EastEnders star Samantha Womack: “I’m addicted to Breaking Bad”

As Ronnie Mitchell returns to Albert Square, the actress reveals her small-screen passions – and her crush on Shirley MacLaine! – in our quickfire Q&A

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Samantha Womack heads back to Walford tonight as EastEnders’ Ronnie Mitchell. But not before she catches up with Radio Times…

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What programme can’t you miss?

I got addicted to Breaking Bad. My family isn’t used to me opting out of a day, but all of a sudden I became bedridden, with my iPad hidden under the duvet. I got so sneaky that I’d say I was taking a bath, but I’d just be sitting there watching more episodes.

What makes you switch off?

I can’t abide The Jeremy Kyle Show – instead of helping people, it just incites rage and sadness. They’re all being goaded like they’re in a Roman arena.

What do you watch as a family?

We [husband Mark and Ben, 12, and Lily-Rose, 8] tend to go back to the old movies – ET the Extra-Terrestrial, Back to the Future, Poltergeist. We all watched Close Encounters of the Third Kind the other day, which we’ve seen a million times, but we were transfixed. Nowadays, it’s hard to find the equivalent of those kind of films.

Who was your first TV crush?

I didn’t have a male crush for a long time. My nan had VHS tapes of musicals like Oklahoma!, Hello, Dolly! and Sweet Charity and I was fascinated by the female leads. Shirley MacLaine in Sweet Charity is quite something.

What’s your guilty pleasure?

Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. I defy anyone not to be moved by it. But the way the presenter Ty Pennington bounces all over the place can be a bit annoying.

Would you ever do reality TV?

I’d never say never in this business, but I find some of it manipulative. Plus I wouldn’t have the confidence to step out on to the stage as a competitor and be jeered.

What comes more easily to you as an actress – the comedy of Mount Pleasant or the drama of EastEnders?

They both come easily if I believe in the journey of the character. But if I lose the truth, then it’s written all over my face. When I did South Pacific on stage recently, there was one number that I had an absolute nightmare with because I kept slipping out of character.

Would you ever do a reunion of 90s comedy Game On?

I’m desperate to do one! I keep thinking about what they’d all be up to. Matthew would have won the lottery and bought a massive house he still couldn’t leave, Martin would be looking after his ex’s kids and be really put upon, and my character, Mandy, should be working as an escort in a tacky casino.

Who on EastEnders gives you the best cultural tips?

Steve John Shepherd [Michael Moon] has a bright mind. He has varied tastes and is always reading a good book. Rita Simons [Roxy Mitchell] would be the first to say she can’t stand books, but she watches fascinating documentaries.

How do you feel now about the controversy around Ronnie’s baby-snatch storyline?

When sensitive issues are dealt with, it’s very difficult to get it right. We were depicting the actions of someone very specific who’d endured one trauma and loss after another. I think that needed to be clarified more and I hope that towards the end we were able to do that.

Will you leave EastEnders again after six months or will you stay on?

It’s an experiment, really. I’ve got a six-month contract because I want to make sure that there’s life left in Ronnie. We have to be sensitive to what happened to her, and if she recovered too quickly it would make a mockery of it. I do want Ronnie to have this proper gear change, but I’d almost rather leave her as she was if she can’t make a successful transition.


Quickfire Q&A

Masterchef or Bake Off? Bake Off

Luther or Scott & Bailey? Luther

Sarah Millican or Miranda Hart? Sarah Millican

Strictly or The X Factor? Strictly

BBC Breakfast or Today? Today


Samantha Womack returns to EastEnders on Monday on BBC1, and appears in series three of Mount Pleasant on Wednesday on Sky Living


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