Returning EastEnders star Louisa Lytton has revealed she found watching the show too difficult after her character Ruby Allen was written out in 2006, and didn’t tune in again until the offer came to reprise the role earlier this year.
Lytton made her first on-screen appearance for 12 years as Ruby last month, and this week begins a hard-hitting rape storyline, but admitted to RadioTimes.com she hadn’t seen the soap since her alter ego left Albert Square after falling out with best friend Stacey having been duped by her gold-digging brother Sean.
“When I left at such a young age, watching it again was a weird feeling. It was like breaking up with a boyfriend and having to see them again. It left a strange, heavy feeling in my stomach.
“Obviously when I got the call I started watching again to know who everybody was. I can’t lie I was very excited Danny Dyer was there! It was a nice feeling going back and seeing people like Lacey Turner (Stacey), Steve McFadden (Phil) and Natalie Cassidy (Sonia) who I’d worked with in the past. Although many of the cast I know from my original time aren’t there any more – including Mo George (Gus), Kara Tointon (Dawn), Matt di Angelo (Dean) and Tiana Benjamin (Chelsea).”
Discussing being thrown into the limelight in 2005 at the tender age of 15, Lytton says she took the experience in her stride. “I don’t really remember, it was so long ago,” she smiles. “It just felt normal to me, I had nothing to compare it to. My friends stayed the same, my family kept me grounded so nothing about my life felt abnormal. I just rolled with it because I was so young.
“If going into EastEnders now at the age of 29 was my first big job I’d be a nervous wreck, but back then I was so young and more worried about my GCSEs and what I was going to wear when I went out at the weekend! Being young actually made me more resilient, and I was never particularly hounded by the press – I just felt like I had a cool job!”
When show bosses decided Ruby had reached the end of the road, it taught Lytton a lesson she would pass on as sage advice to any other young soap star in her position: “Appreciate every moment, because you don’t know how long it’s going to last. Although the young cast of EastEnders have all got their heads screwed on and don’t need any advice from me!”
The actress went straight from soap to Strictly Come Dancing in 2006, and still holds the record for being the show’s youngest contestant being just 17 when she took part. She and partner Vincent Simone survived to the quarter-finals.
“It’s the best thing I’ve ever done,” enthuses Lytton on her ballroom experience. “I’d do it every year if I could! The dream is to present the show, I love it so much. I’m still in touch with Vincent and babysit his kids! Anyone who does Strictly, I would just say enjoy it. Do you know who’d I’d like to see on there? Danny Dyer! He’s so loveable, I reckon he’d do really well. He’d go for it – sequins and all!”
Visit our dedicatedEastEnders page for all the latest news, interviews and spoilers.
Sign up to the Radio Times newsletter for the latest TV and entertainment news