Well, he’s coming back! Yes, Ross Kemp is making a big return to Albert Square – his character Grant Mitchell rushing home once he hears that Peggy’s cancer has spread. Sparks are set to fly as the Mitchell brothers come face to face – but can they put their differences aside for the sake of their mum?
Here’s Ross Kemp himself to tell us more…
So what was your first day back on set like?
A cross between deja vu, a dream and the first day back in sixth form at school. So a mixture of lots of things!
How did it feel walking back on set again?
The most overwhelming thing I think was actually how little it had changed. I was there about ten years ago and so little of the set had altered. It was great to see lots of faces that I recognised and knew. There seemed to be a lot of people happy to see Grant back!
What has changed the most?
Not much! For me, the great thing was just how warm and nice people were to me. There was no element of “who are you?” – it was all very nice.
How did you feel to be taking on the role of Grant again?
There’s always the concern you have about if you can do it again. I’ve been doing something very, very different to acting for the last ten years so there was a natural concern I guess .… maybe even a fear of letting people down. But with the help of Steve [McFadden], Tish [Dean] and Barbara [Windsor], the main people I worked with when I was back, it was great. We all got on. We have a lot of history together and a lot of respect for each other.
What was it like working with them again?
It was great! They’ve always been a huge part of Grant’s storylines over the years. There’s a lot of respect between us. I think Steve has been the best actor on soap for the last 30 odd years. I love Adam Woodyatt dearly but Steve’s storylines have been so painful. He’s very realistic in the way that he acts – he deserves credit for that.
How did your return come about?
Barbara approached me to say that she was leaving; it was the right time for her. She was on holiday, as was I, and she asked if I’d come back for her exit. I had to check the dates because, with the nature of what I do, I’m out of the country a lot. It all worked, so I thought why not?
How did you react when you read the scripts for the first time?
I just went, “oh my god, all those lines!” [laughs]. It was weird to go back to line learning. Grant hasn’t changed. There’s lots of suppressed violence and lots of tears. Maybe even some unsuppressed violence. There’s lot of raging, crying and slamming of doors … and, of course, lots of emotion.
What’s going to happen when the Mitchell brothers come face-to-face?
They’re not going to get on to start with. There’s going to be an element of conflict there. I hope they will get back together at the end though. The Mitchell brothers ride again!
Why do you think the Mitchell brothers are so iconic and part of EastEnders?
I guess we probably look the part, so it’s good casting. We’re two actors that get on with each other and work together to build a family in EastEnders. They have one of the most loved actresses in the country as their mother. I think people have a natural affinity to brothers and siblings. These are two tough brothers who fight on behalf of their mother and family reputation.
Did you ever believe Grant would become such an iconic character?
No! You just want to do the job for a long time, you don’t think beyond that.
How do you think Grant will cope with Peggy’s death?
Very badly. I think he’s quite immature when it comes to stuff like that. I think it might cause a lot of problems between Phil and Grant…but I don’t want to spoil it!
What do you think the future of the Mitchells holds without Peggy?
It will be very hard. They’ll have to muddle through. But I think Phil will become the new patriarch of the Mitchells.
Can you give us a little tease about who else he might bump into?
He has a little dalliance with someone in the Square…when he comes back there’s going to be some big issues he has to deal with. You might see a little bit less of the sensitive side to Grant and a little bit more of the violent side.
What’s your favourite storyline of all time?
There are so many! It has to be Tiffany-gate or Sharon-gate I guess. I was working with great actors and they generated a lot of viewers. I also loved it when the Mitchell brothers got to go abroad. There was a very funny one written by Tony Jordan where they thought they were in France and they weren’t. I like things like that.
Do you have a favourite scene you have filmed of all time?
I always remember my last day when the car went into the Thames. It was a highly-charged day. I’ve done some great scenes with Steve and I think he’s a fantastic actor. I’m very lucky to have worked with him.
Why is Peggy such an iconic character?
Barbara Windsor is so iconic. She is a matriarch, a typical East End Mum. The Mitchells are this East London, working class, slightly dodgy family. No matter what school you went to, there were always brothers who were bruisers. The Mitchells are the bruisers.
Do you have a favourite Peggy and Grant scene of all time?
There was one when she had to hit me and I had to hit her back. I hated the idea that Grant would hit his mum. I only slightly tapped her, but she went back like she’d been hit by Mike Tyson and John Wayne at the same time. That was always funny. I love all the tender and loving stuff. All the talk of “my boys” – things like that. It was very emotional shooting the last scenes because we know that Barbara isn’t coming back. It was very emotional to be with her in the Square. There’s a nice scene where she comes out of the pub, says goodbye to it and puts her arms through Phil and Grant’s arms and we walk off through the Square. That was nice to film.
Do you have a favourite moment working with Barbara?
She’s such a lovely lady. She loves a bit of gossip and chat and always looks immaculate. There’s not a specific thing it’s just great working with her.
And what else have you got coming up?
Around June or July, I’ve got a Syria and Iraq special going out and it’s very revealing. It’s on the front line against ISIS. It’s a 90-minute film and probably the best documentary I’ve made.