Anne Wing

"Lou Beale"

An Original EastEnder Makes A Plea for "the Old Bags"
by Larry Jaffee

"We have to make it quick!" Anna Wing bluntly makes it clear over the telephone from her London home. "EastEnders starts in 15 minutes."

Although it's been eight years since she graced Albert Square as Lou Beale, matriarch of the clan, "I wouldn't dream of missing an episode," Wing explains.

Afterall, I'm an East Ender," she says, noting that not only did she grow up in the Hackney section of the East End, but so did her parents and grandparents.

During the audition process, the veteran actress implored the producers that they "must give me the job. I have the pedigree. I succeeded in the end [convincing the producers that she should play Lou Beale]. I remember the [East End, circa early 1900s] children, all the sounds, the noise, the market. It's part of your birthright."

Wing was instructed by the show's creators in developing the Lou Beale character "to bring something from your background." As it turned out, the name of Wing's father was "Albert," the name of Beale's deceased husband and fictional neighborhood Square.

She remembers that first day of shooting EastEnders, the set was "all tensed up." Susan Tully, who was to play Lou's granddaughter Michelle Fowler, "came up to me" for some encouragement, while Wing was psyching herself up. "I told her never speak to me before we start." Luckily, Tully realized Wing was only kidding, and the two actresses went on to have many memorable scenes.

"I was terribly fond of Tully, and loved them all," Wing says of her fellow castmembers, who she praised for their professionalism.

Lou Beale's passing in 1988 sort of started the exodus of the original EastEnders. "I'm always sorry to see them go."

Although Wing never misses an episode, even in 1996, she believes that Walford could use "some older people, who are very experienced with life; old bags gives weight" to the proceedings.

Wing still stays in contact with some former EastEnders colleagues like Gretchen Franklin (Ethel) and Edna Dore (Mo Butcher). "Gretchen is a wonderful dancer and very clever lady. She once broke her leg, but no one could keep her away from the set. She's an absolute trouper." Wing that "Edna and I trained together [as actresses]."

These days, the 82-year-old Wing still acts occasionally, and recently appeared in a play with her son Mark (who's a theatre director living in San Francisco). "It was wonderful; we had a kind of rapport."

Wing is also quite busy with various charitable activities, specifically for underprivileged people. "The phone never tops ringing."

She also never misses and episode of "Coronation Street," Britain's other favourite soap, in which her daughter-in-law, Anita Kelly, plays a character.

Hardly a day does not go by that somebody recognizes Wing as Lou Beale. She'll hear whispering in a supermarket, "That lady used to be on television."

"People still come up to me; so I'm very lucky."

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