EastEnders ended weeks of speculation last night when Lisa Fowler returned, seven years after her last appearance.
Arriving at her daughter Louise Mitchell’s bedside following her horrific accident at the disastrous prom, Lisa’s comeback will send shockwaves through the iconic Mitchell family.
Estranged from Louise for the last few years and with a very chequered history with her daughter’s dad Phil (and that’s putting it mildly – she did try to kill him), there’s lots of drama in store for Lisa’s short stint back in the Square.
In her first interview discussing her surprise reappearance, actress Lucy Benjamin reveals what tempted her back, and what it was like coming home to Walford…
How did your return come about?
My agent was approached by EastEnders and he told me there was a possibility of Lisa coming back, but he didn’t know for how long. Then Liza Mellody from the storyline team called me personally and really sold it to me. She told me the storyline and explained the journey that Lisa would have, and it was too good an offer to refuse.
Was it hard keeping it a secret?
Every time I’m involved with EastEnders I always get these massive things I have to keep a secret! I’m used to it because of the ‘Who Shot Phil?’ stuff which was a huge secret. It’s tough because people ask you what you’re up to and you can’t say anything. I’m pleased though because when things are kept a secret, it always pays off and makes a great impact.
Did you tell anyone?
Oh I told my mum, I told her about ‘Who Shot Phil?’ at the time too, she’s very good at keeping secrets. I obviously told my husband too because I had to let him know where I was going!
How did everyone manage to keep it a secret for so long?
It was all very cloak and dagger! I came into the studio through a different entrance and had to wear big sunglasses! When I got the scripts my character name was ‘Sam’ to put people off the scent. The monitors, which relay whatever is being filmed on the different sets, were turned off whenever I was filming, they’d just go blank so no one could see me.
What was your first day back on set like?
To be honest I was a little apprehensive, it’s just like the first day at a new job, really. But within 20 minutes and after I saw people like Natalie Cassidy, Dean Gaffney, Tish Dean and Steve McFadden it was like I had never been away. It was lovely to do a couple of scenes on the market too as Lisa started out as the market inspector.
Did you enjoy working with the old faces again?
It was like being with old friends. They really had my back and knew I had a tough storyline to do. It was fabulous having the support of a great team, and a good bunch of actors that are up to speed. Then in between takes you will get Tish cracking jokes, she’s just fabulous to be around. I had a really lovely time, there was lots of reminiscing, lots of giggles. It was sweet.
How was it working with Tilly Keeper who plays your daughter?
Tilly is marvellous. She’s so professional. For somebody so young she’s so on top of her game, which made my stuff a lot easier. We’d never met in person until now, we had a really lovely connection and we worked well together. She’s amazing.
Did you ever think you’d return?
No, you just kind of close that chapter. You don’t live your life thinking ‘What if?’ When I’m out shopping people come up and say ‘Oh, Louise is having a terrible time, Lisa should be back’ which was very sweet! But I hadn’t really thought about it.
Have you been watching the show still?
Yes, on and off. My kids are very young still and that’s bathtime and bedtime but if it’s on I’ll sit and watch it and I’m gripped. Knowing I was coming back I’d been watching it more and more to get up to speed.
How do you feel about the iconic ‘Who Shot Phil?’ storyline now?
I’m so proud of it. That was a really good time on the show, fabulous writing. It was a culmination of things, it was a slow burn that paid off on every level.
Can you tease what’s in store for Lisa while she’s back?
There’s lots of drama, lots of twists and turns you won’t see coming. I think there’s lots of history and you’ll see the old Lisa being played out that viewers recognise from before. I’ve got some great stuff with Phil and Sharon, and some beautiful scenes with Sonia and Lisa. It’s all reminiscent of Lisa’s history which is great.
Watch a 60-second rundown of next week’s episodes of EastEnders below.
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