Pam and Les Coker leave EastEnders next week, but not without some last-minute doubts about their move to Worthing. Having reeled from crisis to catastrophe these past few months, it’s no surprise that the pair are getting antsy about leaving both the Square and their business. Have they made the right decision? And is Coker and Sons safe in Billy’s hands? Actor Roger Sloman tells us more…
Les and Pam leave the Square next week – how is he feeling about the move?
Very conflicted – there’s a lot of stuff going on with them. They’re terribly sad, not only about the tragedy of Paul but there’s the whole question of the business that they’ve put their heart and soul into. Giving up the business is a huge wrench. They’ve still got a whole way to go with the question of Christine, they have to resolve that between them and overcome the tragedy of what has happened with Paul. I think there is an area where they think, ‘how can this have happened to us?’ They lost their son and now they’ve lost their grandson. But they’re the kind of couple who we know love each other and have got a solid base – it’s just that it’s been really tested.
Given everything they’ve been through, will a fresh start be good for them?
I think so, yeah. They’re both kind of busy people and it’s an interesting idea as to whether they’re the sort of people who can twiddle their thumbs. Some people are good at retiring, and some people it doesn’t sit well with. It’s interesting and something that I’ve given a little bit of thought to. They might need to find something to do. He’s going to want to start getting busy and she’s going to want to say ‘no, stop it, slow down!’
Is he sad to be leaving the business behind?
Yes, I think so. It’s like a tennis match with them – first one has a wobble and the other one supports, and then the other one has a wobble and it’s turned around. It’s a basis of quite a good relationship, but he definitely has wobbles and then I think at the same time she does. But I really think for him that giving up the business is not an easy thing, it’s part of who he is. The other thing is that he’s holding out – Cokers is an independent business, he’s not part of a chain, so he’s hanging on as a small independent business and I kind of admire him for that. So yeah there are going to be a lot of challenges. I think he says to Pam, ‘come on, it’s going to be fine’ and then has a moment where he’s not being quite so fine about it.
How confident is he that Billy will be a good manager?
Ah… well… yes, that’s an interesting question! Les is persuading himself and he knows that there might have to be a steep learning curve. The signs are already there that Billy is struggling but what’s happening is, but Les is putting that to one side and not thinking about it because there’s too much else going on. But it’s a lot for Billy to take on. I think he has a wonderful heart, Billy, and there’s a huge amount of affection between Pam and Les and Billy and Honey. Pam and Les want it to work not only for Billy’s sake, but for Billy and Honey and the children. That’s part of the reason why they’re going down this route – and also I think Les and Pam would prefer it to go to someone they know who’s part of the business and can carry it on in that way rather than selling it to a complete stranger.
Les is a bit of a father figure to Billy…
What’s lovely about that relationship is that Les is a little bit of a father figure, but at the same time they move into different territory where Billy is actually holding Les up. And that’s what friendship is. It’s lovely that they’re mates that are coming from different generations, and sometimes I think that happens.
Are you pleased with the note that the Cokers end on?
Yes, I am. Hugely. And I can’t say how wonderful it is to go out with a proper heavyweight storyline. It means a huge amount. I feel as though Pam and Les are going out with a bang and I’m grateful for that.
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