When the reliably disreputable David Wicks (Michael French) arrives back in Walford he’ll be bringing two things with him: a case full of cash and a girlfriend by the name of Naomi, played by Lisa Maxwell. Here, the former star of The Bill and current Loose Women panellist talks about her guest stint on the BBC1 soap and how it felt to be acting alongside such EastEnders icons as Michael French and Lindsey Coulson:
Were you a fan of EastEnders before you came onto the show?
Yes I was. I’ve been a fan for years. It’s always been there – I’ve kind of dipped in and out over the years have always been drawn in when the big storylines are happening. And I have had the odd Christmas guest who has ducked out of dinner to go off and watch what’s happening in the Christmas Day episode! It’s always been a part of my life.
How many days were you filming for?
It was about a week. However, l actually lost my voice the day before we started. On my first day, we didn’t actually film anything because we had rehearsals and I thought, ‘brilliant, this gives me a chance to get my voice back.’ But when I did start filming the episode, I barely had any voice. I don’t know if anybody could tell, but I knew, because I had to breathe properly and make sure that my voice was there. It was a concern for me at one point!
Did you have any nerves?
I thought I was going to be absolutely fine as I knew it was just the one episode and the character was fun. So I wasn’t worried…that was until the night before and the morning of filming, when I got really quite nervous. I was having to do some deep breathing on the morning of the first day.
But as soon as I arrived I saw Michael French [David], who was just so lovely and generous and kind, so I was immediately put at ease. So from then on, working with Lindsey Coulson [Carol], Nitin Ganatra [Masood] and Michael we all just fell in love with each other. It was like a big ‘love-in’ because it was essentially just a four-hander. It was lovely – one of the best jobs I have ever done, I loved it!
So, tell us about Naomi – how and why does she turn up in the Square?
Well, David Wicks has been in Spain, where Naomi lives with her husband, Don. David and Don are what you would loosely term “business associates”. Her husband’s a bit dodgy and he probably had a few bad goings on in the past. Naomi and Don are back and forth between Spain and Essex, having businesses in both places. But David and Naomi are having an affair and they’ve decided to nick Don’s money and do a runner. But on the way he decides he wants to stop off and see Bianca and bung her a few quid, which is how they find themselves in Albert Square.
So does Naomi love David?
I think she does, but she’s also quite a manipulative character. She’s tough, she likes the nice things in life and I imagine that she couldn’t be happy without money! And in that sense she’s been thoroughly spoilt by Don. So I think she does love David, but only the condition that he’s got a few quid. As long as David can provide for her then I think she’d stay with him.
And how does she feel when she realises he’s going to give some of the money away to Bianca?
She’s not happy at all. Part of her thinks that the money is hers more than David’s because it was her husband who had the cash initially. She’s taken aback with the fact he wants to give quite a significant amount to Bianca.
As for your experience – did you find the cast to be welcoming?
Oh, absolutely! They couldn’t have been more welcoming. It’s quite daunting – first of all you go behind the scenes and go to your dressing room and make-up and all that’s all like any other telly job. But then you go to film in the Jackson house and see the set, which is so familiar to you through the telly. So that’s quite daunting. And it’s incredibly exciting to walk out onto Albert Square which, as I’m sure everybody says, is a lot tinier than you’d expect. You get there and you see all these familiar images around you and it’s quite difficult to contain your excitement.
Did you know any of the cast already?
I knew Lindsey as we had already worked together a few years ago on a programme called MIT: Murder Investigation Team, which was a cop drama. She’s always been lovely, so I knew that it would be an absolute joy to work with her again. I hadn’t met Michael before, but he was very sweet and said he only used to watch The Bill when I was on it, which was lovely! Nitin, I had never met before, and he was absolutely lovely as well.
I did see a couple of other mates who work on the show when I was there! Shane Richie is my daughter’s godfather, so it was nice to see him in his work environment. He was lovely as well, very reassuring. He said, “You will be fine, don’t worry about it, just relax and do what you do”. He was lovely.
What was it like filming alongside such iconic characters as Carol and David?
Very special because they’re two of my favourite characters from over the years. So if someone had said to me that if I was going to do an episode of EastEnders and that I could pick anyone to work with, I would have chosen those two. I couldn’t believe my luck! It felt very special. David Wicks and Carol Jackson’s chemistry is wonderful and to work with that and see that close up was lovely. You can see why those characters are always intriguing to the audience because they’ve got something really special.
And would you like to come back to Eastenders in the future?
I absolutely loved it. If the episode I did was anything to go by, then yes. I would go back in a heartbeat.
Lisa Maxwell’s episode of EastEnders will be broadcast on Friday 27 September at 8.00pm