EastEnders welcomes new family the Murrays in tonight’s episode.
The soap has scored a double casting coup as TV legends Christopher Timothy and Maggie Steed join the soap, playing retired couple Ted and Joyce, who come to the Square having been rehoused from their council flat in a nearby block which is due to be torn down.
Timothy, famous for his roles in All Creatures Great and Small and Doctors, is taking on his first regular TV role in over a decade, while Steed’s credits include Shine on Harvey Moon and Born and Bred.
Speaking ahead of their Walford debut, the actors discuss their roles, becoming part of such an iconic show, and working together for the very first time…
CHRISTOPHER TIMOTHY (TED MURRAY)
How did the role come about?
My agent suggested me to EastEnders casting director, Julia Crampsie, who I already knew. I’m delighted that Julia said, ‘He’s not old enough is he?’ My agent told her how old I really am and she said ‘Oh’! I had an interview with her and Sean O’Connor, the executive producer, and I got the job. At that point I didn’t know who’d be playing Joyce, and when I found out it was Maggie one of the writers said, ‘I knew you’d be pleased’.
And you hadn’t worked with Maggie before?
No, but she has a place in my heart after Shine on Harvey Moon. I thought that was great anyway, and she was really special, and I’ve seen her in other things of course. I’ve always admired her. We’re both old school and we get on really well.
So you hadn’t even met?
Not until we came in to read the first few scenes in our first episode together with the director!
How would you describe Ted and Joyce?
Ted is 80 years old, and he and Joyce are solid in their marriage. They’ve been together nearly 60 years, so their big anniversary is coming up. I think they’re very normal and hugely identifiable to the audience. They’re quite affectionate in fact and so they take the rise out of each other, but that’s what every marriage is like – there’s a sense of humour underlying and you have your ups and downs, but actually everything’s fine.
How is their arrival in the Square?
Sharon is one of the first people Ted and Joyce meet. Dot was actually their neighbor in the flat years ago, and in the first episode Ted says ‘Guess who lives next door – Dot Cotton’ to which Joyce says ‘She was always poking her nose in’! Ted is aware Joyce is struggling a bit more with the move than he is. When you get to a certain age any big change is hard to deal with.
Did you know any of the cast before you started?
I knew Bonnie Langford before although we’d never worked together. I met Natalie Cassidy quite a few years ago at the Baftas – as a fan of the show I’ve always thought there’s something very special about her and I actually went up to her and said ‘I hope you don’t mind but I think you’re great in EastEnders’.
Did any of the cast offer words of advice?
One cast member said it’s not a question of learning your lines, more a question of remembering your lines! I thought that was quite clever.
Will you be watching when your first episode goes out?
I expect so. I’ll watch it with my wife Annie. We shall see what the viewers think – you’re only as good as what you did last. I haven’t got less nervous as I get older, but I’m really enjoying it.
MAGGIE STEED (JOYCE MURRAY)
Has it been nice joining the show at the same time as Christopher Timothy?
Completely, it’s lovely to come in with somebody else because those characters have got their own history together, and Chris and I have a lot in common and respect each other a lot. So that’s a saviour really because if you didn’t have someone like that you really wouldn’t be in with much of chance. We rely on each other. I was thrilled when I knew I’d be working with him.
What kind of a person is Joyce?
I think she’s a very good woman. She’s quite determined in her own way, very soft hearted. She adores Ted. She can get worried and frightened about things but I think when push comes to shove she can be pretty strong.
Why is she not keen on moving to Albert Square?
They’ve been living in this council block since the 1960s and loved it, because back then getting anywhere without an outside lavvy and that sort of thing was probably heaven! They brought their kids up there and so they had lots of memories and then they were told it was being pulled down. It’s a big thing to have to upend at that age and make a home somewhere else.
Did you already know any of the cast?
Jenna Russell, plays Michelle, is an old friend. We were in a series called Born and Bred together for the BBC about 15 years ago. I know Ian Lavender (Derek Harkinson) as well from drama school from a very long time ago, so that’s funny!
What was it like walking onto the iconic set for the first time?
It’s always strange walking into a set that you recognise so much, but you very soon get used to it. Then you just carry on!
Watch a 60-second rundown of next week’s episodes of EastEnders below.
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