Poor Lola Pearce is in for fresh heartache next week when Phil scuppers her chances of getting more access to Lexi. A hearing in front of a judge goes disastrously for Lola and leaves Phil holding all the cards. Feeling increasingly desperate, Lola absconds with her baby, but will Phil be able to track her down? Here, actress Danielle Harold discusses her emotive storyline and reveals how she finds working alongside Steve McFadden, the audience’s response to Lola’s plight and the unpredictability that comes when acting with infants:
You’ve had a lot of scenes recently where Phil gets angry with Lola. How intimidating is acting with Steve McFadden when Phil’s in full-on angry mode?
It scares the **** out of me. I’ve worked with Steve for nearly two years and at first I was like, ‘it’s Phil, it’s Phil’. Every time I did a scene with him I couldn’t remember my lines or I’d just flap. But now I’ve got to know him as a person and he scares me a little less – which I don’t think he likes!
When we’re filming, he saves a lot of the really angry stuff for the take, which makes me react more naturally because I’m not expecting what he’s going to do. So that’s fun. When we were filming the court scenes, I did have a little moment where I was thinking, ‘Oh, this is funny, everyone’s in court because of me. I’ve made Phil Mitchell a granddad’.
Is it difficult acting out the scenes where Lola has to get very emotional at the prospect of losing Lexi?
Sometimes it is hard. I know this sounds so stupid, but I had a dog that I loved very much who died when I was young. So I use that when I have to think of losing something that means a lot. I find it really hard to put myself in that position and when it is a doll that’s even harder – a bit of plastic that’s bloody heavy and all!
Is it exhausting doing all the shouting and screaming?
I had the biggest glass of wine when I went home after some of these scenes. It is tiring – for some reason it’s not as bad if you’re not crying. The tears make you feel groggy and a bit down. It takes me a while to realise my baby has not been taken away, that she’s not mine and that she’s fine with her real mum. You bring up all these emotions and then you have to then bring yourself back down.
What’s it like working with the babies that play Lexi – do you feel maternal towards them?
I do, yes. We’ve had them from six-weeks-old and they’re now nearly a year, so it’s nice seeing them grow up. When we’re filming, all I’m thinking is: ‘are they safe, are they all right?’ So I’m trying to keep them occupied while trying to remember lines at the same time. And you never know what they’re going to do – one of them slapped me in the face today and then started laughing. So you get little moments like that which are brilliant.
Can Lola’s current problems be resolved with Phil remaining a part of her life? After all, he does ruin it for her at Lexi’s hearing…
She’s really annoyed about that because she’s knows he’s not the best person for Lexi. But, at the same time, she does want him in Lexi’s life because he’s her granddad. Lola didn’t grow up with her family so she believes it’s important for her baby to have that. But he’s making it really difficult – all he wants is a Mitchell, but Lola wants Lexi to be her baby.
Tell us about the kidnap…
She overhears Phil saying that Lexi is better with him and that Lola won’t ever get her back. So she acts on instinct – she’s not thinking ahead, she just knows she needs to leave Walford with her baby. She just feels she needs to get as far as away from Phil as she can as that’s the only way she can keep Lexi. So Lola goes on the run – which meant the longest night-shoot ever! It was freezing! Big coats, hot water bottle…but I do like it when we get to go on location.
How do you feel about the treatment of social services in the plotline? Do you think the portrayal has been harsh?
I have read the stuff that people have been saying, but you can look at it on different levels. You’ve got the social worker, who has just seen Lola messing up and getting arrested. But the viewers get to witness all the good stuff that Lola’s doing, which the social worker doesn’t get to see. So it’s a weird one.
How daunting was it being given such a big storyline so soon after joining the show?
I was scared because I was working with Steve, Perry Fenwick all these big actors who I’d been watching since I was little. I was thinking: ‘Am I going to be able to do it? Will they think “she can’t act”?’ I am still learning, I’m never going to be perfect, but it’s a real compliment that I’m now getting tweets from young mums who say it’s good to see how someone in their position is coping. That’s lovely.
I know you’re a big user of Twitter – do you ever get any problem with trolls?
I just ignore it. Block them and carry on. I don’t understand why people get into arguments with Twitter trolls. There’s no point. They say, “you looked like a moose tonight” and I laugh and think ‘I did!’ My neck is really weirdly long and someone said I looked like an ostrich – my mum showed me an example in an episode and I was like “I do, pause it pause it!”
So what’s next for Lola? For instance, next week we see Dexter helping her – could you envisage them being together?
When Khali Best first started, I think they had plans to put Lola and Dexter together and I get on really well with him. We have so much fun in a scene and we really bounce of each other. I didn’t really know what to do with what we’d been given, so I acted like I fancied him. But they seem like friends for now, but who knows though?