My affair with Flavia wasn't exciting at all! Or so says Matt Di Angelo, but is he still smarting after she waltzed off with Jimi Mistry
23:44 GMT, 24 May 2012
Tangoed: Matt Di Angelo, better known as Deano Wicks in the soap Eastenders, with dancer Flavia Cacace
Matt Di Angelo is doing his best to keep a smile on his face. He is easy-going and charming, but his incredible aquamarine eyes are flashing as we stray into the one territory he remains uncomfortable in.
He has been an actor since he was nine. He worked on EastEnders for two years and spent another two on Hustle — but the thing he remains best known for is having a romance with his Strictly Come Dancing co-star Flavia Cacace.
‘It’s depressing that it is so much easier to get noticed by having people gossip about your love life than when you work really hard and do good work,’ he groans.
‘You could put your life into a play for three months and not get a line wrong — and still get ignored in all the reviews. But go and get off with someone and you’ll be on the front pages.’
Yet of all the Strictly romances there have been over the years, it remains one of the most interesting. Flavia was in a long-term relationship with her dance partner Vincent Simone when she was partnered with Matt in 2007. He was eight years her junior.
At first, Vincent was not worried. To him, Matt, then 19, was just a boy. But he is a very pretty, very charming young man, and before long gossip was raging about how Flavia and Matt were secretly in love.
Soon Vincent was moaning very publicly about how Flavia had left him, and shortly after the show finished the pair started dating.
Their romance ended in 2010, and a few weeks later Flavia admitted she was dating her latest dance partner, actor Jimi Mistry. Matt won’t actually mention Flavia’s name, and any discussion is firmly in the abstract.
‘It was a pretty crazy time,’ he says, shaking his head. ‘It was front page news. The funny thing was the story did not start off as true, but the more you read it, the more you started to believe it and actually act on it.
‘The programme-makers were just as involved. Tess [Daly, who presents Strictly with Bruce Forsyth] would make comments and they would give us particular dances. Then I’d be reading stuff from Vincent and other stories about how I was in love, so I started to think that if I am getting all this stick, we might as well go out with each other.
Leggy lady: Actor Matt Di Angelo and his partner Flavia Cacace performing on Strictly Come Dancing
Day job: Matt Di Angelo as Deano Wicks, Kellie Shirley as Carly Wicks and Chelsea Fox as Tiana Benjamin in Eastenders
‘But in reality, there wasn’t much drama. There was never a raised voice, and often the three of us would be sitting down having a cup of tea together. Everything was just fine. To be honest, it was a lot more exciting in the newspapers than it was in real life.’
The pair dated for three years. Flavia has said they split because Matt wanted to work in America.
When I put this to him, he looks slightly bewildered, before adding: ‘Is that what she said Well, if that’s what she said, I don’t argue with women. My mum taught me that. I just say “Yes love!”’
It is true to say that Matt has been in America, but only for a month at a time. He goes there for pilot season, when the production companies are casting for new shows (which may or may not be made). Most recently, he went with his new girlfriend.
He won’t reveal her name, but says she is not an actress. ‘No, no, I would never go out with an actress,’ he says. ‘There’s only room in the relationship for one ego.
Chemistry: Matt Di Angelo and Flavia Cacace dancing the Waltz on Strictly Come Dancing
‘Acting can be a tough job because you never know what is going to happen next. When you haven’t got any work, you can go through moments thinking: “Have I done something wrong Have I put too much weight on Was I speaking too quickly” If you have two people doing that, I imagine it can get pretty dark.’
Matt, 25, who is half-Cypriot and half-Irish, grew up in Southgate, North London, and attended the Sylvia Young theatre school.
He has had few lean moments in his 16 years in showbusiness, but admits the fame he won on EastEnders can sometimes be a hindrance.
‘I’ve had people say they didn’t want me to read for a part, even though they thought I was right for it, because I was on EastEnders. But I left the show six years ago. It is a different mind-set in LA. There, if you have been on a show that has been running for 25 years with six million viewers, that’s amazing.
‘If you had done four series of any show in America you would be a millionaire and picking your next job. Over here, they are bored of you.’
He is happy just to keep working, and takes his inspiration from his Hustle co-star, the veteran Hollywood actor Robert Vaughn, who at 79 remains an amazing workhorse.
‘Just being around Robert is incredible,’ he says. ‘He is a legend. Yet he is so humble and still doing the same hours as me.
‘Sometimes days on set were long and I’d be knackered, but he is three times my age and still standing. Chocolate was his secret — he always had a stash.’
Matt has recently finished his first lead role in a small British movie, Two Days In The Smoke.
‘It’s Pretty Woman meets Gangster No1,’ he says. The ridiculously small budget film was made in just three weeks, but gives yet another string to Matt’s bow — that of the romantic lead.
‘Acting is a tough game and I feel blessed to have kept working,’ he says. ‘I’m not very good at networking. I would much rather stay at home and watch auction shows, as I love collecting things like old blunderbusses.
‘I don’t enjoy being in magazines, and I hated it when they tried to turn me into a heart-throb. You won’t ever see me posing with my top off because I feel I have some morals.
‘I am not a lump of meat. I just want to act, and to be remembered for my work. That’s all I want.’
Two Days In The Smoke is due for release this autumn.