EastEnders star Bonnie Langford on life as Kush’s mum Carmel – “We’ve been to the gym together!”

The West End star hits the East End next week

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Performing legend Bonnie Langford is to make her EastEnders debut next week when Kush’s mum Carmel arrives at the Masoods’ for dinner. But with a certain baby secret now the talk of the house, vibrant Essex girl Carmel gets a bit of a frosty reaction from an understandably distracted Shabs. Are the pair headed for a falling out?

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Here, we get the lowdown from Bonnie Langford herself about her Walford debut and why she signed up to the BBC1 soap…

So, did you need much persuading to do EastEnders?
Not at all. I have watched it over the years. And I’d watched some of the live episodes and thought they were so impressive. And when they rang and asked to see me, I just thought the atmosphere here was so nice. And, actually, you never cross anything out in this business. And what I like about this profession is that, sometimes, it’s the things you weren’t expecting that bring out the best in you.

What intrigued you about Carmel?
Well, I think she’s there for all the women of a certain age – mothers who never stop being mothers, no matter how old they or their kids are. And I was intrigued by that prospect. The one thing she does have is this love for her kids and a desire to do the best she can for them. She doesn’t always get it right but she has a great sense of humour. Kindness and humour are important in any character and that is what she has.

And what does Carmel make of Shabnam?
Shabnam isn’t a person that Carmel would naturally gravitate towards. She feels, I think, that Shabnam doesn’t quite approve of her. But Carmel has a tremendous desire to see her son happy again and if he has chosen this girl, then she is really grateful to her.

But can Carmel be a bit of a nightmare?
For Shabnam, yes. Carmel is delightful, but slightly overbearing. As far as Kush is concerned, he has always let his mum organise him and she has been a very strong force in his life. In fact Davood, who plays Kush, has said to me that he can now see why he’s a bit of a pushover and terribly gentle when it comes to women.

We know that she’s a divorcee – so is she looking for a man?
She does bond with Masood and there is a sense of familiarity with him. She finds a connection with him, but I don’t think she is looking at the moment. She’s one of those people who’s a bit of a fixer, a kind of matchmaker, a sort of nosey parker. She’ll make friends with anyone – apart from those who cross her son and then Godzilla comes out. But there is a sadness underneath all that – her husband has left her and she’s suddenly thinking, ‘what do I do with my life?’ 

Do you think the role will change people’s preconceptions of you?
It is interesting – a lot of people go on about there are being many names going into soaps. But we’re just actors and we work on whatever comes up. I said to our executive producer Dominic Treadwell-Collins, “As far as I’m concerned, I’m joining a company. I’m joining this cast and hope I blend’. You blend and you become the character you are supposed to be and fit it to the right size. 

How like you is she?
Well, I’m really not a party animal at all. I love the idea, but I get to the front door and think ‘Why did I come?’ I would sit in the kitchen making a cup of tea. She doesn’t. She is the life and soul of the party and then gets it wrong.

And how does it feel to be the mum of this strapping lad?
Fabulous! We’ve been to the gym together already! I had a nice time. I could just be his mum in real life – we have a good laugh. He calls me mum, actually. And people say, “You’re his mother?!” I love it.

You can watch interviews with Bonnie Langford, Davood Ghadami and Rakhee Thakrar below.

Plus your 60-second guide to next week’s episodes of EastEnders.

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