EastEnders: Adam Woodyatt on the secrets of Kathy’s comeback – and why Bobby had to be Lucy’s killer

The Walford stalwart also discusses how it feels to be in competition with Danny Dyer for Best Actor at this year's British Soap Awards

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What a 12 months it’s been for Adam Woodyatt. Thirty years on EastEnders. Pivotal scenes performed live as part of the soap’s 30th anniversary. And a murder mystery that saw screen son Bobby exposed as the killer of screen daughter Lucy! Now, he’s up for Best Actor at this year’s British Soap Awards – so what better time to catch up with the man known across the nation for the last three decades as Ian Beale? 

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So Adam – can you now finally tell us when you found out that Bobby was Lucy’s killer?
Yes! It was at the beginning of December. We’d reached a point in the filming schedule where we were starting to shoot stuff for after live week. And I said to Laurie Brett [Jane Beale] that there was no way we could do this without knowing what happened. We needed more information than we’d been given. So [executive producer] Dominic Treadwell-Collins called me, Ben Hardy [Peter Beale] and Laurie up for a meeting and filled us in. Dom really hated saying the word ‘Bobby’ – he still gets twitchy now in case someone overhears! But he ran us through all the little clues that we’d missed and we sat there listening to it all fall into place. Laurie’s face was quite a picture!

And what about the Kathy surprise?
That was at the same meeting, actually. We were all leaving and Dom said to me that there was something else he needed to talk to me about. And I thought, ‘oh no, what have I done? Have I said something on Twitter that I shouldn’t?’ And that’s when he told me they were going to bring Kathy back. I was just overwhelmed. I couldn’t have been happier hearing that news.

But the biggest problem I had was that I’d kept in touch with Gillian Taylforth the whole time she’d been away. And all of a sudden, when she was texting me over Christmas, I couldn’t reply. Because I knew about Kathy and she didn’t. Gilly was still in the dark. Dom was so desperate to keep it secret that he didn’t even ask Gilly until the middle of January. Secrecy was just so important. I’d even given him her mobile number so we could bypass her agent. When we were finally able to speak to each other about it, we both just ended up screaming with joy down the phone line.

Have you filmed a reunion scene yet?
No, that’s still to come. I don’t even know when that’s going to be. I have no idea ‘how’, I have no idea ‘when’. I just can’t wait.

Bringing characters back from the dead is certainly a tricky business, though…
Oh yes – and it’s got to be believable. I know that Dom told Alex Lamb [story producer] to disappear into his office and come up with something believable and convincing. And I trust those two, so I’m sure it will be.

Surely the smart money is on some kind of witness protection scheme?
There have been a lot of those rumours flying around. I think I might have started some of them, actually! But I don’t know whether they’re doing that or if they’ve come up with something else. All I know is that I’m looking forward to finding out. And if I am, then I’m sure everyone else is too.

Now, we also know that there’s going to be a wrongful arrest in the Lucy Beale murder case – do you think Ian would feel guilty about that or just relieved that the finger of suspicion isn’t pointing at Bobby?
Oh – I didn’t know about this! Well, I think it would be a bit of both. If you know the truth and someone gets wrongfully convicted – especially if it’s someone you’re close to – then you’re going to be in two minds as to what to do. Bearing in mind that Ian’s mental state can go a bit wrong…

And what did you make of the decision to make Bobby the murderer?
It’s very clever. If it had been any other character – Whitney, Max, Abi or whoever – then they’d have had to face the consequences and be incarcerated. It’s the law of soap. By making it Bobby, you then get into the dilemma of the Beales protecting him, so the story can go further. How much of it we explore though, I don’t know.

Is Ian doing the right thing by trying to adopt Cindy’s baby?
For once, I think he is. Especially if you look at the situation as a parent. Cindy is struggling, she doesn’t know what she wants in long term and she’s only 16. So the most logical thing is to say, “you go off and be a teenager. We’ll look after her for you.” That, to me, makes perfect logical sense. And I must say, that baby is very cute!

How much would it mean to you to win Best Actor at the British Soap Awards?
Don’t go me wrong, it would be lovely for me to win. But there are a lot of talented people out there in soap operas. Not just in our one, but on Corrie, Emmerdale, Hollyoaks and Doctors too. I’ve been the centre of attention and ‘live week’ no doubt helped with that. But we all work very hard. All of us. Any one of us could win it. If it’s me, fantastic. If it’s not, I’ll clap just as loudly for that person.

But how are EastEnders fans supposed to choose between you and Danny Dyer?
Well, you don’t need subtitles when I’m talking! [Laughs] Every now and then I have to rewind to understand what he’s said. “I’ll have a pipe at that!” What? But seriously, if Danny wins it – great. It’s still highlighting the show and showing what we’ve been doing.

One of the highlights of the anniversary was your screen partnership with Laurie Brett – could you describe how it felt to be doing that live episode with her?
I felt safe. You do develop a trust and a shorthand. I’ve got it with Gillian Taylforth too. And I know it’s still there because we did that little scene for Children in Need. If something had gone wrong during that live episode, then I’m confident that Laurie and I would have got round it. Nothing did go wrong so that never came into play. But I know from other scenes that we do that we can adapt and carry on. 

And finally, returning to the topic of Kathy – does her return put the last 30 years into perspective?
Yes, it does. You can’t take a shortcut to the history of the programme. Because it’s something that’s there on screen. Let’s take, for argument’s sake, Richard Blackwood as Vincent – his character has just come in, so you have all the freedom in the world to introduce his family and create a backstory. But you can’t do that with me, Letitia Dean, Gilly, Steve McFadden or June Brown – because our characters have been there for so long. All our history is on the set. You want photos of us from when we were younger, just go into the archive. It’s something that you can’t manufacture. So yes, it definitely puts all those years into context.

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You can watch a 60-second rundown of next week’s episodes of EastEnders below.