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Sid Owen breaks down during ‘harrowing’ TV prison show Banged Up (exclusive)

Why Sid Owen didn't choose a life of crime

Sid Owen locked up for prison TV experiment (Channel 4)
Sid Owen locked up for prison TV experiment (Channel 4)

EastEnders star Sid Owen laid bare the harsh reality of being locked up in prison for reality TV series Banged Up, telling Yahoo: "I broke down quite a few times."

Speaking about how the experience impacted his emotions, the actor - famous for playing Ricky Butcher in Albert Square - said: "Being locked in, I broke down quite a few times. Hearing people’s stories, you do emphasise with them a bit because people have no choice where they come from."

In a moment of desperation, the 51-year-old made a failed attempt to escape the prison that got him a few extra minutes of daylight in the courtyard. "Every day you just want to leave," he said. "Just by looking at it, you know it is not a nice place. Just being there surrounded by hardened criminals."

Owen in his prison gear (Channel 4)
Owen in his prison gear (Channel 4)

Owen signed up to spend eight days behind bars at decommissioned Shrewsbury with ex-inmates in a bid to show what life on the inside is really like for prisoners. He is joined by Gogglebox’s Marcus Luther, Strictly’s HRVY, Friday Night Dinner actor Tom Rosenthal and The Mail On Sunday columnist Peter Hitchens - as well as Johnny Mercer and former Tory MP Neil Parish.

It was as real as it could be without being beaten up or attacked. It was pretty harrowing.

Sid Owen's family

Doing this reality TV series gave the EastEnders actor a chance to see what it was like for his dad and his brothers who spent time behind bars. He told us: "It certainly puts you off, gave me a bit of an insight into what it’s like. It was as real as it could be without being beat up or attacked. It was pretty harrowing. It was all the noise and it does affect you after a while. It wasn’t the easiest or best experience but it was certainly an experience."

Sid Owen wears blue shirt and jacket
Sid Owen said he had breakdowns on Banged Up (Getty)

He added: "The most challenging thing is just being behind a cell, they close the door and that’s you until the next day. It’s the boredom factor. Taking anyone’s freedom away."

Why Sid Owen didn't choose a life of crime

Crime never appealed to Owen and unlike some of his family, he chose to take a different path in life. It begs the question, why not? "Because I was sensible," he said. "Luckily, I enjoyed acting. One thing led to another. I did my acting classes and then got a job and then that gave me a sort of teaser or a bit of a taste for that life and getting out of school - and no one really liked school at a young age. Acting was my saviour, I suppose. I kept working so that’s what kept me out of trouble."

He found great success in the TV world; Owen was best known for playing Ricky Butcher on and off between 1988 and this year.

Before Banged Up, the TV star had experienced seeing prison from the other side on visits to his dad and his brothers behind bars. It was those precious prison visits that would give his brothers hope.

Sid Owen in character of Ricky Butcher on EastEnders
Owen has been on and off our screens on EastEnders from 1988 (BBC)

Looking back on that time, he said: "People in prisons that’s what they live for. I did go on quite a few visits to see my brothers. And it wasn't a nice experience just going full stop and then I'd avoid it at sort of any cost really. But you felt you had to because that's what sort of tries gives them a bit of hope."

Owen reflected on the lessons he had learnt from taking part. "Stay out of trouble and keep doing what I’m doing," he said. "It’s not a nice experience and I don't wish it on anyone. It does boil down to where people grow up and where they come from and some people don't have a choice.

"Some people get involved from a young age and you know, the wrong things. So, it's just being strong minded yourself and staying out of trouble."

Sid Owen on being a dad

Sid Owen and fiancee Victoria with their daughter Skye (GMB/ITV)
Sid Owen and fiancee Victoria with their daughter Skye (GMB/ITV)

Becoming a dad for the first time at 50, Owen welcomed his first child Skye with his fiancée Victoria Shore in January last year.

During Banged Up, the dad-of-one received a Father’s Day card and he’s gutted. It was being away from his daughter that made the TV prison experiment even more challenging.

He said: "It was difficult, very difficult. Only because I’m a new dad and it’s tough. I find it difficult putting her to bed. I miss her from when she goes to bed until when she wakes up. I love being a father. I want to spend every minute of the day with my child. So I found that bit difficult."

Banged Up is on Channel 4 on Tue 31 Oct at 9.15pm.

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