With only a few more days to go before Kathy’s official return to Walford, Executive Producer Dominic Treadwell-Collins, along with actors Gillian Taylforth, Adam Woodyatt and Paul Nicholas, revealed more about her resurrection, Kathy’s manipulative husband, Gavin and how Ian is about to get the shock of his life!
“When I came back to EastEnders, [Story Producer] Alex [Lamb], [Series Producer] Sharon [Batten] and I always said we wanted Kathy back,” Dominic told us. “And we kept on saying we would only do it if we had a credible story to bring her back. And the anniversary felt like the right time.
“It was about going back to our history, bringing back a Beale matriarch that we all want to see. Gillian and I saw each other at a soap award or some television party and Gilly said ‘I want to come back!’ and I said ‘I want you back!’ We said to the writers: ‘Right, this is your challenge. Make it credible, and if it’s credible, it’ll happen. And the rest is history!”
Once a convincing way had been found to bring back Kathy, the next problem was keeping it a secret. How hard had it been to keep that live reveal quiet?
“Really, really, really hard!” Dominic admits. “Even Alex’s story team didn’t know what was going on. Which is why Kathy’s return is only on screen now. We couldn’t film anything; we couldn’t do anything – we had to keep it quiet. A lot of the crew didn’t know. We kept it so under wraps only a few people knew – and even when we did the rehearsal the night before, there were gasps from all the crew on set, going ‘Oh my God, oh my God!’
But we managed to contain it – and that moment became bigger than Who Killed Lucy Beale. That moment when Gilly got out the taxi everyone gasped. We were sitting there, watching the episode going ‘Oh my god, what have we done? Is this going to work’ But it has!”
Once the secret had been revealed, it was back to business as usual for Gillian, filming new scenes in familiar places. “It’s quite weird actually! Quite surreal to be in certain places on The Square. But it’s wonderful to be back. August was a really hectic schedule for me, it really was. But it was fantastic, and I think I cried most days!
Tears of joy, hopefully?! ”Yes for the lines, for the lines! But it’s wonderful to be back, it really is, and obviously to be working back with Adam and Tish and Steve. And young Harry Reid, who plays Ben – fantastic actor; really, really fantastic.”
But how will Kathy’s return shape future storylines? “Kathy’s coming back to The Square is obviously going to cause repercussions with so many different people,” teased Dominic. “The reaction we’re holding off is the reaction from Ian and from Ben. They’re the two most exciting people and its big, heavy, heavy stuff. And then throwing into the mix Jane as well. Because we’ve always said in the office, “Ian’s married a woman like his mum – and how would Jane and Kathy get on? Well, Jane and Kathy aren’t going to get on!”
“What we look forward to seeing is what ‘new’ Kathy is like. Kathy’s been through this relationship with a very, very twisted individual. There is a serious element to it in the fact that she’s been in an abusive relationship. Kathy, this amazing mother, has done the worst thing she could possibly do. But we’re actually telling that story as well as telling the story of Kathy, who is not quite the Kathy who we used to know. She will grow back into the Kathy we used to know, but it would be very boring if Gilly just came back in and said ‘Hey Kathy’s back!’ We had to make it difficult and interesting and emotional and there are a lot of twists and turns coming from now all the way until a very, very big Halloween.”
Adam Woodyatt, when quizzed about the changes to Kathy, admitted it was still early days. “I haven’t seen much of new Kathy yet because we’ve literally just filmed our meeting in the last two weeks. And I haven’t seen Halloween either, that’s been censored! So I’ve yet to see ‘new’ Kathy. To Ian, It’s still ‘Mum’. We’ve got a lot to explore.”
Adam confessed that more than a few tears were shed at the onscreen, reunion. “I was surprised, dazed, tearful, emotional, angry, upset, tearful, tearful, more tears! She starts crying, I start crying, I start crying, she starts crying. It’s been like that for 30 years! It’s just great to have you back!
Gillian was equally thrilled to be reunited with her fictional ‘son’. “It’s fantastic working with him again; we just work so well with one another. We just feed of one another don’t we?”
One of Kathy’s biggest hurdles will be her attempts to make things right between her, Ian and Ben. “As a mother myself I can’t even think about just driving off. I just drive off and I wave to Ben, just leaving him. Gavin made me do it. And we drive off and he (Ben) thinks I’m going to come back, but there’s me thinking ‘I’m not ever going to see him again. How do you ever do that as a mother I don’t know, but there are reasons why this manipulating person, this control freak got hold of me and controls everything I do.”
“Kathy’s become this person that can’t function without Gavin. And, hopefully, she will get the boys back, but she has to explain so much to them. I think, bit by bit, they find out why she’s become the person she has, because of the manipulative person that Gavin is, and then they start understanding that their mum’s been brainwashed. So I’m hoping they’ll forgive me!”
EastEnders newcomer Paul Nicholas clearly relishes his role as the manipulative Gavin. “I wouldn’t say he was the most charming man I’ve ever played, but it’s been great for me because what’s fabulous about coming into a show like this is, as you can see, I think its brilliantly produced and very well acted.”
“To come into that situation is quite daunting for someone who hasn’t done this type of thing before. But what was great was meeting Dominic, who, as you can tell, has a fantastic enthusiasm and love of the show, as indeed has Alex and the writers. And I’ve never had this happen to me before, but when I came into the show I met all the writers. I sat down for a couple of hours and they explained to me who the character was and gave me a really good insight into where they wanted it to go. It’s very, very unusual in this business that you get that attention, and I think that shows the quality and the care that they put into the show. So for me it’s a great thrill.”
“I’ve done a lot of theatre, and touring is great, but after a while it does become a little bit repetitive because you’re doing the same show every night. The great thing about EastEnders is you don’t quite know what’s coming next and I think that keeps all the actors on their toes. It makes it interesting for the actors and keeps the standards very high and I am very pleased to be a part of it.”
We wondered what impact Kathy’s return was going to have on Ian and Phil’s relationship. “I think that at some point we’re going to have to address the fact that Phil’s known for three years, hadn’t told Ian, went to tell him in the live episode, didn’t tell him, and then didn’t bother telling him again for another seven months!” joked Adam. “So, I’m sure there’s going to be a conversation there at some point.”
Audiences can expect a spectacular clash between Kathy and Sharon very soon, ending in a classic EastEnders scrap. “Oh I loved it, I loved it,” confessed Gillian about filming the fight. “I’ve always wanted to do something like that. So I said to Tish, ‘What should I do? Should I just very gingerly…?’ and she said, ‘No, no go for it!’ And I said, ‘Yeah, lovely!’ So we had quite a laugh doing it and it was great. Obviously we had the stunt man to tell her to put her hand up when I pressed her against the window of the car. But she was great, she just said go for it. She’s fantastic, Tish.
The scene also finally gives Kathy the chance to get a few things off her chest. “It was lovely to, at last, [respond] to all the things she’s been saying to me – you should have stayed dead, the boys have got me now – to get your comeuppance and say, “Do you know what, shut up, shut your face! Because she’s been so downtrodden for the past couple of episodes, when Gavin’s been telling her what to do all the time and she’s had to hide and Phil’s pushing her in the back of the car it’s lovely to finally go, ‘Yeah, you know what, I’m going to tell someone what I think. Don’t tell me what to do anymore.’ I loved it, I loved it. Thank you Sir!”
Story from BBC.CO.UK