As a little boy, all Emmerdale star Jurell Carter dreamed of was playing football for his beloved Birmingham City.
And at the age of 18 he thought all his hours of practice had paid off when he landed a partial scholarship to play football in America.
But his hopes of a sporting career were to be dashed as there was no way his family could afford the rest of the fees, leaving him devastated.
Jurell, who plays hunky farm hand Nate Robinson in the Yorkshire soap, says: “It was heartbreaking. I had loved football from the age of three.
“When I got offered the scholarship to the University of South Carolina Aiken it was amazing but I couldn’t find the funds to pay for the rest of it so I couldn’t go. What I was offered would have covered 65% of the costs but I would still have had to find the other 35%, which was beyond my means.
“I was so devastated. It was something I loved so passionately, for it then not to go through… it was heartbreaking.”
Having one dream shattered could have floored many teenagers, but not Jurell. He says: “I knew that I had to follow something else that I was passionate about but hadn’t had the confidence to do, and that was acting.
“I always had loved it, whether reciting movie lines or playing superheroes in the garden with my cousin and my friends, doing different accents…
“But I never really had the confidence to pursue it. But as cliched as it sounds, life is so short and I didn’t want to have any regrets. Losing out on the football career made me determined to succeed in the acting. I believe that no matter where you come from, if you can see something, visualise it and have the passion then you can achieve it.”
Jurell joined an extras agency and landed a few background parts in films.
Those small roles whetted his appetite for acting even more. He applied for a place at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts and took out student loans to pay his way.
Even though he is still paying off the debts, he says it is all worthwhile after he landed his dream job on Emmerdale.
And now, just months after joining the show, he has been nominated for Best Newcomer in tomorrow’s National Television Awards.
He says: “I had wanted to do acting for a very long time, but to land a job on Emmerdale, one of the best-loved soaps in the country, was surreal.
“I have got my dream job. I’m in a soap that I grew up watching. My mum and my nan were always huge fans, and my dad is a fan now. It is just amazing to be a part of it. They are so chuffed that I am in the show and they are so proud that I have been nominated for this award, they are telling all their friends to vote as well!
“The NTAs are such a prestigious event so to be on the shortlist is amazing. I am so grateful for all the fans who voted for me.
“I’ve not been in the industry that long. I only graduated in 2016.
“If you had told me then that four years later I would be nominated for an NTA I wouldn’t have believed it.”
Jurell was certainly thrown in at the deep end with his first major TV role. His character Nate is Cain Dingle’s secret son and he embarked on a steamy affair with Cain’s wife Moira as an act of revenge against dad Cain, who he believed wanted nothing to do with him.
That meant filming sex scenes with Natalie J Robb, who plays Moira – literally rolling in the hay – and lot of shots of a topless Jurell, which made him hit the gym ahead of filming.
“The sex scenes have been a bit overwhelming really,” laughs Jurell, who won’t give his age.
“I did a student film and I had one scene which was just a little peck, so it was a big contrast to what I was doing here. But I had to just kind of embrace it and go with it.
“I wanted to look good and feel good. I think everyone has a perfect idea of how they would like their body to be. So when I first got the role I did cut down on my weight and I lost a stone and a half. I put it back on over Christmas! I was about 16 stone and went back to 14.5 stone.
“It wasn’t a crash diet. I just cut back a bit to make me feel better.
“I wanted to feel lean and light for me. I wanted to do it for myself. When you feel pressure it is unhealthy.”
So while Jurell was physically prepared for the role that has made him a household name overnight, he admits he wasn’t prepared for the backlash from online trolls who blamed him for splitting up the soap’s most popular couple.
He says: “This is my first big show, so obviously I was curious and I used to look at what people were saying about me.
“I understand they are a popular couple, but at the end of the day we are just telling stories.
“It is good that people take the show so seriously. But at the same time I think some people have to be careful about what they say.
“You can have an opinion, but you don’t need to vent any hate. I don’t even look at the trolls any more.”
Despite the trolling, he is adamant that there is no other place he would rather be, saying “Being in something like this, a lot of the scenes we do are really powerful. For me I am in the right place, right now. Being a part of something that touches on current subjects that affect people, and people can relate to, it’s really nice.
“It was surreal when I got the job. Walking in here for my screen test, just seeing the Emmerdale sign on the way in was unbelievable.
“I had to do my screen test with Jeff [Hordley], who plays Cain, and Nat, who plays Moira. It was sink or swim and I felt like I was drowning at times.”
- To vote in the National Television Awards visit nationaltvawards.com/vote
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