Martin John Kemp (born 10 October 1961) is an English actor, musician and occasional television presenter, best known as the bassist in the new wave band Spandau Ballet and for his portrayal as Steve Owen from the BBC soap opera EastEnders. He is the younger brother of Gary Kemp, who is also a member of Spandau Ballet and an actor. Martin Kemp finished third in the summer series of Celebrity Big Brother 2012. In 2017, Kemp is taking on the role as a judge on the new BBC show, Let It Shine.
Martin Kemp was born to parents Frank and Eileen Kemp at their house in Islington, north London, and attended Rotherfield Junior School. At the age of 7 he began to attend the Anna Scher Children’s Theatre drama club with his brother Gary, and appeared in many TV shows, including Jackanory, The Tomorrow People and Dixon of Dock Green. In his last year with Anna Scher, he won a role in The Glittering Prizes, appearing alongside Tom Conti and Nigel Havers.
Kemp grew up in north London and attended Central Foundation Boys’ School on Cowper Street, Islington. Along with other famous ex-pupils, a large photo of him adorns a wall of fame at the school. After leaving school at 16, he began an apprenticeship in a print factory, but soon became disenchanted.
Kemp’s life changed when Steve Dagger, the manager of his brother Gary’s band the Gentry, suggested he should replace the band’s bass player. Kemp learned to play bass in three months and performed for the first time with the Gentry at a college party.[ Eventually the band was renamed “Spandau Ballet” and Kemp left his printing job to concentrate on the band full-time.
Spandau Ballet went on to have a great deal of success in the New Romantic Era, with four of their albums reaching the UK album chart top ten. True also gave the band their first UK number one album and single with the album’s title track. Kemp also performed with the band on the popular 1984 famine relief project song “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”, written by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure. Because of a dispute over royalties, the band split up in the early 1990s.
After a 20-year hiatus, newspaper reports claimed early in 2009 that Spandau Ballet was set to reform later that year. This was confirmed by the band at a press conference held on board HMS Belfast on 25 March 2009. The band also announced a world tour, beginning with dates in the UK and Ireland in October 2009.
Kemp and his brother Gary returned to acting in 1990, both of them appearing in the British film The Krays, in which they played the notorious gangster twins Ronald and Reginald Kray. Their performances received a great deal of critical acclaim. After The Krays, Martin Kemp moved to Los Angeles in the early 1990s and made appearances in television series such as The Outer Limits and Highlander: The Series. He also appeared in several Hollywood films such as Waxwork II: Lost in Time (1992) and Embrace of the Vampire (1994).
In 1995 Kemp moved back to the United Kingdom and took a break from acting for a short while, recovering from removal of two benign brain tumours. He then resumed his acting career in 1998 when he made guest appearance in the ITV police drama series The Bill. He went on to become popular for his role as villain Steve Owen in the BBC’s top soap opera, EastEnders from December 1998. His character was involved in some of the soap’s highest rated storylines such as the Saskia Duncan murder and “Who Shot Phil?”. By the time he left the series in 2002, he was one of the best-known faces on British television. Kemp won three TV Quick Awards for Best Soap Actor (2000, 2001, 2002),] a National Television Award for Most Popular Actor (2000)] and five British Soap Awards (Villain of the Year in 2000, Best Actor in 2001 and 2002, and Sexiest Male in 2001 and 2002) for his work on EastEnders. In July 2001, he announced that he would leave EastEnders when his contract expired in April 2002.
Kemp switched over to ITV from 2002 to 2004, where he starred in several television dramas such as The Brides in the Bath, in which he played real-life murderer, George Smith, and Can’t Buy Me Love opposite fellow EastEnders star Michelle Collins, which was based on a true story about a man who conned his wife and friends into believing he had won the lottery. From 2004–07, he was the face of furniture chain ScS. He starred in a low-budget British film titled Back in Business which had a limited release in few theatres in February 2007 and one month later was released on DVD. He founded his own production company and in March 2008 directed a low-budget 20-minute short film entitled Karma Magnet, which starred his brother Gary, and featured Martin’s wife and son, Shirlie and Roman. This was released only online.
Kemp appeared on a celebrity special of Who Wants to Be A Millionaire in January 2008 with his brother Gary, to raise awareness of and funds for the Encephalitis Society. Along with his son, Kemp also featured in one edition of a factual television series for Five, Dangerous Adventures For Boys, based on the best-selling book written by Conn and Hal Iggulden, The Dangerous Book for Boys. In 2008, he appeared on the Discovery Channel television programme Chop Shop where the cast built him a gangster car. He hosted TV’s 50 Hardest Men for Sky1 in July 2008 and also guest starred as Mr. Burley in BBC drama series, Waterloo Road. The year 2011 saw him starring as “Dr. Lawrence” in Jack Falls. In November 2011, Kemp appeared as a contestant on the second series of ITV’s 71 Degrees North, but quit after three days. Kemp’s first feature film as director, Stalker, was released in 2011.
