'At last! An audience that likes me!'
WE ALL know him as nasty Trevor Morgan, the evil wife-beater of Little Mo Slater in long-running BBC drama EastEnders.
How we cheered when the abusive bully was finally killed off, meeting his just deserts in a blazing fire that – we all fervently hoped – had damned him in hell forever.
Of course, it's only acting – and in real life, 43-year-old Alex Ferns, who played the villain, could not be more different from the psychopathic Morgan if he tried.
For a start, he is a gentle, peace-loving Buddhist, who loves to meditate as a way of escaping from the frenetic pace of life.
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He is also happily married – to South African-born actress Jennifer Woodburne – and the devoted father of two sons, Cameron, nine, and Mackenzie, five.
So it must be a huge relief to have left such a vile character behind so long ago. Trevor was killed off in 2002, after Alex had played him almost nightly on our screens for two years.
"Well, actually, he's been pretty difficult to escape from," says Alex, with more than a hint of regret in his voice. "Don't get me wrong, it was a great part to play, and one I'm incredibly proud of. Many scenes were exhausting and very emotional.
"But even today – ten years later – I'm finding it hard to get back into British TV. Casting directors don't seem to be able to see me as anyone else. I don't think I realised at the time the enormous impact the character would have, both in people's minds and on my career. It was such an iconic role; it was crazy."
He must find that incredibly frustrating? "Yes, you could say that," he says, ruefully. "But thankfully, American casting directors are showing interest in me, so that might lead to something. You know the saying, one door closes and another one opens."
So what kind of future role does he covet? "I'd love to be in a film," he says. "But I'd like to play a character with sensitivity. I don't want to hurt anyone – I really don't!"
Meanwhile, the world of theatre has beckoned, and currently Alex is on tour in Rodgers & Hammerstein's award-winning musical South Pacific.
He stars as Luther Billis, the American naval "Seabee" who provides the show's comic relief, as well as belting out one of its hit numbers, There ain't nothing like a dame. Seabees, by the way, are members of the United States Navy construction battalions.
"Yes, it's a wonderful part," he says. "I'm enjoying the tour, and looking forward to coming down to the Westcountry. Maybe see a few real beaches."
So how's he getting on with the singing? "Well, I was in Guys & Dolls, so it's not my first ever musical," he says. "I'm an actor primarily, not a singer – but I can hold a tune."
Just as well, as his big number is always eagerly anticipated by audiences, and inevitably goes down a storm.
"At last! An audience that likes me!" Alex is a happy man.
South Pacific is at the Theatre Royal, Plymouth, until Saturday June 23.