It’s hard to believe he’s 40, given that he’s not changed much since he first shot to fame in 2000, aged just 22.
But, as we speak to Duncan James, he’s just returned from a cruise around the Caribbean on which he was celebrating the big birthday with his mum Fiona Inglis, 13-year-old daughter Tianie and her mum Claire Grainger.
Here, he tells us why he loves his unconventional family, and how he’ll be getting back with the boys in the band…
Hi, Duncan! How do you feel now you’re 40?
I feel fine! I know a lot of people go, ‘Oh God, I’m 40!’, but I’ve always embraced getting older. I think I look good for my age. When I tell people how old I am, they’re like, ‘No way!’ I quite like saying I’m 40 because everyone’s in disbelief.
You went on a cruise with your mum, daughter and Claire for your birthday. Why did you decide to do that rather than have a party?
I did a big party for my 30th. It was great and I loved it. But I spent the whole night not chilling out, making sure everyone was all right, sorting everything out, and making sure there were no problems. I was like, ‘I’m not going to do that again, I want to do something special.’ So I just took my three girls away.
Are the four of you close?
Yeah, of course. I’ve always been really close with Claire, and that’s one of the most important things, maintaining my relationship with her. A lot of people can’t get their head around our situation, because I guess we’re unconventional, but this world is becoming a lot more unconventional. I was raised by a single parent, so I’m not used to the conventional, typical way of life and upbringing. We make it work for us and we make it work as best we can for our daughter, because she’s a special little thing and we want to make sure we give her the best opportunity we can in life.
You’ve just finished two years of playing evil Ryan Knight on Hollyoaks. Did you feel like you had a lot to prove when you joined the soap?
No, not really. At the end of the day, I was known as a singer, so it’s nice that Hollyoaks gave me that opportunity. I found it hard at first because I probably started when I shouldn’t have done, because of my back. I’d just got out of surgery and I was on a walking stick, in so much pain, and so doped up on medication for the first couple of months of filming.
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How is your back now?
It’s not great. I walk with a limp as I can’t feel my left foot or areas of my left leg. It’s completely numb. I saw a surgeon a couple of weeks ago. I had another MRI scan, and they said I may never get the feeling back, which is a bit s**t. But I could’ve been a lot worse off. I could’ve been in a wheelchair or paralysed for the rest of my life, which I wouldn’t have wanted.
What’s the best advice you’ve been given?
Tianie wants to be a classical ballerina and works really hard at it. I’m really proud of her. I always say you’ve just got to keep going, if that’s what you want to do. You’ve got to believe in yourself, believe in who you are and believe in the talent that God blessed you with. As long as you enjoy it and you’re happy, that’s the most important thing.
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What does your daughter make of your fame?
It’s so funny, there was one night on the cruise, I sang My Way by Frank Sinatra on karaoke. I got a standing ovation, and everyone was whooping and cheering. The woman running the karaoke came up to me and she was so blown away by my voice, she got me a bottle of champagne and a trophy, and she was like, ‘You are the best singer I’ve ever heard on this ship!’ And then I heard everyone coming up to me and saying, ‘Oh my God, you’ve got the most beautiful voice, you should really do something with that!’ I could see Tianie’s face and she was really proud.
Is there any chance of new music with Blue?
We’re going on tour with Steps, Aqua and Saara Aalto this summer. And 2020 is our 20-year anniversary, so we’re going to do something special. We love getting in the studio and singing together.
So you’re all still really close?
Yeah, we’re super close. I never had any brothers or sisters, but they are my brothers, and we all really care about each other. We’ve got our little WhatsApp group, which we send funny things on and cuss each other about.
Will you be celebrating your birthday with
Me and Simon [Webbe] might do something together, because he turned 40 a week before me. We don’t normally do a joint birthday, but we’ve spoken about going to Ibiza with the Blue boys for a long weekend, maybe with our manager and a couple of friends and hire out a villa.
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