Easter 2014 is going to be one that the Beale family will remember forever – for all the wrong reasons. Lucy (Hetti Bywater) is to be found dead on Good Friday with dad Ian set to receive the horrible news the following week. It’s a bombshell that is set to send shockwaves through the Square and give EastEnders a high-profile plotline that will see the soap through to it’s 30th anniversary in February 2015.
But how does actor Adam Woodyatt feel about the demise of his on-screen daughter? And how does this storyline compare to those that Ian has been involved previously? Here, the Walford stalwart reflects on Lucy’s death and his last three decades in E20…
Can you describe what it’s been like to film the scenes following Lucy’s death?
I’ve known about this storyline since Dominic [Treadwell-Collins] returned to EastEnders. When I received the first batch of scripts, I was really impressed. The scripts were beautifully written and really portrayed the emotion of a grieving father. At times, they have been tough to film as you cannot get away from the heartbreak that Ian is going through. And with any emotional storyline that you have, you throw all of your emotion into the performance
Would you say it’s the most challenging storyline you’ve worked on?
Yes, as it is extremely emotional. I’ve had many storylines over the years which have challenged me, but this one is completely different as it’s a father losing his daughter very suddenly. It’s raw and they haven’t held anything back from the scripts nor have we from the performances.
How do you brace yourself for this kind of storyline?
I don’t think you can. You obviously prepare yourself with your scripts as much as possible but the actors have all made sure that we haven’t held anything back. We have just gone with it. Like I’ve said, the scripts that are coming through for me at the moment are some of the best I have ever had. Everyone that has worked on this story, from the writers to the cast and all the crew, have really given it their all.
Do you know who’s behind her death?
Well, I know it’s going to be a very long storyline that’s going to involve a huge amount of suspects. It has been very cleverly written in that you learn more about Lucy after she has gone. We’ve seen bits in the build up to her death, such as her relationships with Max and Lee but other things quickly come to light when the investigation starts.
You realise that everyone saw Lucy in a very different way. It’s more of a mystery than a usual ‘whodunit’. But I don’t know who killed Lucy. Apart from the bosses, no one has a clue. Everyone at work has a different theory and that seems to change every day!
Did you have any part in the plotting of it?
No, you have to leave that to the writers. You couldn’t plot it unless you know who killed her! Although the writers don’t actually know who killed Lucy – only a few key people in the story team know and they’re keeping it a closely guarded secret.
How do you think viewers are likely to respond as the story pans out?
I think, like all of us, they will be intrigued as to what happened the night Lucy died. It’s a mystery to all of us, so it will be for the audience. We’ll start to learn more about Lucy and what actually happened that night. Just when you think it’s going one way, something else comes to light which leaves us all wondering about someone else. It’s very cleverly written.
Can you talk us through what happens in the first week following Lucy’s death?
The week after Lucy’s death is more focused on the Beales and their grief. When Ian is given the news, he doesn’t believe it – he can’t bring himself to and he’s obviously devastated.
Ian then has the task of breaking the news to the family who, like him, are utterly devastated. It’s raw grief for the whole family. For those days after Lucy’s death, it is heavily focused on the Beales and the devastation.
Where does it all leave the Beale family? Where is losing his daughter set to take Ian?
Life for the Beales will never be the same. Not only has Ian lost his daughter but Peter has lost his twin. Lucy meant a lot to many people, so it’s a big loss for the Square. It will be a very dark chapter for the Beales for a long time. This is not something I can imagine Ian ever getting over.
Can anyone help him through the trauma?
Well the obvious person would be Denise, but they’ve had their troubles over the past few weeks – not that either of them has said anything to each other! Having Jane back is a real support for Ian. I don’t think he, or the rest of the family, could do function at the moment without Jane.
How proud are you of your time at EastEnders?
I’m extremely proud. I’m honoured to have been in a show for nearly 30 years. It is a show that is constantly changing, like it should be, yet it is still the same. I’ve always said the Square is the star of the show. People can come and go in all areas but the Square remains the same.
With hindsight, what advice might you now offer your younger self on his first day on the show?
It would have to be: watch your diction and don’t be cheeky to Wendy Richard!
What do you still remember about your first day?
I can remember the first day we all met; I think it was Gillian Taylforth’s birthday so she arrived later than everyone else. We greeted each other with “mum” and “son”…and that’s what we’ve called each other ever since. I still refer to her as Mum or GillyMum even now.
Who were you closest to back then?
Probably Gilly, closely followed by Tish [Dean], Sue [Tully] and Bill [Treacher].
What does it mean to have Letitia back again?
I love having Tish back; she’s part of the history of the show. Plus she makes me laugh.
Did you imagine you’d still be on Albert Square 30 years later?
No, not for one minute did I think I would still be here.
What’s the main thing that’s kept you there?
Probably the fact that I still, and always have, enjoyed the work. Yes the hours and schedule can be relentless and at times punishing but there are not many jobs like this one.
When have you been proudest of Ian?
There’s a first… I’ve never been asked that question before! Am I proud of Ian? Yes. He is a character that has become synonymous with EastEnders. From Julia Smith and Tony Holland’s original plans for the character through 15 other bosses to where Dominic is taking him through 2014, he is always evolving.
What will you miss most about Hetti Bywater?
Having someone to annoy with my ‘dad’ jokes!
What’s the best thing about working with the actors who play Ian’s kids?
I can give them back at the end of the day; it’s a bit like early training for how to be a grandparent!