EastEnders actor Danny Dyer on birth scenes, babies and why he’s turning into Mick Carter

"The pressure of EastEnders has made me raise my game like never before. I’m well happy here. I’ve found my calling"

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The Carter family is to face a fresh crisis next week when Mick dashes to be by Linda’s side when she goes into labour after falling down the stairs at the Queen Vic. But don’t go thinking that the drama stops once the baby is delivered – we then have the ‘Who’s the Daddy?’ question to contend with. Will the newborn turn out to be Mick’s or Dean’s?

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With so much tension ahead, we thought the time would be ideal to catch up with Danny Dyer – landlord of Walford’s premier boozer in his role as Mick Carter and current British Soap Awards nominee. Here he is talking about all next week’s cliffhangers and why EastEnders has rehabilitated him in the eyes of the public…

So, Linda’s giving birth next week – is this the first childbirth scene you’ve been involved with in your acting career?
It is. Kellie Bright did one for Rock and Chips, but that was more of a comedy moment. This one’s quite intense. And Kellie’s brilliant. She really goes for it with these guttural screams. But the way she gives birth is actually quite romantic – she’s holding on to my shoulders and we’re looking into each other’s eyes. Recently, we’ve had nothing but heartache and sorrow and all of a sudden, we have this beautiful little moment between us. It was difficult for Kellie though – her voice went at the end because she really went for it. But I’m really proud of next week’s episodes. They’re very powerful. It’s dark, but that’s what we do best, isn’t it?

You must be a veteran having gone through it three times in real life?
Yeah, but I didn’t have to do anything, did I? The woman does all the work. It is a trippy experience, though, isn’t it? I was in awe of my missus afterwards, it has to be said.

Reality and fiction are getting blurred though – you have a baby, Mick has a baby. You get engaged, Mick gets engaged…
Yes, it’s very odd. Maybe the writers are just following my life and writing stuff about it. The way I look at it is that I now have seven kids! And I love them all dearly.

You should just buy a pub and have done with it!
Well, I’m moving house in a couple of months and there’s going to be a little annexe. And I’m going to get some of the props boys in with the blueprints of the EastEnders set, so they can build me a mini Queen Vic. A mini Vic in my man cave! I am basically turning into Mick. I’m going to have optics and pumps. I’m really going for it. I’m being straight with you. Proper little sign outside and everything. I’m excited about it.

Now, Mick decides very soon that he wants to find out whether he’s the baby’s dad…
Well, initially he says that he doesn’t want to find out. He says to Linda, “look, even if you turned round to me now and said that Nancy, Lee and Johnny weren’t mine, it wouldn’t matter. I brought them up. Went through all the nappies, teething, schools…”

And then Dean rears his ugly head. Every time Mick and Linda’s life seems to be getting back to normal, Dean shows up again and brings back all these terrible memories. And something just clicks in Mick’s brain. He realises that he just needs to know for everybody’s sake. It’s quite a harrowing episode and I’m sure the whole audience will be rooting for the baby to be Mick’s. And it’s wrapped up quickly, which I’m glad about, because I thought they were going to drag it out for months. But we move on.

Will Dean end up getting his comeuppance?
Well, I’m sure he’s going to get it at some point. But, for the moment, Mick just ends up telling him straight, “When are you going to get it through your thick skull? We cannot stand your face. It repulses us. Now get out.” So we’ve kind of put the full stop on it. I don’t know what the future holds, but the Carters have now got their baby to think about.

Are you hoping that Mick and Linda can get back to being the happy couple they were when they arrived on the Square?
Of course. It can never be how it was – that’s impossible. But having this baby definitely brings them closer together as a unit. And Mick is a tough cookie – he’s had a hard upbringing and he loves his family more than anything else in the world. He’d do anything to keep them happy and protect them. And life’s all about the ups and downs – it’s just that on EastEnders, you get a lot of downs. Couple of ups once every six years or so! But you’ve got to play these things honestly and truthfully. It’s not Disney, is it?