Kemp was announced as the thirteenth celebrity to participate in the summer series of Celebrity Big Brother 2012. Kemp appeared in the final, and placed third on 7 September 2012.
Martin Kemp has been married to Shirlie Holliman since 1988] Holliman is a former backing singer of the group Wham! and one half of the 1980s pop duo, Pepsi & Shirlie.] The couple have a daughter, Harley Moon (born 1989) and a son, Roman] (born 1993).
Kemp is a patron of the British/Irish charity, the Encephalitis Society At the time he became a patron, he confirmed that he had controlled epilepsy since the 1990s, as a result of two brain tumours.] Following surgery to remove the tumours, Kemp had a protective metal plate implanted over his brain under the scalp The plate is unnoticeable but not undetectable – during an appearance on the Frank Skinner Show in 2002, Kemp jokingly remarked that he could never slip quietly through metal detectors at airports, as the plate would set the alarm off. On 20 January 2006, Kemp opened a new CT scanning suite at Russells Hall Hospital, Dudley, West Midlands.
- Father Brown (2017) …. Dennis Nelson
- Birds of a Feather (2016) …. Vince
- Assassin (2015) …. Lee
- Age of Kill (2015) …. Sam Blake
- Crossmaglen (2012) …. Major Prendergast
- Strippers vs Werewolves (2012) …. Mickey
- Hustle (1 episode, 2012) …. Harry Holmes
- How to Stop Being a Loser (2011) …. Zeus
- Jack Falls (2011) …. Dr Lawrence
- The Best Years (2010) …. Simon McKnight
- The Rapture (2010) …. Victor Walker
- Waterloo Road
- Series 6 (2010) …. Mr. Burley
- Bully Boys (2008) …. Mick Revill
- Back in Business (2007) …. Will Spencer
- Agatha Christie’s Marple
- Sleeping Murder (2006) …. Jackie Afflick
- Love Lies Bleeding (2006) …. Mark Terry
- Can’t Buy Me Love (2004) …. Alan Harris
- Where the Heart Is
- Skin Deep (2004) …. Ian Thorpe
- The Brides in the Bath (2003) …. George Smith
- Serious & Organised (2003) …. DC Jack Finn
- Family (2003) …. Joey Cutler
- Casino Casino (2003) …. Casino Manager
- Daddy’s Girl (2002) …. Chris Cooper
- Sugar Town (1999) …. Jonesy
- EastEnders (1998–2002) ….. Steve Owen
- Monk Dawson (1998) …. David Allenby
- The Bill
- The Bus Driver’s Prayer (1998) ….. Tom Marsh
- Supply and Demand (1998) …. Eddie McEwan
- Tales from the Crypt
- Escape (1996)
- The Outer Limits
- Blood Brothers (1995) …. Michael Deighton
- Embrace of the Vampire (1994) …. Vampire
- Cyber Bandits (1995) …. Jack Morris
- Boca (1994) …. Reb
- Murder Between Friends (1994) …. Bill Fontanille
- Fleshtone (1994) …. Matthew Greco
- Highlander: The Series
- Avenging Angel (1993) …. Alfred Cahill
- Aspen Extreme (1993) …. Franz Hauser
- Ultimate Desire (1993) …. Gordon Lewis
- Waxwork II: Lost in Time (1992) …. Baron Von Frankenstein
- Growing Rich (1992) …. Driver
- The Girl Who Came Late (1991) …. Digby Olsen
- Daydream Believer (1991) …
- The Krays (1990) …. Reggie Kray
- The Glittering Prizes
- A Country Life (1976) …. Graham Black
- Jackanory (1975)
- Rumpole of the Bailey (1975)
- Dixon of Dock Green (1973)
- Oranges and Lemons (1973)
- The Tomorrow People (1973)
- Scribble (1973)
- Katherine Mansfield (1973)
- Mind Where You Are Going (1972)
- The Edwardians (1972)
- Jackanory (1972)
- Karma Magnet (2008) (short)
- Stalker (2010)
- Top Dog (2014 film) (2014)
- Kemp, M. (2000). True: The Autobiography of Martin Kemp. Orion. ISBN 0-7528-3264-6.