FUNNYMAN Russell Brand was mobbed by fans as he opened a new charity shop.
The stand-up comedian and actor swapped the Hollywood red carpet for Hathaway Road, in Grays, to open the Thurrock Mind shop, which supports a mental health charity.
He was invited to open the shop by his mate’s mum, who worked for the charity.
Brand, 38, spent an hour meeting and having photos with fans before giving a short speech about mental health, Grays and even the Echo.
He said: “I’ve loved being back in Grays. It’s a bit mental, they’ve replaced the McDonald’s with a betting shop and it seems like it’s more racially integrated now. That’s good. I just hope that people are happy here.”
Speaking about his recent sold-out stand-up shows at the Cliffs Pavilion in Westcliff, he said: “They were really good, I loved it. I was reading through the Echo. I love all that.”
He then revealed how he had appeared in the Echo’s sister paper, the Thurrock Gazette.
He said: “The Thurrock Gazette was the first time I was ever in a newspaper, jumping for joy. They were always trying to get you to jump in their photographs.”
Brand, who grew up in Grays, was dressed in his trademark drainpipe jeans, a grey T-shirt and blazer, and had a West Ham scarf around his neck.
He met with Thurrock Mind service users, staff and trustees before venturing outside the shop to meet with fans who had been waiting patiently to catch a glimpse of their hero.
En-route to the town, Brand tweeted: “On my way to my home town Grays to see my best mate to open a Mind shop.”
While in the store, Brand was handed a £3.99 pair of skinny jeans by store manager Sheila Priest and offered to donate some of his own items.
He said: “I’m very glad to be involved with Mind because my mate Sam’s mum, who asked me to come here, worked for Mind while I was growing up, so I was aware of it and was a little kid and just thought it was to do with nutters.
“There is a lot of stigma surrounding mental illness and I’ve gone on to suffer from mental illness myself, so now I know it’s just a normal thing that happens to normal people.”