10. Meeting Mr Big
Dealing with rubbish thugs in Walford didn’t quite prepare Ross for the experience of interviewing a Chicago drugs kingpin. ‘Mr Big’ only agreed to be interviewed if the crew agreed to conceal his name and face. We can’t imagine many other film makers being granted the same kind of access to the drug world… Clearly shaken by the menacing encounter, Ross later said ‘If I ever reveal his identity I will unquestionably be killed.’ All a bit scarier than the drug dealers Grant got involved with in EastEnders…
9. Going berserk in Ultimate Force
More macho than a brick sandwich, Ultimate Force was effectively a TV adaptation of the kind of games boys play with their Action Men. The show focused on Red Troop, a crack SAS team and elite fighting force, as they attempted to complete all kinds of dangerous missions, led by our boy Ross in the role of Sergeant Henno Garvie. His finest moment? Grabbing a baddie by the head and smugly snapping his neck as if performing an 80s Arnie tribute act.
8. Helping a seizuring drug addict
Extreme World is difficult to watch at the best times. Delving into the murky waters of some of the most dangerous places in the world, it’s gritty and raw. But perhaps one of the most shocking scenes from the series was the incredibly ‘in your face’ footage of a homeless drug addict having a seizure in a brickyard. Luckily a leader from a drug outreach programme was on hand to administer antidote and help the addict up with the help of a stoic Ross.
7. Going loco with Latinos
Chin-wagging with LA gangsters is one thing, but Ross went further in Ross Kemp on Gangs when he witnessed first-hand a Latino initiation which involved a teenage boy being smacked and kicked around the ground by a group of his ‘friends’. The harrowing footage is hard to watch, made even harder by the way Ross desperately tries to reassure the boy before the beating begins. As insights into gang culture go, it (literally) takes some beating.
6. Taking the mickey out of himself
Ross set up his own hardman persona to brilliant effect in Ricky Gervais’s Extras. After telling Ricky that SAS stands for ‘Super Army Soldiers’, he proceeds to kiss his guns and tell him ‘If Vinnie Jones comes near me looking for a fight, I will unleash hell.’ What a wonderful man.
5. Smelling bad things
Ross’s most memorable interviewee so far is prisoner John Mongrel – a brutal South African gangster and murderer who openly admitted to assaulting any prisoner he chose. A testament to his excellent journalism skills, he managed to get answers to questions out of Mongrel that other prisoners had point blank refused to answer. Even worse was his breath, which Ross later likened to road kill left in the sun. What a lovely thing to imagine.
4. Shedding light on the congo
The Congo has witnessed one of the bloodiest conflicts since the end of World War II, yet it’s hardly ever in the news. Top marks to Ross for making amends by devoting a documentary to its plight, which saw him meeting brave doctors, victims of awful war crimes and heartbreaking, orphaned kids. It’s a distressing and touching episode with Ross at his emphatic best.
3. Being set on fire by Nazis
For our favourite hardman, it wasn’t enough to interview members of a frighteningly militant neo-Nazi group in Moscow. In order to gain their trust, Ross joined a National Socialist Society training day where he took part in a real initiation… he was splashed with petrol, set on fire and fired at with air pistols. And he still came out smiling. That’s Kemp for you.
2. Going for a dip in EastEnders
He may be the bravest documentary maker on telly, but to most of us Ross will always be Grant Mitchell. Loud, proud and way better than Phil, Grant had some classic moments on EastEnders. But of all his memorable moments, one stands out above them all – ploughing a car into the Thames while ‘bruv’ Phil went absolutely loopy with a gun. Classic.
1. Almost getting killed in Afghanistan
At number one, surely Ross’s greatest, most vital TV adventure – getting thoroughly embedded with the troops in Afghanistan from March to August 2007. Following the 1st Battalion of the British Army's Royal Anglian Regiment, the series showed what life was like on the front line. One bit even saw him trapped in open ground and shot at by the Taliban, which almost got him killed. Get the man a medal.
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