Funnyman Terry Alderton becomes a Walford regular next week when he arrives in town as Bianca Butcher’s new love interest, cabbie Terry Spraggan. After spending time away on a fashion course in Manchester, Bianca (Patsy Palmer) will return home with her new boyfriend in tow. But what impression will he make in those already living at No 31 Albert Square? Here, Alderton fills us in on what viewers can expect from his character’s debut:
Can you tell us how Terry and Bianca first meet?
Terry meets Bianca up in Manchester, where he’s been looking after his grandfather. He’s been doing a few odd jobs at the university and he first sees Bianca while she’s banging on this photo booth, trying to get her money back. You could call it something of a whirlwind love affair!
And what happens when they arrive in Walford?
They decide to head back to Walford together and Terry literally turns up on Carol’s doorstep, where he introduces himself as her daughter’s new boyfriend and announces that he’ll be moving in.
So how would you describe Terry?
Terry’s a lot more placid that I am. He’s a nice guy but he’s no mug. I think he’s clever fella and listens to Radio 4, likes Johnny Cash and Frank Zappa, that kind of stuff. He’s one of life’s optimists – he’s always positive and aims to make things better. He’s someone who’s just trying to do his best but occasionally it goes wrong for him. Also, everyone knows I’m a massive Southend, fan but Terry’s a QPR man and comes from Maida Vale.
And what’s it been like working with Patsy Palmer and your other co-stars?
Patsy has been fantastic to work with; she is very funny. I’ve been very lucky that the family that Terry is a part of is such a great one: you’ve got Lindsey Coulson, Nitin Ganatra, and Michael French, who is a hoot. So far, my time here so far has been really great; it’s a nice family to be a part of.
What are your on-screen children like?
It’s really easy working with them because they’re both so on it! Jerzey, who plays my on screen daughter Rosie, is very funny. I’ve got a boy who is not much younger than her, so working and relating to her is easy.
George who plays Terry Junior is a teenager and he’s a really sweet boy. He is actually quite shy. He reminds me of myself and he looks like me when I was younger. He’s a great looking guy and obviously looks nothing like me now! But look at pictures of me back then and you could say, “yeah, that could be his son”. Yes, I think the Spraggan kids are really good.
Can you describe your first few weeks of filming?
Yes, on one of my first days of filming I was stood in the Square, with Patsy and Jessie [Wallace], and in my mind they’re still Bianca and Kat. We’re stood there outside The Vic, running through out lines, and I’m thinking, ‘Woah, this is very weird’.
And then we go for a take – I’m in the café waiting for my cue, and then I walk out onto the Square and the first thing I see is Kat talking to Bianca, stood in front of that very iconic fruit-and-veg stall. All I hear is Bianca saying to Kat, “I’ve got a new boyfriend”. And on I walk, with Bianca then saying, “Here’s Terry”. And I’m like, “What’s Bianca saying my name for?” It was very weird.
Having been filming for a few weeks, I now feel very relaxed. There are still moments when it’s all very weird, but I am really enjoying myself.
How did you feel when you were offered the role?
When the part was offered to me, I did think that playing Bianca’s boyfriend would be very funny and that Terry sounded like a really great character to play. I’ve been doing stand-up for 25 years, so I thought ‘why not do it and have a bit of a change?’ And my wife said I’d be mad not to do it! EastEnders is such a British icon, arguably the biggest show on television.
As a comedian, are you keeping your cast mates entertained between takes?
Even though I’m a stand-up, it’s actually other cast members who make me laugh, especially Michael French, who is hilarious. He’s like, “What do you mean I’m funny? You’re funny.”
Did you have any preconceptions before joining the show?
Before I started filming, I had seen a few interviews where people were saying how quickly things move on a soap. But it’s not as fast as I was expecting. I think, because I’m a stand-up, I like the speed at which it goes; you get a good rhythm going.
What’s it like working on scripted drama rather than with your own material?
The pace is great. Learning lines doesn’t seem to be a problem. What I do is I get up every morning and I read my scripts through. I try and get into work an hour-and-a-half early and read them again. I think it’s been proven that children learn more in the mornings at school. Well, that’s one of my theories, and that’s what I do.
I think having a creative mind – not necessarily a good one but that’s for other’s to decide – I’m glad to be able to continue with my stand-up work as well as play Terry Spraggan. I’m very lucky to be able to do both. And, stand-up can get lonely – it’s just you up there sharing an evening with your audience and then you’re back in your car on your way home.
Terry Alderton makes his EastEnders debut on Tuesday 5 November