FROM The Sunday Mercury Newspaper (Birmingham, UK): May 6, 2001

Could quit Five to become an actor
Billie tied to get him up the aisle
Wants to settle down and be a dad

Midland superstar Ritchie Neville has admitted for the first time he could leave chart-topping boy bands Five. In his most in-depth interview ever, the 21-year-old heart-throb told the Sunday Mercury that he plans to become an actor. The singer, a former pupil at posh Bromsgrove School in Worcestershire, is one of pop's hottest properties after enjoying a string of smash hits with Five. But he revealed he may soon turn his back on music to purse a new dream of becoming a serious actor. His mother, Kim Dolphin, also told how Ritchie was devastated after his split from pop star Billie Piper - who controversially married multi-millionaire Chris Evans last week. Ritchie talked exclusively to Sunday Mercury as his mum prepared to leave the Crabmill Inn, in Bromsgrove, where he had grown up with brother David, 30 and sister Tracy, 36.
"I would like to become an actor" he said. " I see that as the direction I would like to head in". "Drama is something I have always been interested in because I went to a school which encouraged it. I love being on stage. At the moment, with Five's new album an forthcoming world tour, my time is taken up but acting is something I will consider in the future." In the four years since he joined Five, Ritchie - alongside fellow band members Richard 'Abs' Breen, Scott Robinson, Jason 'J' Brown and Sean Conlon - has achieved global success. The band has conquered the Asian pop market, enjoyed success in Europe and had numerous British chart smashes. The singer, whose hit singles include Everybody get up and Keep on moving, said "Everything is great right now and I am very happy" "the album our third, is due out in the summer and could be our best yet" " There is some hip-hop, rock and loads of pop. I am very proud of it" Ritchie has recently moved into a new London home, complete with a spiral staircase, after selling the love nest he shared with Billie
His mum Kim, a singer in her own right, has run the family pub for the past 18 years. " When he was at school, Ritchie's teachers told me he was very talented and should consider a career as an actor" she said. " But he is so unassuming he didn't really understand what all the fuss was about. " I do think that he will end up as an actor, Perhaps his career as a singer will help him in the way". Kim, 56, decided to pull her last pint at the pub to become her son's personal assistant. " Despite all the fond memories I have of the place, I am really keen for mum to stop working at the pub" said Ritchie. "I have seen her work so hard over the years and now it is time for her to have some fun. She is a very special lady, she is the star in our family. If it was not for her, I would not be here today"
Press interest in Ritchie heightened after 18-year-old Billie tied the knot with media mogul Chris Evens, 36, in a quickie ceremony in Las Vegas last weekend. Ritchie refuses to be drawn on the topic - but Kim is not to shy. "I don't recognise the girl in the photos of the wedding" she said. " The Billie that went out with Ritch was very sweet and childlike. But the girl in those pictures is a stranger to me. I don't understand her relationship with Chris. It is all very strange and very rushed" Kim also confided Billie had tried to get Ritchie up the aisle. " I advised him to wait three years and see how they felt then" she said. "He listened to me and his friends and heeded our advice. I think he had a near-miss. I know he wants children and settle down but he is only 21, he has his whole life ahead of him. I think Billie just wanted to marry someone and Chris is that person. Perhaps we will all be proved wrong and they will still be together in 10 years time and have 3 children. But, personally, I think the marriage will last two years at the most."
Kim feels let down by Billie, who had hits with 'Because We Want To' and 'Honey to the Bee'. " She always credited Ritch for the way she learned to deal with fame" said Kim. " Remember she was only 15 when she started out but last Christmas it went all wrong with them. She told Ritch about Chris and the presents he had given her but when Rich saw the photo of her throwing her arms around him and kissing him, he was devastated. But saying that, he is young. He knows he doesn't want to settle down yet and he is just having fun now. He is a young, good-looking man who is enjoying himself".

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