Rocky's road to success

AFTER rubbing shoulders with Hollywood stars like Bruce Willis and Colin Farrell, Rocky Marshall is starting to get a taste of what like to be a star in his own right.

Former Great Cornard Upper School pupil Rocky is seen by up to nine million viewers a week in BBC One's series Holby City.

His role as ambitious registrar Ed Keating has seen him nominated as Most Popular Newcomer in The National TV Awards.

This is my biggest job so far," Rocky the Free Press as he relaxed in his dressing room before rehearsals at the famous Elstree studios.

I am starting to get noticed a bit on the street. People look at me twice and I sign the odd autograph. first time someone asked me for autograph, I felt I should apologise."

But fame hasn't come easy for Rocky who was had to work hard to make way to the top, getting several small parts in adverts, films and television before his high-profile role in Holby City.

Rocky, who's mum named him after boxing legend Rocky Marciano, was brought up in Cherry Tree Road and Butt Road, Great Cornard.

His proud mum Angela and grandmother, Freda Guiheen, still live the village but Rocky admits they

to see more of him on television than in person due to his hectic schedule.

The Holby City star went to Pot Kiln Primary, Great Cornard Middle and finally Great Cornard Upper School.

He says himself that he wasn't the easiest pupil to teach. I used to get in trouble at school showing off, trying to be funny. I used get in fights and really wasn't very happy there. But drama teacher Laraine Arnold (now Green) did really encourage me at Great Cornard Upper.

I left school very early, before I had taken my exams and just went back to them.

My main memories of growing up in Great Cornard is lots of kids hanging around the Poplar Road shops and getting in minor scrapes.

"When I was older I used to hang around Saddlers, which used to be at the bottom of Market Hill, and used to have a coffee there. It was actually where I got my first job after I broke a pool cue and had to work there to pay the owners back."

After leaving school, Rocky got a job at Wishbone Turkeys in Middleton and later at Fleetwood Caravans in Long Melford.

In his spare time he was treading the boards at Sudbury's Quay Theatre.

"The Quay Theatre was a big influence for me, in particular people like Richard Dunning, who sadly died, and Peter Scott-Smith.

"Apart from Laraine Arnold, I had never really had much encouragement.

Not many people living on a Cornard council estate want to become actors.

So to have this further encouragement really spurred me on."

In 1987, Rocky headed off to Mountview Drama School, in London, and afterwards followed parts in

adverts, fringe theatre and the play Piaf in the West End.

Between acting parts, the former Long Melford FC footballer was a coach in the community for professional clubs Chelsea and Wimbledon.

Then in 1997 he got his big break getting a part as Duncan Hart in the Channel Five soap Family Affairs.

Rocky admits the programme had a gruelling schedule.

He said: "It was the first (British) show to be on five days a week. Every day you would have to film 23 minutes of usable material. This compares with just eight or nine minutes on The Bill and some feature films when just 50 seconds a day will actually finish up in the film."

Rocky left Family Affairs in 1999 and had guest appearances in The Bill, Doctors and EastEnders where he danced with soap babe Tamzin Outhwaite.

He also landed himself a small part in the acclaimed World War Two miniseries Band of Brothers, which included Hollywood superstar Tom Hanks among its directors and Steven Spielberg as executive producer.

Disappointingly, he didn't meet either. Rocky said: "I was invited to a screening of Band of Brothers on Omaha Beach, where I would have got to meet Bill Clinton as well as Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg. I couldn't go though because I had three days filming on The Bill!"

Rocky also popped up in football hardman Vinnie Jones' film Mean Machine.

He said: "Vinnie Jones took his acting very seriously, but you did have to watch over your shoulder. If someone had an injury, you would find the oil they needed to rub into their leg was swapped for superglue. It just like going back to the playground."

The Holby star threw on an Army uniform again when he played Capt Robert M Swann in Hart's War, which starred Bruce Willis and current Hollywood It boy Colin Farrell. But Rocky wasn't starstruck.

He said: "The opening scene is a long sequence with Colin Farrell and me in a Jeep and we get ambushed. I last about six minutes before getting shot in the head.

"I've found it doesn't matter how famous an actor is, people are people.

None of them walk around with light emanating from them. Colin Farrell was very genial and down to earth.

"I have to admit I was more starstruck if I saw someone from EastEnders, as they're more part of your daily viewing."

Then, last year, Rocky got his highest profile part so far as Ed Keating in Holby City.

The executive producer on Family Affairs had become head of drama at the BBC and after a short meeting and audition Rocky was given a year's contract that was been renewed.

"It's nice to be cast as a doctor, as normally I'm a soldier, a footballer or someone in a fight." said Rocky.

"As part of my research I went to a hospital to watch open heart surgery, which I found really spell-binding.

"We also have people on set who give us advice to make sure we pronounce medical words correctly and it is as realistic as possible.

"How hard we work really depends on the storyline. If it's not heavy I might just do two days a week. But when it's busy I could be doing 11-hour days, six-days-a-week."

The modest actor certainly isn't getting carried away with his new found fame.

While pleased with his National TV Award nomination he refers to it as a "popularity contest".

Rocky said: "I've still got so much to do and learn. I've just got to keep going and I'm not looking any further forward than seeing out my contract on Holby."

At that point Rocky's dressing room door swings open and he's called for rehearsal.

Just before he heads off to revive someone, he has time to pass on some advice to any aspiring actors back in the area he grew up in.

"You must have perseverance and belief in yourself. I don't like watching myself on television, but when I do, I look at ways that I could have done things better. You must be prepared to keep improving."