'I did it for a bet!', the Portsmouth plumber and boxer making a name for himself in the movies

This is the colourful tale of the fighter who became a plumber and, after a fanciful bet with his wife, saw his life take off... on the big screen.

Tuesday, 7th December 2021, 2:48 pm

Portsmouth born and bred ex-boxer and actor Andy Gatenby’s multifaceted career is now taking him to new heights, but he says he’ll never stray too far from his roots.

Andy, who grew up in Fratton and now lives at North End with wife Kirsty and two children Lexi and Law has plunged head first into a new challenge following a hit to his career in 2014.

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Andy Gatenby, with son Law, four, and daughter Lexi, 10. Picture: Alex Shute

After working for different mechanical businesses, Andy launched his own company Gatenby Gas and began working for himself in 2017.

‘When I left school, my dad said to me: “If you go to college and get a trade you won’t have to pay any rent,” says Andy.

‘It wasn’t a hard choice. I got myself qualified and I’ve been doing gas and plumbing ever since,’ he adds.

Alongside his trade, Andy had been boxing since the age of 14. He travelled all over the country and estimates he had 60 fights. Of those, six were professional . He didn’t lose one .

Andy Gatenby in action in one of his films.

However, when he was 28, Andy’s boxing career was cut short when an eye injury unknown to him at the time, meant he failed a medical ahead of an English title contest.

‘I got pretty down in the dumps after that,’ Andy says.

Following the abrupt end to his fight career, Andy desperately needed something to fill the void and stumbled upon acting as a result of a light-hearted bet with his wife as the pair watched a film in which the acting left a lot to be desired.

‘I bet her I could do a better job, and that was it. We shook hands on it, I googled how to be an actor and just went from there,’ Andy says.

Andy Gatenby.

After attending Kingdom Drama School in Westminster, part-time for two years and finishing in 2018, Andy began auditioning for roles.

‘There’s a lot of professional and amateur boxers that when their career ends, they can’t let it go and it ends up defining them,’ Andy says.

‘I was adamant I didn’t want to be that person,’ he adds.

With a likeable personality and dashing good looks, Andy quickly made connections in the entertainment industry.

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The 34-year-old recently played a gangster in the British thriller film, Nemesis, released last year and featured alongside award-winning actor Billy Murray.

The film, in which Murray plays an underworld kingpin, also gave Andy’s daughter Lexi, then nine, a chance to make her first major acting debut as the younger incarnation of one of the central characters.

While Andy’s own position in the industry has opened doors for Lexi and he wants to encourage her ‘natural talent’, he’s aware of the pressure that it may have on a young person so lets her make her own decisions.

‘I never push it on her, I look out for her and leave it up to her to tell me when she wants to look for an audition,’ says Andy.

However he says their reputation has led to jokes among themselves that their youngest, four-year-old Law, is beginning to follow in the performing family’s footsteps.

‘On Friday Law came home from school with a letter saying he’d been cast as a sheep in his school’s nativity,’ Andy says.

‘We looked at each other like “It’s started”, Andy laughs.

While getting in front of the lens herself would be his wife Kirsty’s ‘worst nightmare’, Andy is grateful that she offers herself as a constant source of support for his own career path.

‘She does just as many auditions as me, every time I get an audition sent through you have a reader behind the camera,’ he says.

Through Kirsty’s encouragement and his own proactive mindset towards acting, Andy has been making connections in the industry ever since his first role on the TV series and documentary, Special Forces: Ultimate Hell Week.

‘It just gave me a bit of a buzz for it,’ he says.

Andy’s just been carrying out filming for action thriller, Renegades. Due out next year the story follows four SAS troops setting out to avenge the death of a green beret who is murdered by an Albanian drug gang in London.

‘It’s going to be one to watch’, says Andy.

Even though Andy’s boxing dream was not all he expected, the 14-year commitment he made to the sport along with his talent for action is far from wasted through the roles he has been cast in.

‘Every single attribute from boxing transfers to acting, the dedication, the confidence,’ says Andy.

‘It gives you that authentic presence that a lot of people don’t have,’ he adds.

While some actors may snub or reject the term, Andy’s not afraid to be ‘type-cast’ in a role and he welcomes his hard-nut image in what he describes as ‘geezer films’.

‘I’m always either killing someone or being killed myself,’ Andy says.

‘As long as it’s gritty and real, I smash the role,’ he adds.

Andy says he knows what he’s good at and he maintains that until you’ve had your break, and you can afford the luxury of branching out of your comfort zone, every actor should be type-cast.

‘No one can play you better than you, if that’s what you’re good at, why shy away from it?’ he says.

Andy adds: ‘The Rock’s not exactly gonna be playing a librarian any time soon is he?’

While his true passion lies in acting, Andy appreciates the freedom working for himself has given him. He knows how lucky he is to be able to drop his day job at a minute's notice if a role comes up.

‘A lot of actors don’t have that flexibility and that can lead to missed opportunities. I juggle both so some nights I’m reading film scripts, the next I’m quoting for jobs.’

Andy maintains his sights are set firmly on Hollywood, but his heart will always be in Portsmouth.

‘As a family we’ve had the chat and we’re all flexible. We’re happy to take it as it comes. But we’ll always have a home here.

Andy has developed a relationship with British film producer, Jonathan Sothcott, which has served him well – bagging him roles in two feature films under Shogun Films.

‘It’s the same with any business, if your employer likes you and can trust that you will give a good performance, you’ll get work. When I started telling people I wanted to be an actor everyone laughed at me, but now people are asking me for contacts,’ he adds.

‘Some people have been a bit “well if he can do it I can do it,” kind of thing. ‘It’s great to inspire people.’

A message from the editor, Mark Waldron.

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