WITH a rub of the magic lamp, Craig Phillips has stepped in as the Genie of the Bling in Aladdin.

As one former Big Brother contestant exits stage left, another one magically appears. This week Basildon’s Brian Belo announced he was leaving the Thameside Theatre, Grays, pantomime due to personal reasons.

Luckily the first Big Brother winner, Craig Phillips, was happy to take on the role.

“I was wrapping up a movie in Belfast when I got the call on Sunday about the part,” says Craig, 40. “I raced back to Liverpool, where I had a million and one things to do, and then went to Essex for rehearsals.”

Although tight-lipped about his movie role, Craig is keen to talk about his part in the panto.

“I have played the Genie twice before so I was lucky to have a head start on it,” says Craig.

“The part had been adapted for Brian Belo and his personality, so it has had to be tweaked for me a little bit. I do enjoy the comedy roles like the Genie, Wishee Washee and Buttons, because interacting with the audience comes quite naturally to me.”

Craig is also looking forward to catching up with his pal Dean Gaffney, who plays Wishee Washee.

“It will be great to be working with Dean again. It was this time last year that we did Celebrity DIY with Craig Phillips. I installed an office work station and units in his daughter’s bedroom,” says Craig. “I can only hope his acting is better than his DIY!”

Craig won Big Brother in 2000 and donated the £70,000 prize money to his childhood friend and Down’s Syndrome sufferer Joanne Harris. Within six days of leaving the show, he had raised £250,000 to pay for her life-saving heart and lung transplant.

He went on to combine his new-found fame with his knowledge of the building trade.

He has presented and produced over 850 DIY and home improvement shows for the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Five, Sky One, UKTV Style and Discovery Realtime.

“I was lucky to go into the house with a trade and I’ve been able to carry on using it,” says Craig.

With a hectic panto schedule, where will Craig be spending his Christmas?

“After the afternoon show on Christmas Eve is finished I will go back home to Liverpool to spend the day with my family. Then I am back in the theatre on Boxing Day and I’m there until the new year.”

Aladdin runs until January 7. Ticket prices vary.

To book tickets call 0845 300 5264, go to the theatre box office or visit www.thurrock.gov.uk/theatre