Michael Cashman first came to prominence when as a child he starred in the original West End production of Lionel Bart's musical Oliver!. He then went on to play Colin Russell in BBC soap Eastenders, a character notable for participating in the first gay kiss in a British soap opera. Cashman himself has been outspoken about his homosexuality and registered a civil partnership with his partner of 20 years just three months after the Civil Parternship Act 2004 came into effect.
Cashman was elected as the Member of the European Parliament for the West Midlands in 1999 and has held the office ever since. In the European Parliament, he is a particular spokesman for human rights and a member of the Civil Liberties Committee. He is also the president of the European Parliament's cross-party on gay and lesbian issues. Although he no longer works as an actor, he was the treasurer of the actors' union Equity between 1990 and 1994.