SUNDERLAND boxing star Tony Jeffries will be hitting American primetime TV – with a Mackem accent.
In a far cry from his days flipping burgers in a catering van outside the Stadium of Light, the 28-year-old is rubbing shoulders with Hollywood actors including James Spader in new drama The Blacklist.
Though the Olympic medal winner from Silksworth was worried the director of the show would make him ditch his Sunderland lilt, he was asked to keep it for the role.
After filming scenes in New York, Tony will be beamed into millions of households in America next week when his character of a mercenary is screened on NBC, one of America’s biggest networks.
British viewers need not miss out as the show – which follows FBI agents and the world’s most dangerous criminals – will be screened on Living.
“It’s proper surreal,” said Tony, who moved to America to open a gym in LA. Since moving to America I never know what will happen next.
“The gym is my number one priority, but I keep getting opportunity after opportunity and I’d be a fool to knock them back.”
Since opening Box ’n’ Burn last year after an injury forced him to retire from professional boxing, Tony has trained the likes of Thor actor Chris Hemsworth for film roles.
But Tony himself has also been asked to step in front of the camera.
His image appears on a global Levi’s billboard and magazine campaign, as well as in a TV advertisement for Gillette.
Speaking about how his role in The Blacklist came about, Tony said: “The director of the show, Joe Carnahan, uses the gym.
“He had seen the Levi’s campaign and he knew I had a background in boxing and he said he had a part for me.
“I was a bit embarrassed, really, as I’m not an actor.
“They asked me to film myself acting out the role and I felt really stupid as my wife Sarah filmed me on my iPhone pretending to shoot people.
“But the casting directors liked it and asked me to come to New York.
“I asked them about my accent but they said they were happy with it.
“One of my first scenes was a scene with the show’s main actress, I was really nervous as she does this for a living and I have no experience at all, but I’ve had loads of fun running around, knocking people out.
“The character is a proper baddie.”
The former Farringdon School pupil appears in episodes eight and nine of the crime series which he describes as a cross between Homeland and 24.
Others to star in Blacklist include Diego Klanttenhoff, who appears as Mike in Homeland, now in its third series on Channel 4, and ER and Bend it Like Beckham actor Parminder Nagra.