Does part of you hope that he has another meltdown like he did at Christmas?
I loved all that stuff. Mick has still got this rage in him and I’m sure we’re going to see more of that. He’s trying to control it a little bit more, but who knows what might happen in the future?

How much of Mick’s slang do you add in yourself?
I do sometimes tweak the dialogue. I’d never want to change the storylines. I have no desire to do that at all. But I like to keep the essence of what Mick’s about. You work your bollocks off to build a character – so I do add in some slang. We’re all the continuity keepers of our characters. And it’s only because I care – the day I stop caring is the day I leave. I love Mick Carter – he’s a gift for me and I want to keep him the best that he can possibly be.

As regards the British Soap Awards, you’re going head to head with Adam Woodyatt for Best Actor – how are EastEnders fans expected to make this decision?
I don’t know – that’s down to you mob! I’ve got so much respect for Woodyatt – I think he’s a great actor. He’s been doing this for a 30 stretch and that’s a feat in itself. And during the live episodes, I thought he and Laurie Brett were faultless. They held the fort and it was inspiring for all of us. They really took it to the next level. Adam deserves it. I’ve had a good run this year – of course, I’d like to win it. I’m not going to lie. But we’re all representing the same team and we’re all rooting for each other.

And I do want Kellie to win something. I really do. What she’s achieved is amazing. She’s so on the ball and she really cares. She’s had these massive shift in her character and she’s constantly thinking about it. I’ve got my fingers crossed. I really want her to nick something. I love her dearly.

Now, you’re famously tribal about EastEnders – will you break bread with your rivals or will you keep to your own separate space?
There is always an element of that. Let’s be straight: we’re not all pals. Some of us get on. But there’s a mutual respect there. I think it’s healthy that we keep this rivalry going because otherwise we’d get complacent and lazy. We’ve always got to try to better each other because that keeps everyone on their toes. It’s a competition, it’s sporting and I love it.

Could you now imagine a life without EastEnders?
I had a 20-odd year career and all that now feels quite vague! EastEnders has engulfed my life and changed my career like no other job ever has. When I first hit the scene with Human Traffic, that was a milestone for me because I started to get recognition. I became a bit famous, I suppose. Then Football Factory came along, which proved that I could be a leading man. The Business took me up to another level. And then obviously I had a bad run: that’s the way with acting – you’re hot and then you’re not. But for me, EastEnders was a last-chance saloon. If this hadn’t worked out, then I don’t know where I would have gone. This was a massive platform for me. It was about getting away from all that people thought they knew about me. And the pressure has made me raise my game like never before. I’m well happy here. I’ve found my calling.

Has the success of it surprised you?
Absolutely. I’m always confident in what I can do and achieve. But I knew coming onto EastEnders that there were a lot of people who weren’t a fan of mine. I had a bit of a cult following, but there were people saying, “How dare he come in to take over the Vic. This is the end of EastEnders. How desperate are they to get someone like him in to help the show?” People were laughing and thinking it was ridiculous. So I’ve had to work my bollocks off, but I’ve enjoyed every second of it. And it’s a beautiful thing to now be getting the recognition.

And why should EastEnders win at the British Soap Awards?
What we’ve done this year, particularly with that week of live episodes, means that we should be getting some recognition. That was a big ask. And it was petrifying – we were all knackered by the end of it. You ask any other soap star about doing a live week and their bum will flap. Especially if you’ve never done theatre. Some people avoid live theatre at all costs because it takes a lot of nerve to do it. So for us to even attempt it is brave enough. But to pull it off in the way we did and get the nation gripped was beautiful. We’re still buzzing about it.

We’ll have to see what Corrie come back with now. They’ll have to do a live month! And then we’ll do a live half a year! We’ll just keep trumping each other. Coronation Street deserved their victories last year, but it would be a travesty if EastEnders didn’t come away as winners in 2015.

You can vote in this year’s British Soap Awards here.

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And watch a 60-second rundown of next week’s episodes of EastEnders below.