Patrick Trueman is to give those closest to him cause for concern next week when he has a stroke.
Patrick’s collapse is to come after he learns of Ian’s recent one-night-stand with Rainie – but before he can tell Denise, he keels over in the middle of the Square.
With Patrick robbed of the power of speech, it looks like Ian’s sordid secret is safe for the time being. But what of Patrick’s long-term future? Does he face a tough road to recovery?
Here, actor Rudolph Walker discusses how it feels to be given such a high profile plotline – and how he feels about his own future on the BBC1 soap…
So – in the run-up to the stroke – how is Patrick feeling about the revelations concerning Ian and Rainie?
Denise is like Patrick’s adoptive daughter. He’s suddenly found out that his son-in-law to be is having an affair with someone else. He’s up in arms. He’s upset and bitter about it.
Is it the stress of the situation with Ian that triggers Patrick’s stroke?
What I found when doing my research is that there is no one thing you can pin-point and say, “that is responsible”. It could be his lifestyle, what he’s eating, what he’s drinking. All sorts of factors. But stress does play an important part in illnesses and it can be a trigger.
When Patrick had his mini stroke last week, did he not start to think about the state of his health?
For Patrick, strokes are things that happen to other people. He collapsed, he recovered, so there’s no need to go to the doctor. The message the series is putting out is, ‘Whenever you get the slightest warning sign that something isn’t right, you really should have a check-up’.
Tell us about the confrontation with Ian and the collapse that comes afterwards…
Patrick’s angry that Ian has done the dirty on Denise and says to him, “Tell Denise. If you don’t, I will.” But just when Patrick’s at the point of telling Denise what he’s discovered, he sees Ian driving away with Denise. It’s then that he gets upset and collapses in the Square.
We see that Patrick has lost his speech – is this something he will regain?
Well, he loses the use of his left arm, his left leg and his speech. As far as I know, he regains his speech quicker than the use of his left arm. But it’s a slow process. The producers want to take Patrick through the pain, the suffering, the fight to regain his speech and normality.
Is he desperate to tell Denise about Ian?
Oh yes. He’s got that secret in him but he can’t tell it.
How did you feel when the producers approached you about this storyline?
I thought, ‘what an honour!’. It’s refreshing to see EastEnders take the bull by the horns and use its older actors and it’s a hell of a responsibility for me. I did some research and I visited a hospital to speak to patients. So I sincerely hope that what comes through is something that’s honest and true.
Are you someone who looks after their own health?
I’ve always tried to look after myself. I play a lot of tennis and some cricket when it’s warm. I try to swim occasionally too. I’ve become the laughing stock of the pool because I have a snorkel!
Do your grandchildren keep you on your toes?
I have a seven-year-old and a nine-year-old and they both keep me grounded. They’re fantastic and beautiful and too bright for their own good!
Would you like Nicholas Bailey to return as your screen son Anthony Trueman?
I’d always like my screen family to be back with me. We had a fantastic time together. Any of the actors and ex-wives I’ve worked with. I do keep in touch with them.
How difficult was it to portray the aftermath of Patrick’s stroke?
I found it very challenging, particularly the level of concentration that was required. You sit there and you have to be aware your left side is weak. His face is disfigured for 24 hours. His eyes droop. Part of it was make-up and part of it was what I did as an actor, which was incredibly challenging. But that’s what we do and that’s what I found exciting about doing this storyline.
Do any of the younger actors ever ask you for advice?
My approach has always been that any actor can ask me for advice and vice versa. I don’t feel that I’m above any of the other actors. Sometimes, if I’m doing a scene with one of the younger actors, I’ll ask, “What do you think about this?” That’s not uncommon.
And does your enthusiasm for EastEnders remain undimmed, even after all these years?
Oh yes. I have this childlike approach to it. I still look forward to coming to the studio. I revel in it. I don’t drink, I don’t smoke and I don’t know what taking drugs is like – but my drug is being involved with this show as an actor. That gives me a tremendous kick. I love it!