EastEnders‘ new producer Kate Oates has revealed her plans for the show for the first time since taking the helm. The former head honcho of Coronation Street and Emmerdale’s appointment was announced in August, making her the first person to be show runner on each of the ‘big three’ UK soaps. As part of her role at the BBC she will also be overseeing medical dramas Casualty and Holby City.
Oates’ time on both ITV continuing dramas resulted in a run of high-profile, if at times controversial, storylines that hooked in audiences and saw huge awards success, with her Corrie tenure culminating in a triumphant night for the programme at this year’s British Soap Awards.
Discussing taking the baton from interim executive consultant John Yorke, who has a long history with EastEnders and returned last year following the abrupt departure of the divisive Sean O’Connor, Oates told The Sun it will be February 2019 before her era really kicks in on screen, but happily teased what’s in store, giving eager fans a first taste of what we can expect as the soap enters a new chapter.
The Carters are staying in the Vic – and together
Linda’s turned her back on Mick while he rots in jail, framed by sinister Stuart for shooting him, but Oates assures fans the couple will remain strong and hinted they’ll be back on track soon. “I love the Carters. I want to see them tested but that doesn’t mean leaving the Queen Vic. Danny Dyer and Kellie Bright are a brilliant pairing. I don’t have any plans to shake them up or get rid of them. Plus Danny is teaching me to speak cockney!
Big story for the Mitchells as Sharon and Keanu continues
“We’ve got some good Mitchell stuff on the storyboard,” Oates teases. “The Phil, Keanu and Sharon stuff is all very exciting. That’s one of the stories I’m picking up that has already begun.” There’s also been speculation that Harry Reid may be returning as Ben Mitchell, could he return to the fold just as his stepmother’s infidelity is revealed to his fuming father?
Christmas is as big as ever
Oates took office earlier this month, hence why episodes won’t fully bear her stamp until a few months into the new year as soaps usually storyline a good few months ahead, but she did mention the most wonderful time of the year, with the festive season always expected to deliver for fans. “Christmas isn’t mine but it’s going to be big in Albert Square! It’s as big as ever and I’m watching it as a viewer because it was all kind of in hand as I got there. It’s exciting.”
Mel will flex her muscles
In attempting to restore ‘Enders to its former glory, Yorke brought back a number of characters from his original glory days as producer in the early 2000s, including Tamzin Outhwaite (Mel). Viewers know Mel is playing a long game of revenge with fiance Ray Kelly who has a secret wife he thinks Mel knows nothing about, and it appears that’s a plot to keep your eye on for 2019. “Mel is in a bit of a pickle which picks up in the new year. We’re going to be flexing Tamzin’s muscles a little bit so that’s exciting.”
Tiffany is going down a dark path
Another returnee earlier this year was Maisie Smith as Tiffany Butcher, a cutise child star when she joined the show over a decade ago as Bianca and Ricky’s cheeky little girl, but now she’s all grown up – and going off the rails as the teen tearaway becomes further embroiled with drug dealer gangster boyfriend Jagger. “We have some good stuff ahead for Tiffany, what with her having taken herself into a dark world…”
Expect a big issue-based story that will make a big impact
Her time at Corrie was defined by hard-hitting, challenging stories that were initially accused of being too dark, but eventually won fans and critics round with brave, unflinching storytelling – David Platt’s rape and Aidan Connor’s suicide being two examples. Unsurprisingly, Oates is already thinking about a big topic to tackle in Walford… “There is something I’m thinking about that the audience could say an issues-led storyline. I think it will be character-led and the long-term arc will be about the characters, but there’s definitely an issue there to discuss.” Following knife crime and sexual consent, what hot topics will Oates be putting on the agenda at ‘Enders next?
Diversity will be addressed
EastEnders has been criticised in some quarters of late for a lack of representation of the LGBT community, and Oates is not shying away from looking at the programme’s diversity in general. “I have a reasonable track record about LGBT characters and diversity of all kinds. That is definitely high on the list, so I would say watch that particular space. EastEnders has a great ensemble cast with a lot of diversity in terms of ages and character profiles, which means we’ve got a really broad palate of story.”
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