"My Night with De Niro": Emmerdale new boy Dean Andrews on his date with Hollywood royalty

The former Last Tango in Halifax and Ashes to Ashes star lifts the lid on his casting in Emmerdale, his love of greyhound racing and how he ended up on stage with the Godfather legend.

SIGNING on for “Britain’s best soap” might rate pretty high in the career charts for Dean Andrews, but the former Ashes to Ashes star’s evening with Robert de Niro probably edges it out.

The club singer-turned-actor, who will debut in the ITV soap in the spring, has revealed how the casual idea of buying tickets to see the Taxi Driver legend being interviewed on stage turned into an unforgettable experience where he got to ask all the questions himself!

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Speaking to The Scene at the Rotherham home he shares with partner Helen Bowen-Green, he recalls how the amazing story unfolded just before Christmas: “Helen said she was thinking about booking these tickets but they did seem a bit expensive, especially if you wanted a photo with De Niro.

“She noticed it said the celebrity interviewer was yet to be announced. 

“We’d had a couple of drinks and she decided to email them and said I would do it, not expecting to hear anything.

“A few days later she found shed had a reply from someone asking if she could email Stephen at An Experience With...

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“I sent him a message saying: ‘I’m an actor, I’ve hosted lots of nights, it’s something I think wouldnt be too difficult for me and I’m a fan of De Niro’s.’

“We exchanged messages and then I rang this Stephen and he said I seemed ideal for it.”

That’s how a prospective audience member ended up on stage interviewing one of the world’s greatest living actors.

Andrews continues: “I’ve never really been one for nerves, but I was a little worried he (De Niro) might be in a difficult frame on mind.

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“But I kept it simple, working through his career chronologically, and it seemed to go pretty well. 

“On the first night, in Leeds, I met him five minutes before and he seemed nice enough.

“The next night, in Birmingham, he was on great form and more relaxed.

“Helen came with me and she absolutely loved it.”

Having taken De Niro in his stride, is there anyone who would leave him awestruck?

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“I don’t think so,” he says. “I’m more impressed by the work people have done than by their fame.

“I’m a big fan of Michael Bublé and I went to his ‘An Audience with...’ for ITV but I don’t really get star struck.

“What De Niro has for me is an incredible body of work - he’s brilliant - but we’ve all got our place and something we can do that other people can’t.

“A friend of mine wrote the recent film Stan and Ollie and he means as much to me as De Niro.”

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Andrews is well aware of his own relatively modest level of notoriety,  dismissing suggestions he could be considered “famous” (a tag he reserves for the likes of Frank Sinatra and Marilyn Monroe).

But that could all be about to change after he joins the Emmerdale cast in March to play an as-yet-unnamed Dale character pitched against fans favourite Cain Dingle.

Currently happy to stop for a selfie or a quick word with fans, the Life on Mars, Ashes to Ashes and Last Tango in Halifax star may soon be gracing the front of soap gossip mags.

Dean isn’t giving anything way about the storyline, but knows the audience of millions could make him more of a household name than anything he’s done before.

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“I’ve never been one for that side of things, really  I quite like my anonymity,” he reveals. 

“Put me in a river with my mate and I’m happy enough. 

“I get the odd selfie or someone saying Ayup but when you’re in a soap that must be constant.”

Andrews reveals Emmerdale have asked him to consider joining the cast before but this time it felt the right fit.

“My agent said they were interested and I went and met the producers,” he says.

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“They outlined the character, asked if I fancied it and how long I’d like to stay.

“I said I’d stay as long as they want me.

“They’ve just won the National TV Award so they must be one of the big ones.”

Aside from acting, Andrews has plenty to keep him busy - he and Helen own Whiston beauty salon India Rose and its brother outlet Berties Barbers - and admits it is rewarding to invest in his home town.

The dad of two’s passions also include angling, cycling (he’s completed several marathon rides), Rotherham United, and his dogs.

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He and Helen have three pets - two cocker spaniels called Raymondo, or Ray (after his Life on Mars character) and Ruby, and an Italian greyhound called Roma.

He also has a stake in ten professional greyhounds, which have brought him modest success on the track.

A dog breeder asked if he was happy for could call one of his puppies Ray Carling and Helen ended up buying him a half-share in the pup.

“It’s just a nice sport to be involved in,” he says. 

“I know some people have a problem with it but the dogs are very well looked-after and love to run. They’re built to run.”

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Speaking of running, Andrews has been hitting the gym daily to prepare himself for the soap spotlight, and doing his best to lay off the booze.

It’s a far cry from the glamorous life of a cruise ship singer, which is how he has been spending much of his time between shooting Last Tango... and other TV work recently.

Week-long stints on ships in the Caribbean - where audiences are apparently amazed to discover the 55-year-old, who performed in clubs for 20 years, can actually sing - might sound a dream job, and Andrews admits it is lovely when people show their appreciation.

But getting to the cruise liners involves gruelling travelling schedules which take some of the fun out of the experience.

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Commuting to the ITV studios in Leeds and shooting in rural locations outside the city seems much more appealing these days, it seems.

“I have always said I would love to be in Emmerdale, especially as its filmed in such a beautiful place,” says Andrews, who started out on stage with the Phoenix Players and learned all about Clubland from his performer dad, Colin, who ran pubs in Rotherham for decades.

“It’s going to be different from something like Tango too because there we could be doing seven pages of script a day and this will be more like 27.

“A friend of mine works in make-up there and says its a great team and everyone is on an equal footing. 

“I’m looking forward to meeting everyone and getting started.”