Could Stacey Branning be headed back to Albert Square? It’s the question that viewers will be asking next week when mum Jean (Gillian Wright) shows up in Walford with a plan to get her daughter out of prison.
But Jean doesn’t have much time to elaborate before she collapses and is rushed to hospital. Stacey – who is currently serving five years for the murder of Archie Mitchell – is escorted to be by her mum’s side. But what does she make of Jean’s big plan?
Here, actress Lacey Turner talks to us about Stacey’s time behind bars and why she’s now back on EastEnders for the foreseeable future?
So, how has Stacey been handling prison life? She’s coped. I don’t think she’s had a terrible time in there. She’s managed to get through each day. I think she’s struggled not seeing Lily, but she’s just taking each day as it comes.
Does she have any regrets about confessing to Archie’s murder? The most important thing for Stacey was a fresh start and for her and Lily to have a nice life. That’s all she really wants. She wants to get rid of that cloud that’s hanging over her and the only way she thought she could do that was to confess to everything.
So how does she react to Jean’s suggestion about how she could get out of prison? She doesn’t take it so well at first. She wants to serve her time. She feels that she can’t start again until she’s paid for what she’s done. But slowly, as bad things happen, she decides that maybe staying in prison isn’t the wisest thing to do. And if she has got an opportunity to get out, then she should take it.
What was it like for you being reunited with Gillian Wright? Well, thank God we saw each other in make-up because we spent 20 minutes laughing at each other’s faces. We didn’t even get to say hello. We just looked at each other and laughed. It was lovely – we work so well together. It’s just so easy. We bounce off each other. She is funny – she’s got one of those laughs that makes you laugh. We did a lot of laughing.
Do you feel like you’ve fulfilled all your ambitions in your time away from EastEnders? I left here wanting to have a break, really. I didn’t know what I wanted to do. At one point, I wanted to make furniture! I’m one of these people who does courses in everything. I’ve got thousands of qualifications and don’t use any of them. I just wanted to live a normal life. I was just lucky to work. I had fun and I made a variety of different things. I do feel like I achieved something.
So what courses have you done, then? I’ve done things like upholstery and interior design. When I’m not working and I get a week off, I make furniture. I don’t know if I’m good at it. But I find it therapeutic and it takes you away from things when it gets manic. It’s my ‘me’ time.
So is it possible for you to live a normal life? Oh yes. I live a very normal life. I’m very boring.
What’s the best thing you’ve made? I have a storage room full of wooden furniture. I get attached to it. People say to me, ‘oh that’s really nice, can I buy it?’. And I end up saying, ‘just have it, it’s fine.’ But sometimes I think, ‘oh that’s nice, I’ll keep it.’ But I have nowhere to put it. I’ve got an obsession with wood, definitely.
What’s your proudest moment from the other TV projects you took on? Our Girl was a big thing because it was written for me. It was something so far away from my life and anything I’d ever done before. It was important to get it right. That, for me, was the biggest challenge and what I feel most proud of.
During your time away, did you worry about not getting constant work? There are times when you wonder, ‘what if I don’t get a job?’ But I was lucky enough to work. There are many talented actors and actresses who aren’t working and I just find it hard to believe. But they’re now making more stuff in this country, which is great. And they’re using a lot of unknown actors and actresses, which is also good.
If no one had given me a chance, then I wouldn’t be sitting here now. I didn’t go to drama school or anything like that. So it’s nice to give unknown faces a chance to make things.
Seeing as you didn’t go to drama school, did it take you a while to feel accepted around actors who had dramatic training? It’s only in the last year that I’ve started to put down my occupation as ‘actress’ when I’m filling in forms. I used to put ‘works for the BBC’. I suppose, yes, you do feel like that if you haven’t been to drama school. You don’t like to call yourself an actress. I still don’t, really.
If and when Stacey returns to the Square, she’s going to be surrounded by all these children – Lily, plus Kat’s kids… Yes, it’s lovely to film. It feels like a little family. We work so well together. I feel like I’ve gone back ten years. It’d be lovely if the rest of the Slaters came back. I miss Uncle Charlie loads!
Could you see yourself having the longevity as a character like Dot Branning? Mentally, I’m there! If you could do half of what June Brown has done with Dot, then that would be unbelievably amazing. She’s such an amazing lady. Who knows? I’m always really happy here. I’ll stay for as long as they’ll keep me. I’m not going anywhere.