EastEnders is to break with tradition this week with the funeral of knife crime victim Shakil Kazemi set to include true-life accounts from real families who have lost loved ones in knife attacks.
Discussing the soap’s first foray into breaking the ‘fourth wall’, Davood Ghadami, aka Shakil’s brother Kush, described the unusual move as: “A step into the unknown. There was a sense of excitement, we didn’t know how it was going to be approached. There are formulas you follow as an actor which you’re used to, but with this we weren’t sure what to expect.”
Bonnie Langford, who plays grieving mother Carmel, agreed with her on-screen offspring. “As Davood says it was a jump into the unknown. When they told me I found it intriguing and exciting, but it was a strange dividing line and I wondered how we would separate art from real life.
“Soaps try and follow reality as much as possible, and as actors we’re not trying to pretend that we’re preaching in any way. But to put in these special true-life contributors adds gravitas – we’re not sensationalising something that is so difficult. Let this speak for itself. There is nothing more truthful, honest and heartbreaking. And it’s done with integrity and authenticity.”
Throughout the episode, showing on Friday 6 July, the audience will hear real stories of people affected by the soaring statistics of knife crime, which EastEnders has been tackling through Shakil’s murder in hard-hitting scenes shown in May.
“We had a full day working with the special contributors,” continued Ghadmi. “Initially it felt like you didn’t know what to say to them, but as the day went on you realised these are people who wanted to make this storyline as effective and truthful as possible. Everyone was hugging by the end. We all had a common goal, they were so open with talking about their loved ones.”
“The more I heard, the more important this seemed,” agreed Langford. “I felt a responsibility but so in touch and connected. It was a bizarre, tragic coming together and I felt very honoured to be part of it.”
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