Joining The U.K. Soap Press for a Day
By Denise Field
On our trip to England earlier this year, my husband,
Paul Field, and I were invited to visit EastEnders
We jumped at the chance, seeing it as perfect
opportunity to give our Walford Gazette readers
exciting news and happening of their favourite show,
Upon our arrival, we were delighted with the surprise
of being able to sit on a panel in which many
reporters from leading U.K. soap magazines were
allowed to interview several of the EastEnders cast in
character form. This basically meant that questions
asked were made directly to the character and not to
the actor that portrays them.
The first actor to appear was Dean Gaffney
(Robbie), who strolled in wearing jeans and a Gap
sweatshirt, appearing very comfortable before the
press. He stated that this was his ninth year in the
role of Robbie and that he is delighted to be part of
the wonderful cast of EastEnders.
When asked what was happening in Robbies life,
Robbie went on to talk about a blooming romance with a
young woman who has a young son. Dean went on to say
that Robbie was always lonely, and so Willard (the
dog) was created by executive producer John Yorke. He
says he would like to see his character get a girl
that would turn everyones heads and have them all say
Dean said his dream role on EastEnders would be a
combination of Ian Beales ambition to be a
successful businessman running lots of businesses, the
comedy of Nigel and entertaining like Barry.
Dean added that he would love to direct one day.
He also made it clear to all that he is not
spotty, as reported in many tabloids, and isnt
appreciative of the name they have give him of Spotty
Robbie. He pointed to his face. See I have a very
clear complexion, which this reporter can contest is
true. He added that many things reported by the
tabloids are just not true.
The interview session also gave us a glimpse of
some of the actors who play characters familiar to
EastEnders fans who watch via BBC America but are
still several years away from their introduction on
U.S. public television.
After Robbie left, Nick Bailey, who plays Dr.
Anthony Trueman, strolled in. Dr. Trueman is 31; hes
smitten with 18-year-old Zoe Slater. Hes black and
shes white. He went on to say that his character
feels torn with conflicting emotions. Even though Zoe
is not highly educated, they share warm conversations
with each other and he finds her refreshing. Another
complication is that Anthony used to date Zoes oldest
sister, Kat, who is not comfortable with the torch
that Zoe has for the doctor.
Anthony also has difficulty with his brother,
Paul, who believes the man sharing their house and
posing as their father is actually a fake.
I promise you, there are great storylines for
this family ahead.
Nick added that on April 12 he would be running in a
marathon for Cancer Research UK, and that he has been
training three times a week to prepare for this
15-mile run. He said that he has a personal interest
in helping find a cure and the prevention of cancer,
as he sadly lost an uncle to the disease.
The next character to be interviewed was Natalie
Cassidy, who plays Sonia, wearing casual pants, sweat
jacket, a white shirt and a baseball cap. She quickly
rushed in as she was running late. She apologized to
all and sat down quickly to answer the questions
bestowed upon her.
The questions began along the line of how it
feels to play opposite one of Englands teen idols,
Jack Ryder, who plays Jamie. She tells us how people
come up to her and can really be pretty mean
concerning her role as Sonia. A lot of young girls are
actually jealous of her. But she says she really
enjoys working with him and that he is a really nice
guy as well.
Natalie went on to talk about the role in which
now Sonia is playing now. She views Sonia as a
mothering figure, always caring for everyone and not
putting herself first.
Cassidy said she loves the part of Sonia and
enjoys being in the spotlight. She describes herself
as a greedy actress, who welcomes being put on the
set as much as possible. She finishes by adding she
would love to see a wedding in the future for Sonia.
After that delightful interview, we were
refreshed with the presence of Michelle Ryan, who
plays Zoe Slater. All dressed up in court attire, as
the filming of her on-screen sister Maureens trial
had begun taping.
Michelle quietly sat down and asked what was
expected of her from this interview. Once prepped, she
let the questions flow. Right away, everyone wants to
know what exactly is going on with her and the good
doctor Anthony Trueman. She begins to say that with
all Zoe has been put through, finding out her
parentage and the lies that her family has told her
all her life, Zoe now needs a stable person in her
lifea knight in shining armour, so to speak. Anthony
was always there for her, giving her the emotional
support she couldnt get at home. And now as an
18-year-old young woman, Zoe finds herself dealing
with many emotions. Zoe is on the road to discovering
herself and yearns to make her own happiness.
