Mick and Linda’s soldier son Lee made his debut tonight after rescuing Carter patriarch Stan from a fire at the Queen Vic. But how does actor Danny-Boy Hatchard feel about making his Albert Square entrance?
“It’s crazy. My mind is still being blown,” he tells RadioTimes.com. “Adam Woodyatt [Ian] is my mentor and I shadowed him for a couple of weeks before I started filming. Just so I could get a feel for it and learn where everything is. Even now though, I’m walking past the actors and thinking, ‘wow, I’m now a part of this magical place’.”
Next week, viewers will see Lee reveal that he’s on a leave of absence from the Army following a tour of duty in Afghanistan. And it seems that EastEnders bosses were keen that Hatchard’s performance should have that stamp of authenticity.
“They sent me to the barracks, which was a really eye-opening experience,” the actor explains. “Looking into those boys’ eyes is something else because there’s real experience there. They did a role-play session for me and I got to set off some bombs and shoot some weapons. My adrenaline was pumping, even though it was a safe and controlled environment. But to experience it out in Afghanistan, knowing how dangerous it is – I can’t even begin to imagine.”
So, with Lee’s work in the armed forces being so different to life behind the bar at the Queen Vic, just how easy is he going to find it to adjust? What kind of personality does Lee possess? “He’s a good boy. He loves his family and he’d do anything for them. I’d say that Lee is the type of guy that any girl would like to take home and introduce to her parents. He’s a bit of a cheeky chappie and certainly not shy.”
As we reported earlier this week, Lee’s romantic entanglements with Lucy Beale will end up attracting police attention when she’s murdered over Easter. “He’s been in Afghanistan surrounded by a load of blokes, comes home and sees a nice bit of skirt.
“He likes Lucy, goes in bold and gets what he wants. They form a nice little bond together and then she goes and gets murdered! It’s a difficult one for Lee, bless him – he comes back thinking he’s going to be escaping all this high drama and then his girlfriend gets killed. It’s all a bit too much for him, to be honest.”
For the 23-year-old playing the part, though, life is looking more buoyant. After finishing the acclaimed 20th anniversary of of Jonathan Harvey’s Beautiful Thing in London’s West End, Hatchard landed his job as the eldest son of the Carter clan – an experience that he wouldn’t swap for the world.
“To work with Danny Dyer, Kellie Bright, Timothy West and Linda Henry is an honour,” he says. “I’ve learned more from them than during three years in drama school – I’m going to take it all with me and use it for the rest of my life.”