The Queen Vic reopens on Monday 7th September when EastEnders returns to BBC One after three months off air.
The soap was forced into a transmission break after the UK lockdown paused production, but since the end of June cast and crew have been back on the Elstree set adapting to reworked ways of filming within strict safety guidelines – although original cast member Letitia Dean admits she’s struggled with one particular aspect of the new normal:
“I just wish I could give everyone a hug!” she confesses. “I truly missed everyone during the shutdown and it was so nice to see them all again. I didn’t realise how much I missed working until we were all back there together, it was wonderful.”
Social distancing has provided all the soap’s with obstacles to tackle in order to keep the drama continuing drama in the age of coronavirus, and Dean acknowledges it’s been no different for the EastEnders team.
“I was quite nervous at first at filming with the new restrictions,” admits the actress. “It’s been challenging but the team have done an amazing job and made it as easy as possible, while also making it incredibly safe.
“It’s obviously very different now, how we film with social distancing measures in place, but we’re going to great lengths to ensure it’s still the EastEnders everyone knows and loves.”
Dean’s alter ego Sharon Watts will be welcoming punters, and viewers, back to Walford as she is back behind the bar of the iconic pub, having been unveiled in the final cliffhanger as the surprise new owner – beating ex-husband Phil Mitchell into buying it from Mick and Linda Carter.
“What an ending that was!” she reflects. “When we filmed that scene we obviously didn’t know we’d be coming off the air so it was a very fitting cliffhanger! The Queen Vic means so much to Sharon, she grew up there. And after the year she had losing Denny and everything that happened with the baby, this was exactly what she needed.
“Even though not all the memories are positive at the Vic it’s where she belongs. Now more than ever she needs to be at home. And of course she got one over on Phil too!”
The soap promises a punchy first week back in business as Dotty Cotton finally tells Sharon the awful truth that Ian Beale was partly responsible for Denny’s tragic death, but as time jumps forward over the summer fans will be listening out for details on how the locals spent all those months in lockdown. So what was Sharon up to as she and Ian hunkered down with baby Kayden in the Vic?
“While they had to close the pub as soon as they bought it, it was probably a good moment for Sharon to have a breather, some time to herself to bond with her son and take a step back from all the drama.
“So she’s been trying to make the best of everything, and has been Zooming a lot with Linda and Denise. She’s enjoying being in her little bubble but I’m sure drama is just around the corner!”