It’s Good to Be King: Jake Maskall Reflects on Danny Moon, EastEnders and The Royals

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By Larry Jaffee

(Editor’s note: What follows is an excerpt. For the complete interview, please subscribe.)

Jake Maskall is best known to EastEnders fans as Danny Moon, the troubled, second cousin of Alfie.

Accidentally killed by his brother Jake, Danny met his demise, as he was on his way to kill Phil and Grant Mitchell on orders from his boss Johnny Allen. It was EastEnders at its best, a cat-and-mouse game between the Mitchells and Allen that began in the latter’s luxurious suburban house, and then is transported to the woods.

Maskall, currently co-starring as the new King Cyrus in The Royals, which made its third-season premiere on the American cable network E!, was eager to talk to the Walford Gazette not just about his current job, but also his time on EastEnders. He was amazed to learn that Americans only saw Danny get killed within the past year.

A fictional, over-the-top take on the British royal family, The Royals in its first season involves Cyrus conspiring with his sister-in-law the queen, played by Elizabeth Hurley, to get rid of the saintly King Simon, who’s considering abolishing the monarchy, much to the chagrin of everybody in the immediate family except his son.

The series’ snappy dialogue smacks of tabloidish excess celebrating utter hedonism: sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll. Despite suffering from testicular cancer, the weirdly stylish King Cyrus relishes his power trip and the trappings of royalty.

Walford Gazette: While rivals, I don’t think Jake and Danny Moon on EastEnders intentionally wanted to kill each other.

Jake Maskall: No, there was a huge amount of love there. Danny was unhinged. He was bipolar basically, and he was lost. But there was definitely a rivalry because Jake was always the top boy. People always asked him to do things. There was huge tension and jealousy from Danny, and especially with his state of mind. His father had beaten him up, and used to leave them for days. Danny was a lost soul basically, and Jake had to take over the father figure role, and so it was quite a complicated relationship. It was complete love at one end of the spectrum, and at the other end there was that jealousy and underlying hate.

WG: That scene of Danny in the woods with Grant and Phil is among the greatest EastEnders scenes.

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JM: It was a real standout week leading up to that. It was odd filming on location outside of Elstree. It always felt a little bit alien. They wanted to make those episodes more filmic. I was walking around those woods with that really heavy shotgun, raised arm, pointing to Phil and Grant. It was a long shoot. My arm at the end of the day was killing me. Fun memories.

WG: Any particular rapport struck with Ross Kemp or Steve McFadden? JM: I only met them that week. They were both coming back to the show. McFadden was lovely and very complimentary of my acting, and I took that as a huge compliment coming from him. I watched EastEnders, and always was a big fan. I thought he was a remarkable actor actually. So getting a nod from somebody I respected I thought that was great. Ross went to school with my brother.

WG: How did Joel Beckett end up playing Jake a lot longer?

JM: We left together. Then they wanted us back. I said to them, “I’ll only come back if you kill me off.” I didn’t want it to be an open door. I wanted to move on and do other characters, and here I am King of England. It was the right choice. I was ready to leave. I had a great year on the show, came back and then was accidentally, I must say, shot to death by my brother.

WG: Are you still in touch with Joel?

JM: Absolutely, he lives down the road from me in North London. We’re going out for a drink this week.