Sheffield graduate set for stardom in China after landing role in new sitcom

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A FORMER Sheffield student is to be the unlikely star of a new Chinese sitcom.

University graduate Richard Heathcote has been plucked from office job obscurity to feature in Ciao Britain, which is set to burst on to millions of television sets in the Orient in September.

It is an unexpected career move for Richard, aged 24, who left The University of Sheffield in 2010 with a degree in Mandarin, as he has no experience in acting.

Filmed in a warehouse in Greenwich, Ciao Britain will follow the lives of four Chinese house-mates and an Englishman living together in London.

Richard is drawing on his own experiences in the role of Steve, a Chinese-speaking British 20-something, who is also a graduate. But he has admitted that, unlike his on-screen character, finding work after leaving Sheffield was not a struggle.

The bilingual Brit, originally from St Neots, Cambridgeshire, has given up a £26,000-a-year job as a Chinese marketing coordinator for London-based architect Norman Foster to pursue his acting career.

Richard said: “My character, Steve, is a Chinese-speaking British guy in his 20s who the other Chinese housemates make fun of.

“He’s the butt of everyone’s jokes - a bit like Curly was in Coronation Street.

“He lacks any kind of direction and is never quite able to pin down a job he is interested in. He is struggling to get enthusiastic about anything.”

Mr Heathcote lived in Sheffield while he studied Chinese at university and spent a year in the eastern Chinese city of Nanjing as part of his degree.

He said: “I have a real passion for comedy and feel very at home with the Chinese sense of humour, which is different to British and American humour.

“The great thing about the soap is that it is funny.”

Filming starts for the first series in April.