Actor Ben Hardy may have spent the last 20 minutes giving us his killer stare for our Radio Times photoshoot, but he’s not convinced that his character Peter Beale is a murderer.
“I don’t think that Peter has the motive,” he says to me as we break for a cup of tea on the Elstree set. “I’d be up for playing the scene if it did turn out to be Peter, but I’d be very shocked.”
But surely this is soap, a heightened environment where jealous siblings could turn homicidal? After all, on the fateful night, Peter had just overheard Ian telling Lucy that she was his favoured child. “Have you got a sibling?” Hardy asks with a smile.
I reply that I do indeed have a brother. “And if your parents said that they liked him more than you, would you kill him?”
I say that I wouldn’t, but I might be worried about the inheritance. He laughs. “Yes! Let’s get that will written up right now! I don’t know though, I just think Peter and Lucy were tight. And anyway, I just know that it’s Abi.
“It’s definitely not a Beale. It’s Abi – it can’t be anyone else. And obviously, I have an extra six weeks’ worth of knowledge that the general public doesn’t have. And that informs me it’s Abi.”
Whether Hardy will be proved correct will be made apparent in just over seven days’ time. EastEnders is set to finally unmask Lucy’s killer on its 30th anniversary, with the whole week’s worth of episodes containing live footage. So, behind the scenes, is the cast still playing guessing games at the 11th hour?
“Yes, definitely,” he says. “We go through phases – sometimes we get sick of it. As I’m sure the general public sometimes does. But even if I do get sick of it, I still want to know the answer. It’s like, ‘I don’t care anymore, but I still NEED to know!”
And does he have concerns about the live episodes? “I’ve done live theatre before. But my worry is that EastEnders won’t feel live because there’s no audience. In the theatre, the audience is there when you mess up, so there’s a sense of doom.
“But in a studio – like when we did the live Children in Need – that didn’t feel live. It’s strange because there’s not that same level of adrenaline. But I know that if we mess up our lines, then it’ll go into freefall.”
One thing that Hardy does seem relaxed about is his future post-EastEnders. It was announced last November that the 24-year-old would be exiting at the end of his current contract amid rumours that he was being signed up to play Cyclops in the next X-Men movie. So was that just a rumour?
“It was what it was,” he says with a smile, obviously not at liberty to say anything more. And does he hope that the door will be left open for him at EastEnders? “Yeah, I suppose so. But I don’t know whether it will be.”
Nearly two years on from his debut as Peter and with the exit in sight, I wonder whether he can sum up his EastEnders experience. “It’s been like joining as the new kid at school, settling in and then being sad seeing off friends that you’ve grown to like.
“And it was a little more daunting than I thought it was going to be. With every job I’d done previously, you all come into it new. It’s the first time you’ve met each other and you work on a script from the ground up.
“But this show had been running for 28 years when I joined and there are people who have been here that long. So there are a lot of intricate relationships. You’re going somewhere where friendships are already established. So there was a period of working my way into the system.”
But before he leaves, he does get to be reunited with former co-star Hetti Bywater, who’s back next week for a special flashback episode that traces murder victim Lucy’s final movements. That must have been an odd one? “Really weird,” he agrees. “We do so many scenes about Lucy – talking about her, looking at pictures of her, referring to her as dead. I’ve been through this on-screen grieving process, so it’s like seeing a ghost on the set of BBC Elstree!”
You can watch a 60-second rundown of next week’s episodes of EastEnders below: