EastEnders interview: Jonny Labey was “shocked” by Paul Coker’s death

Saying goodbye to the BBC1 soap was "really tough", says the actor

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So, Paul Coker is dead – killed off in a brutal cliffhanger after the audience had been led to believe that it was Ben Mitchell who’d met his maker. So how did actor Johnny Labey feel about this exit storyline? And what will he miss most about EastEnders? Here’s what he had to say about Paul’s untimely demise…

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So, how did you react when you heard about the storyline?
When I heard all the details I was shocked, at first, as it was my exit storyline. But the storyline is beautifully written and the build-up to it is great. So much happens with Jenny coming onto the scene and Paul and Ben taking over the business, it’s all looking very hopeful. The way it’s all been written is great.

How did you react when you read the script?
I was told about all of these things happening and saw that it all took place over a few episodes: it’s incredible to have a week dedicated to your character. A lot of the really emotional stuff happens after I leave and all of my last scenes are very happy. It was quite strange because Lin [Blakley] and Roger [Sloman] were filming a lot of the reactive parts and then coming back to film all the upbeat stuff with me. It was quite odd! But watching Lin and Roger do their scenes was really hard.

What was your final day on set like?
I was a mess. It was nice to have this experience, but to say goodbye to everyone, especially Harry [Reid], Roger and Lin was really tough.

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Has it been hard to keep the secret about Paul’s fate?
It has been, yes! I knew about the exit ages ago, so had to stay quiet.

What will you miss the most about EastEnders?
I think finding out new things about my character. When you do a play or a movie you know the story, but what’s unique about a soap is that you’ve always got something new. Whenever you get a new script it’s, “what’s going to happen to me?” I’ll miss that constant change – it’s nice to have that.

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What’s been your favourite part of playing Paul?
He’s a very lovable character, I’ll miss him. But it’s been a nice experience.

Do you have a highlight from your time on EastEnders?
I think my first week was the most memorable. I was so busy and I was having to do so many different things and meet so many different people. But then once you’re there, you already feel a part of the family. I think you can take for granted how special the job is once you get into it, so the first week is definitely my most memorable moment.

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Who will you miss the most?
My fantastic three – Harry, Lin and Roger. Me, Lin and Roger have done a lot of things together – and so had me and Harry – but it was only recently that we’d all had a lot of stuff all together. We got really comfortable with each other and Roger was always cracking jokes. I’ll miss that.

Do you have a favourite ever scene you were a part of?
Peggy’s funeral and being part of that. It was very significant and a great thing to say you’ve done. 

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