Long-term viewers will remember that Dean’s half brother Jimbo died of cystic fibrosis prior to Shirley appearing on the soap and that Dean’s last appearance in 2008 saw him violently rail against his mum for his own abandonment as a child. It’s a volatile relationship that seems beyond repair, but does Di Angelo think it can be salvaged?
“I don’t think he hates her. He’s angry and he resents her a lot, but I don’t think you can ever really hate your mum. At the end of the day, you grew inside her! So if Shirley apologises for the things she’s done and tries to make amends then maybe it can be repaired.”
In his years away, Di Angelo has appeared in such BBC dramas as Hustle, Casualty and Death in Paradise as well as a production of Loot at London’s Tricycle Theatre. So how much has changed on the set of the EastEnders during that time?
“I haven’t seen some people for seven years, so it was really enjoyable to see the old friends and faces. I don’t think I was as badly behaved as Dean was the last time I was here, so I don’t have to patch things up with anyone,” he says. “It was like an apprenticeship when I was here originally – it was one of my first acting jobs, I was 18-years-old and I’m now turning 27.”
And how easy is it to return to return to the character? “Well, when you go through the audition process at EastEnders, they do use the real you. So you’re only two or three steps away from yourself. So Dean was always going to be the easiest character to return to.”