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Proud of Albert Square

September 11, 2009

EASTENDERS last night welcomed its first disabled character to use a wheelchair. David Proud made his soap debut as Adam Best, the son of Minty’s girlfriend Manda. David was born with spina bifida and cannot walk unaided. Despite the challenges, he has appeared in CBBC’s Desperado and ITV2’s Secret Diary Of A Call Girl. David, 26, who lives with his mum and dad in the Midlands, started dreaming of becoming an actor as a teenager. At 13 he pleaded for the part of Tiny Tim in a school play – because he could use a crutch. Here, David tells what landing the EastEnders role means to him.

MY first ever acting part was playing Tiny Tim, the character in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol who uses a crutch.

I’d had an operation just before we performed the show and I had my leg in plaster and begged the hospital to put me in an old-fashioned cast so it fitted in with my part.

Quite a character ... David Proud

Quite a character … David Proud

BBC

I think I was too young to understand then, I just thought that I could be a good Tiny Tim and really wanted the part.

I can’t believe that 13 years on I am now in my dream job playing a “normal” character.

I never in a million years thought it would happen. My mum was so proud she burst into tears.

I have always been independent. I drive a specially adapted car and have lived on my own.

I love where I am from but because of my work commitments now with EastEnders, I am commuting loads so I may think about moving south some time in the future. When you are born with a condition you get more used to it.

It gave me the ambition to do what I would never have done if I was able bodied.

The stereotypical view of my condition is that it is a weakness.

But I think if you can learn to love what you have and learn to live with it then you can overcome it.

I don’t think I would have achieved half of what I have achieved without it.

Special

The BBC scriptwriters used my independent nature to shape their characterisation of Adam.

They have purposely avoided making his disability a storyline.

Far from being a person to feel sorry for, David’s character is a snobby Oxford graduate who looks down his nose at most of Albert Square’s residents.

Adam thinks his mother’s boyfriend Minty isn’t good enough for her and neither is the Queen Vic up to standard.

Not all disabled people are nice, so all characters shouldn’t be either. It’s a stereotype. People are people.

He is a multi-layered, rounded character and his story will unfold.

As a disabled actor, being in Secret Diary Of A Call Girl was a shock – I was one of Belle’s clients. It is not a part you ever think you will get.

Billie Piper was lovely, she put me at ease and took me out to lunch to get to know me. I have been lucky to get such interesting parts. Starting filming for EastEnders in mid-June was so exciting. Meeting Barbara Windsor was a special moment I won’t forget.

The Square is a 25-year-old set. They have tweaked it to give me as much access as I need but it was all done by the time I arrived.

We haven’t tackled the height of the Queen Vic bar yet but it’s representative. I mean, the world isn’t accessible and it’s important that the set highlights this for my character.

It was really strange seeing myself in the Square, this place that I have watched on TV growing up – and now I am there.

It’s exciting to work in a place where so many iconic characters were developed, such as Grant and Phil.

It is connecting with a whole group of people who want to see disabled people in normal scenarios.

And I have made my parents and sister very proud.

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