'EastEnders' star Neil McDermott introduces his scene-stealing baby daughter

EastEnders heart-throb Neil McDermott, who plays Ryan Malloy in the hit soap, introduces his newborn daughter Arrabella Betsy in an exclusive interview and photoshoot with HELLO! magazine this week.

The actor reveals how he found out that his wife, actress Michelle Edwards, was pregnant just the day before filming scenes where EastEnders’ Stacey [Lacey Turner] gave birth to Ryan’s daughter. “My job is mirroring life,” he says.

The couple went for the 12-week pregnancy scan at around the same time that the storyline was being screened. “I remember some of the hospital staff looking at me quite strangely as only the night before I’d been on TV with Stacey in hospital giving birth!” he recalled. “It was like, hang on a minute, what’s going on here?”

Their daughter was born on January 9 at a Surrey hospital after 36 hours of contractions, which Neil describes as “truly heroic.”

“Patsy Palmer told me ‘Get ready to feel a love like you have never felt before...’ he tells HELLO!. “And she is absolutely right. It’s unbelievable.”

“We had a text message from Bertie [Patsy’s baby boy] asking Arrabella out on a date. I said, ‘No, not until she is 21,'” laughs Neil.

Neil and Michelle, who met when they were teenagers studying at London’s Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts, didn’t watch EastEnders’ controversial cot death and baby-swap storyline when it was being aired. “When your baby is about to be born you don’t choose to watch something like that,” he admits.

“I’ve watched it since and the aftermath of it. The acting has been very strong and the storyline very good.” As a father himself, did he find those scenes difficult to watch?

“When it is so much more relevant to you then it does become more heartbreaking.”

With both parents as actors, Arrabella may well have inherited the showbusiness gene, and her choice of name has an appropriate acting connection. The couple were watching hit TV drama The Sorpranos when they noticed the unusual spelling on the credits. Says Neil: “We’ve given her a lifetime of correcting people’s spellings, I know!”