Showbiz starlet Alex Cooke is following in the footsteps of his cousin - Spice Girl Mel B.

The young actor has just landed his biggest television role and hopes to go on to be as big a household name as his famous relation.

Alex, 13, of Grove Road, Menston, will travel to London next month for three days' filming for an episode of The Bill.

And he says Leeds-based Mel B - better known as Scary Spice - has been an inspiration for his own showbiz ambitions.

"She's a sort of role model. When you see how well she's done you think it would be great to do something like that yourself," said Alex, who is a member of the Stage 84 performing arts school in Idle, Bradford.

Ironically, it was through Mel B's family that Alex started taking acting seriously. His mum's sister, Andrea Brown, who is the mother of Scary Spice, was the one who first came up with the idea that he should go to drama school.

"I only started going to Stage 84 just over a year ago and I really enjoy it. I'd love to be a professional actor when I leave school," said Alex.

"In fact it was Mel's mum who suggested I should go there in the first place. Mel didn't actually go there herself but they knew of some people who did and had heard it was a good drama school."

His ten-year-old brother Christian, who goes to St Peter's and St Paul's Primary School in Yeadon, is also a budding actor at Stage 84.

The pair appeared together last year in the television drama Where The Heart Is, which starred Sarah Lancashire and Alex has also taken part in an episode of Heartbeat which is due to be screened next month.

Alex and Christian still see their famous cousin regularly despite her globetrotting commitments with the Spice Girls.

She took them on a Christmas holiday to Lapland in 1996 and they were also Mel B's VIP guests at the London premiere of the Spice Girls' movie last year.

"It was fantastic. I met people from Neighbours and Richard Branson. At the moment everyone says I'd be a good singer so if I don't become an actor then perhaps I might end up a singer as well," said Alex.

Their mum Di, 41, who works as a sales negotiator for an estate agent's in Guiseley, said: "We're a big, close family and my two have always got on really well with our Melanie.

"As mine were growing up she was a teenager and used to torment the life out of them but she loved them to death and they loved her to death as well.

"I do think they see her as a role model now. She inspires them to think if she can do what she's done from just an ordinary background then so can they."

Alex, who is a pupil at St Mary's RC Comprehensive School in Menston, is already finding out some of the drawbacks of the showbiz world.

The part he is playing in the episode of The Bill, called Bird of Paradise, is of a boy whose father leaves him a rare parrot in his will.

And because Alex has to handle the exotic bird during filming he had to go to the doctor's this week to have special inoculations against polio, diphtheria and tetanus.

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