EastEnders: Lorraine Stanley on Karen’s knife-crime nightmare – “I hope the storyline changes attitudes”

The soap star reveals all about next week's trauma for Karen, Keegan and the rest of the Taylor family

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Few families manage to make the kind of splash that the Taylors have over the last 12 months on EastEnders. They’ve gone from neighbours from hell to firm Walford favourites, with actress Lorraine Stanley (who plays matriarch Karen)  earning a British Soap Awards nomination for Best Newcomer for her efforts. Here the star talks about her first year on the BBC1 soap and how she feels about a hard-hitting upcoming storyline that will see screen son Keegan become the victim of a knife-crime attack:

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Congratulations on the British Soap Awards nomination – surely you don’t feel like a newcomer?
No, I don’t feel like a newcomer at all. But I’ll take that, thanks. It’s nice to think that you’re appreciated. It makes it all worthwhile.

I think it should have been Best Comedy Performance…
Yes, that would have been lovely! Maybe at the next awards. I’m all about the comedy, so that would have been even better.

Has reaction to the Taylors changed over the past year?
Yes, I think people have really warmed to them. They’re no longer your nightmare neighbours. They’re a good family with hearts of gold. That’s shone through over the course of the year.

What do people say to you on the street?
I get: “Oh, my mate’s just like you.” Or, “People call me Karen Taylor.” And they’ll often say that Karen should pull her bra strap up. It’s always nice comments. I haven’t had anything negative. People love the Taylors.

What has been your EastEnders highlight so far?
Every day working with my screen family is brilliant. I also love working with Jessie Wallace, I think she’s brilliant. I worked with her years ago on a drama called A Class Apart. Catfights on the screen are always fun: punching Sharon was particularly funny. We had such a giggle filming that. We just made each other laugh. Roger Griffiths coming in as Mitch was also good because we got to see Karen’s more vulnerable side.

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Do you hope we’ll get to see more of Mitch?
I hope so. When he left, he actually chose Karen. His wife had lied about being pregnant. It’s been left open, so I do hope they bring him back. He’s a fantastic actor and he fitted right in. It was like he’d always been on the Square.

Is there anyone on the cast you’d like to do more scenes with?
Yes, Linda Henry, who plays Shirley. I really get on well with her and I love her character. I’ve always admired her. I want more stuff with Jessie Wallace. And I’d love to work with Steve McFadden, though I don’t know how that would come about…

A Phil and Karen bunk-up! What a duff-duff that would make!
If Karen could just get Phil drunk and they could wake up in bed together! He’d be mortified, wouldn’t he! I’m going to put that in the suggestion box…

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Why should people vote for EastEnders at the British Soap Awards?
Because it’s the best soap – it really is. It’s real life, it’s gritty and there are some great actors on it. Vote everything EastEnders, please!

You say gritty – next week’s episodes will be very gritty indeed, what with Keegan getting knifed on Monday. Can you talk about filming those episodes?
There are some very dark moments and I get some gritty scenes with Bonnie Langford, who plays Carmel. In the aftermath, you’ll see the community come together, which I think will be more interesting to watch than the attack itself. You’ll see what makes and breaks people. Unfortunately, knife crime is happening every day and it needs to stop. EastEnders is such a good platform for a storyline like this because so people watch it and can relate to it. I’m glad they’re doing the storyline.

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It is something that every parent dreads, isn’t it?
Yes – and a child can just be in the wrong place at the wrong time. They don’t even have to be in a gang. I’ve got a two-and-a-half year-old daughter, I live in London and I’m already worrying. I just want to get out of London! But it’s not just London – that’s the thing. It’s every parents’ nightmare and that’s why viewers will relate to it emotionally. I hope it changes attitudes. A lot of kids watch it, so if it stops just one person, it’s had an impact. It’s a scary thing because it ruins lives. Everyone loses out.

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