EastEnders: Diane Parish on why Denise ends up in bed with Phil!

The actress praises co-star Steve McFadden's acting - "He's one of the best in soap"

There’s been no shortage of drama in Denise’s life of late what with Lucas’s attempted jailbreak and Jordan’s imprisonment. And next week’s episodes certainly keep the surprises coming.

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After finding out that Libby is pregnant, Denise is left shocked when she reveals that she doesn’t want to keep the baby. In fact, Denise is so stunned that she goes out, gets plastered, has a massive row with Carmel and ends up in bed with a similarly tanked-up Phil! Yes, Phil Mitchell!

Here, actress Diane Parish tells us more about another tumultuous week in Albert Square for her Walford alter-ego…

So what is Denise’s state of mind at the moment?
She is not in a good place.

How does she feel about having given up JJ?
She’s really feeling it. He was her chance to have a family again and a purpose in life. She loved him and is missing him. Yes, Libby’s visiting her now and again, but she’s not really around that much and Denise feels very much on her own.

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What does she think when Libby says she is pregnant?
It’s a huge shock, but she’s like ‘yes!’ and running around with excitement and wants to celebrate.

How does she react when Libby says she is not keeping the baby?
She can’t comprehend the idea that Libby wants to get rid of the baby. But she’s old enough and wise enough to know that things always turn out alright in the end. She’s convinced that if Libby has this baby, she won’t regret it. She desperately wants to be a grandma, but also, she doesn’t want Libby to make a decision she may live to regret.

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Why does she row with Carmel?
She’s rowing with everybody. Carmel offers an opinion on the baby that’s different to hers, so she goes for her. Carmel is only trying to offer help and advice, but Denise doesn’t see it like that.

How on earth does she end up drinking with Phil?
They end up at the same watering hole, down at The Albert, in a similar state of inebriation. I don’t think Denise can drink Phil under the table, but she’s as drunk as she can get. The thing is she hates this man but she enjoys prodding and poking the lion behind the cage when it comes to Phil Mitchell and also enjoys seeing him at his worst, because it just confirms everything she thinks about him.

How do they end up in bed?
You’ll have to wait and see! But when I discussed this with our wise producer Dominic [Treadwell-Collins], and he told me what I was going to play, I screamed. I got up and ran around his office, screaming! Steve McFadden is the most wonderful actor and I was thrilled to be able to do some really nice interesting work with him as I have huge respect. I was thinking to myself, ‘how could Denise let herself end up with him the way he is when Sharon and Shirley have turned him down?’ All these people that actually love him can’t be doing with him, but Denise does!

Is it a case of two people being at their lowest ebb?
There’s a sense of loss and no hope and a feeling of what’s the point? Which is why they drink the way they do. When you stop loving yourself, you stop caring and you drink like that. I’m sure there are a lot of people out there who find themselves in those positions, who wake up and go ‘Oh God, I didn’t!’ – this is one of those moments.

What was it like acting those scenes?
It was fun and it was also really fascinating. Acting wise, Steve is one of the best in soap. Because it’s not just that he plays a drunk, he also plays the anger, the emotion, the torment, everything. I loved working with him – it was fun and it is nice to do something completely different.

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How was it acting drunk?
Nerve wracking. But with Steve, it’s like a masterclass. You struggle for your choices; he has got all the boxes ticked and I was really careful not to be a high comedic, silly drunk.

Will this be a wake up call for Denise?
Yes, most people reach a turning point and this is hers. It is that thing of going, ‘What is my life about?’ It’s about time she tried to fix herself. She’s not had much in the way of anything good – she’s not had a good man or made good choices. I’m hoping she builds up from here.

What would you like to do with her in the future?
I’m ready for her to have a sense of purpose within the Square and to be a bit more self-made and less reliant. There’s a point where you have to go ‘I have got to do it for me’

Everyone loved Denise and Fatboy – what did you make of what they had together?
I loved it too. It was a lovely thing to do and I think there was something really special between Denise and Fatboy. I also wish Ricky Norwood the best with what he does.

Are you still enjoying being part of EastEnders?
It’s been ten years and it keeps evolving and changing. There are ebbs and flows because the cast and everything changes – there are always new things to get excited about. I respect the show, I respect my character and I’m still having fun. And I’ve certainly had a big old challenge recently with this!

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

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