Starting out on long-running English series EastEnders in the role of tough-guy Grant Mitchell, Ross Kemp is more than just an actor on the longstanding soap.
There are no records to suggest that Ross Kemp was in the British Military, however, his father, John Kemp, did serve in the army before becoming a Detective Superintendent in the Metropolitan Police Force.
Keep reading to look more into his ties with the military, and how he got into making documentaries surrounding the topic.
Affiliation with the Army
Ross came into the world on the 21st of July 1964 in Barking, Essex in England. Jean, his mother, was a hairdresser, and his father John was a Detective Superintendent.
Although Ross himself was never in the army, his father had served for four years. John’s corps were integrated with some others to create the Royal Anglian Regiment, which were the troops that Ross was with when filming his documentaries in Afghanistan.
“I know the areas they came from, so, yeah, I had an affinity with them. Others in public services – nurses, teachers, the police – have a voice. These guys don’t and I hope I can help. We tried to show the reality they are facing on the ground,’ he once shared in an interview.
Even though his role on EastEnders was his breakthrough into the entertainment industry, Ross was a trained journalist and soon followed his passions for reporting.
A Passion for Documentaries
In 2004, he released his first hard-hitting documentary called Ross Kemp on Gangs. The series ran for four seasons, and followed Kemp and his crew as he met various gang members, joined police on raids, and experienced the general dangerous nature of everyday life within gang culture in the UK and worldwide.
Ross Kemp in Afghanistan was another one of his documentary series, and it came out in 2008. This was the series where Ross filmed with the same regiment that his father was a part of when he was in the British Army.
His motivation for the show was to give a platform and voice to the soldiers on the front line. He told The Telegraph in 2008, “I’ve got many friends who are in the services, but you never really hear a squaddie giving his point of view. I’d never heard one talk publicly and I wanted to hear that voice.”
The show covered multiple subjects like the life of soldiers at their homes, when they are wounded, and also the loved ones of the troops.
With footage from the show of Ross in army gear and bullets being fired his way, it’s easy to assume at a passing glance that he was in the army. Though, he was in fact an investigative journalist who plunged himself into war zones across Afghanistan.
“It’s amazing how your basic instincts come to the fore,” Kemp said in the same Telegraph interview. “Even though you’re carrying body armor, your helmet, nine liters of water and more, you can run very quickly when someone’s trying to kill you. It’s very motivational.”
He spoke further about his experiences filming on war zones in an interview on English breakfast TV show Lorraine, “It was quite an emotional journey. People that we spent time with subsequently lost their lives.”
In the same interview, he also mentioned how he learnt to earn people’s trust through time spent around his mother’s job:
“I think it was because my mum’s a hairdresser, and I spent a lot of time sitting on old lady’s laps listening to their stories when I was younger in the back of the salon.”
Some of his other popular documentaries include Ross Kemp in Search of Pirates (2009-), Ross Kemp: Extreme World (2011-) and Ross Kemp Living with… (2019-2020).