With her recent ordeal of returning home after
her disappearance, she finds she has matured in many
ways and is ready to take from life what she needs.
Michelle said her character, when she wants something,
usually goes with her feelings and what she wants now
Even though there will be a lot of opposition and
gossip from those in the Square, Zoe is determined not
to let it get in her way. She has always seen Anthony
as a good friend and now that she is 18, she sees
nothing wrong with what can develop between them.
Discussing the dance he took her to, she added that he
is a really good dancer, and that she just loves
working with Nick, who plays Dr. Trueman.
She also told us how the actors who play the
Slaters all work well together, and that she loves
being a part of this on-screen family.
One of the reporters then asked her, Are you
comfortable with kissing on the set? To which she
replied, Yes, I have no problem with it.
On a lighter note, she amused us with a story of
how the popularity of her character has slightly
conflicted with her off-screen life. She told us that
now she cant enjoy the luxury of just going to a
store without being recognized and how one day a girl
just kept following her around a shop staring at her.
She said it made her feel a bit uncomfortable. But she
still enjoys the stardom and loves being in
After Zoe left, we were given the pleasure of
meeting and interviewing the well-known actress Tamzin
Outhwaite, who plays Melanie. As it turned out, it was
Tamzins last day of filming. When asked how she felt
at this moment, she said she had mixed emotions. She
was sad about leaving but also very excited about the
new things she will be doing.
Tamzin told us that she had been working on a
six-part series for U.K. television and will be
working on it from April to August.
But immediately after finishing EastEnders, she
will be taking a short holiday in Los Angelesa trip
for business and pleasure. She mentioned that her
cousin was getting married there, and she was
attending the wedding.
We asked what she thought of Melanie. Tamzin
began telling us that she was surprised that the
audience actually took to her part. She saw her
character as the girl-next-door type, who was a good
mate, and a bit of a flirt. She felt her character
came onto the show at a good time.
When asked what episode was her favourite, with a
chuckle she replied, The time when Mel and Lisa drank
tequila slammers and got drunk in the Vic.
She tells us that Lucy Benjamin, who plays Lisa,
brought out the best in her. She spoke highly of the
entire cast and informed us that she will truly miss
this part of her life.
She promised to keep in contact with the cast
members, mentioning so many of their names and
smiling. She added that she was delighted with the
fact that the door will still be open for her to
return to the show.
She summed up by saying that working on
EastEnders was the best two years of her life and the
biggest learning experience. She also learned how to
balance her private and professional lives during
these years on the set.
What does Tamzin have planned for her future? She
would love to learn Italian, take up an instrument and
perhaps do some singing and dancing.
We were able to see how the press gets its
information on the characters and their storylines. A
production assistant named Leslie then let us watch
some filming taking place that day.
We quietly walked through the streets of the set,
making sure we didnt get in the way or make any noise
that could disturb taping. Filming at this moment were
Dr. Trueman and Jim, walking through the market.
We also watched them filming a young girl
chatting up Winston at his stall, while her friend
helped herself to some CDs and then later went on to
mug Sonia. We caught a glimpse of John Bardon (Jim)
sitting smoking a cigarette behind the scenes. He
seemed like such a gentle man, deep in thought, as he
sat there waiting to be called upon once more.
I remember taking it all in, remembering
everything about the scene so Id be able to pick it
out when watching it on TV: I was there, I saw this
We continued walking through the deserted
exterior sets, seeing many new places that will be on
the Square, and then headed towards the internal sets.
On the way, I saw Perry Fenwick, who plays the
character Billy Mitchell, looking out of the window of
one of the trailers. He noticed me and said hello.
Before heading to the internal sets, we made a
visit to Arthurs allotment, took a picture and then
just stood for a moment as if to give Arthur a moment
of our silence.
Inside, we had the chance to watch a scene
between Beppe and Phil Mitchells lawyer.
On another set, we came across the character Big
Mo trying to wake up Gary, who happened to be sleeping
on a couch. We watched them do several takes until
they got it just right.
We then continued on, just walking through the
empty sets and props used for filming. We took a few
pictures, and then our trip to the internal sets
Our guide took us to her office for some press
photos and a plastic EastEnders bag to put them in. We
couldnt thank Leslie enough for the wonderful
experience she had allowed us to have.
Our adventure came to an end, but with us we took
many new memories and a day on the set we will never