It was the one line that made Abi Branning a suspect in the minds of EastEnders viewers: “things die”. That one remark, made in the wake of Abi’s – albeit accidental – running over of pet dog Tramp turned her into a potential killer.
Then we have Abi’s general furtiveness about the night Lucy was killed, as well as her Halloween haunting of sister Lauren – all of which has transformed Max’s normally timid and studious daughter into a possible homicidal maniac.
“I’ve loved doing all that stuff because it’s so different to what I’m used to playing,” says a reassuringly cheery Lorna Fitzgerald. “People have been tweeting me to say, ‘you killed that dog, so you must have killed Lucy.’ And, of course, she did say, ‘things die’. Originally, it was planned that Abi was going to say that she meant to kill Tramp the dog, but we reined it back in the end!”
But does she fear being written out if Abi is unmasked as the killer? “I can’t think about those things because I’ll start panicking myself,” laughs the 18-year-old. “I’ll end up convincing myself it was Abi and thinking, ‘Argh! I need a new job’. But we’ll just have to wait and see. I wouldn’t like to leave, but the challenge of being the murderer would be good.”
The question of Who Killed Lucy? has become the obsession of EastEnders fans ever since the character was bumped off over Easter 2014. So we shouldn’t be surprised to find that the cast has turned detective too. But despite the betting odds narrowing when it comes to Abi, Fitzgerald is pointing the finger in a very different direction.
“From day one, I’ve said Ian. That would be the biggest shock. It would be such a good twist and quite sinister too. My theory is that he’s blocked it out, but when the police came to tell him, he cried because it was suddenly real and he realised that he’d actually killed Lucy. So it wasn’t grief, but guilt. Ian Beale is a criminal mastermind!”
But come on – surely she must have been practising her ‘guilty confession’ face just in case it is Abi? “Is it bad to admit that I have? I have been giving sinister looks in the mirror. Well, you have to see what you look like, haven’t you? There’ll be millions watching it. I have to craft it,” she says with another laugh.
Having been in EastEnders since the age of ten, Fitzgerald is now an old hand when it comes to the goings-on in Albert Square, so much so that she’s greeting the ‘live week’ of episodes with relish rather than anxiety. “I’m so excited. When we did the 25th anniversary live episode, I was 13 and I didn’t have any lines. So now I feel really lucky that I have things to say. And the flashback episode is quite dark – they’ve made it look all eerie.”
But if it all goes wrong and she forgets her dialogue? “I’d faint. Just to make people feel sorry for me. So the viewers would be thinking, ‘oh, she’s collapsed.’ Can’t remember your lines? Just drop to the floor. That’s my advice.”
Of course, Abi could have a lot to feel light-headed about. She and dad Max are still covering up details of their whereabouts on that fateful Good Friday evening. And then there’s the fact that boyfriend Ben is actually gay…”I know – poor girl! I don’t think she’ll ever stop being friends with Ben. And I think that’s why they’re together. But she’s got it all confused since she and Jay split up.”
And does she hope that Abi eventually wises up? “I’d quite like to see her and Jay get back together. Although I would like her to go a bit crazy too. And get back into running over dogs,” she jokes. “Have a meltdown! Why not?”
Watch a 60-second rundown of next week’s episodes of EastEnders below: