratt about his future in movies and two more romantic TV projects.
BALLET dancer turned actor Jeremy Sheffield has found a way to bring his two skills together. In new episodes of ITV1's detective series Murder In Suburbia, he takes to the floor for a spot of salsa dancing. His sexy gyrations are bound to please fans who've followed his movements since he become a TV heartthrob as surgeon Alex Adams in BBC1's hospital series Holby City.
Sheffield's pleased to be back on the dance floor. "I've always been trying to find a place for the dancing but it's rare characters are asked to dance," he says.
Murder In Suburbia and Bombshell, a new drama from the makers of Bad Girls and Footballers' Wives, are two series that will put him back on the box. First, Sheffield will be seen in a romantic comedy in the cinema. The Wedding Date finds him playing the former fiance of American Kat (Debra Messing, from TV's Will And Grace), who finds himself acting as best man at her sister's wedding in this country.
His character Jeffrey's been called a "shallow, egotistical cricketer", a description with which the actor doesn't disagree. "He's a cad," he explains. "He's shallow and self-centred, not the sharpest tool in the toolbox. That's kind of interesting to play. The key to playing him is that he doesn't realise he's all those things. Hopefully that's where the humour comes from."
Doing a comedy was one of the attractions of the movie as he's done little comedy before. "I was a little bit scared, but in a good way," he says.
A bonus was working with an actor like Debra Messing, who honed her comic skills on hit US sitcom Will And Grace. "I've been to see the show taped in the studio and you realise how serious it is doing comedy," says Sheffield.
"It's a very serious game and watching her is very instructional. Recording Will And Grace is extraordinary, a weird combination of doing a play and a piece of TV. There's a live audience, screaming and shouting. The writers are changing things all the time. I don't know if I could manage it."
Several comments indicate his doubts about his talent. They probably add up to nothing more than the usual actors' insecurities, although he admits he's always surprised by success "because I'm really a bit of a negative person", explaining: "I'm very self-critical. Also, I look from a different perspective than other people - on paper, it may look like I do well but I always set my goals very high."
He seemed destined to be a dancer when, at the age of nine, his teacher suggested he auditioned for the Royal Ballet School. He won a place - only one of 11 boys chosen from the 500 applicants - and began a decade of classical ballet training.
Injury led to him falling out of love with ballet. "I'd been injured for three years on and off so I ended up doing character roles, the non-dancing, acting parts," he recalls.
"I enjoyed them and was doing what actors do, looking at the arc of the character. I enjoyed the process without knowing what it was. I began to feel more and more that I was going to do acting roles."
He worked at London's Royal Court Theatre and spent a year with the Royal Shakespeare Company before his doctor's bedside manner in Holby City brought him to the attention of viewers. He spent nearly two years as surgeon Alex Adams, took a six-month break and then returned for a final six months.
"I was very nervous about leaving," he admits. "I asked to go back for six months which was really because I was too afraid to leave. In that time I did a BBC series Hearts Of Gold and a one-off drama Coming Up For Air. In the end I thought I should have just left and not gone back again."
He's well aware that most people still recognise him from Holby City. The first series of Murder In Suburbia, as the boss of two female detectives, helped him escape from Alex Adams to a certain extent. He has high hopes of the new series, which finished filming last month.
"The scripts are even better, it really seems to have found its feet. It's a little bit weird in a good way," he says. "Because my character isn't in it all the time, it's just working a couple of days a week and having a good time."
Bombshell is most likely to change people's opinions of him. The army drama sees him playing a married major having an affair with a female officer (played by Zoe Lucker, alias Tanya of Footballers' Wives) in spite of the risk to their jobs.
"There's lots of running around and jumping on tanks. That was really physical work. It'll be interesting to see if people's perception of me shifts somewhat when it comes to Bombshell," he says.
He'd like to do more movies. He's happy to audition on both sides of the Atlantic, on the theory that the more auditioning he does the greater the chance of getting work.
Sheffield is also taking his career in his own hands. He's working on a wildlife programme that he would present and has optioned the rights of a book to develop into a script. "It's a vague attempt to have a bit more control," he says.