EastEnders’ Kellie Bright on Linda’s Vic battle and a new Christmas flash forward clue
The star tells Johnathon Hughes about the dramatic future ahead as she notches up a decade in Walford.
For almost a decade, Mick and Linda Carter ran the Queen Vic and reigned over Albert Square as modern-day soap royalty. Following Danny Dyer’s decision to move on last year, the Queen is now without her King and with Mick missing, presumed dead, Linda was starting to look a little lonely behind the bar.
EastEnders is about to turn the grieving landlady’s world upside down with the arrival of some fresh faces that herald a noisy new era for the iconic boozer, and the start of what Kellie Bright describes as ‘the next chapter’ for Linda, as they both get to grips with life after Mick…
“I’m not great with change!” laughs Bright, speaking exclusively to RadioTimes.com. “It was a big shift saying goodbye to Danny and carrying on here as I knew it would be different. He’d been by my side since day one. In order for my character to have longevity in the show, you need to breathe new life into her. Watching Linda stagnate in the pub on her own wouldn’t be good telly, would it? So I was pleased they wanted to invest in her and bring in a new family, it felt positive. And I’ve been blessed with the people I’m working with.”
Linda’s vivacious mum Elaine Peacock rocked up a few weeks back in a dramatic, and gloriously camp, reveal as her daughter’s new business partner. Originally played by West End star Maria Friedman as a recurring guest over the years, Harriet Thorpe has taken over now Elaine is a permanent fixture. “Harriet has swept in with her own stamp all over the role,” grins Bright. “She is a phenomenal actress and brings something completely different and I’m loving it!”
The same can’t be said of her alter ego’s attitude towards her mum when her true agenda for buying into the Vic is revealed. Elaine’s new fancy man, George Knight (played by Colin Salmon) arrives, suitcases and two grown-up daughters in tow – Anna (played by Molly Rainford) and Gina (Francesca Henry). Linda is aghast when George announces they’re all moving in to help run the pub – which has been his and Elaine’s plan all along!
“I don’t always agree with how Linda reacts to things, but I think she’s within her rights to be absolutely furious about this! Elaine never mentioned she had a boyfriend, and claimed she hadn’t been to comfort Linda when she lost Mick as she couldn’t face it, when actually she was with some bloke in Spain!
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“Linda is up in arms, the home she shared with Mick is being taken over by this new family, with all their noise and chaos, and she doesn’t like it one bit. But Linda is trapped as Elaine has already invested in the business, so she’s stuck with them.”
The Knights’ big entrance bears shades of Bright’s arrival in 2013, as she was part of a similarly boisterous clan who hit the ground running and attracted immediate attention and scrutiny from the viewers – she knows only too well how the actors must be feeling under the intense soap spotlight.
“I’m the last Carter standing” she reflects. “To be surrounded by a new group of people in the space I occupied with others for a long time feels very different, but not in a bad way. That’s why I call it the next chapter as it feels like being in a book: up to now my stories have all been about the Carters, so either that was the prologue and we’re getting into the main event, or that was the main event and this is the epilogue! It depends how you look at it.”
In December, Bright will have notched up an impressive 10 years on EastEnders but shows no signs of boredom, and confesses the current evolution of her character makes it feel like a fresh experience all over again.
“It’s nice having new people in as it brings a different dynamic, and recharges my own batteries a bit. I never thought I’d be here this long, perhaps three or four years at the most – then here we are! I’ve had two children and got married since starting EastEnders (Bright has three sons, Freddie, Gene and Rudy, with actor husband Paul Stocker), there’s been a lot of life events but it feels like that time has gone in the blink of an eye.”
A consistent presence on our screens since she was a child (she rose to fame in 1990s sitcom The Upper Hand), Bright’s connection to Walford goes right back to the beginning – one of her first TV appearances was in EastEnders as a flower girl at Michelle and Lofty’s doomed wedding back in 1986.
Her career has certainly been eclectic: it’s hard to imagine anyone else going from The Archers (she was Kate Aldridge from 1995-2004) to being Ali G’s girlfriend (memorably as ‘me Julie’ in the 2002 film Ali G Indahouse) and Del Boy Trotter’s mum (in Only Fools and Horses 2010 prequel Rock and Chips).
A veteran with an impressive work ethic and pragmatic perspective on the industry, Bright remains passionate about the part she has played the longest and admits she is happy to stick around, despite partner-in-crime Dyer’s departure.
“I’ve stayed simply because I still really like it. If I woke up one day and thought, for whatever reason, I don’t want to be here anymore then I would go, but I’ve never felt like that. It’s still a challenge, they’ve given me great stories I’ve been able to get my teeth into that have stretched me, I get to do the job I always dreamed of every day, why would I walk away?
“I’ve been a jobbing actor since I was a kid, I know how hard it is out there. I also know I won’t be here forever and if I ask myself ‘Is this the last job I’ll ever do?’, the answer to that is ’No’, but right now it’s wonderful. I’m very lucky and don’t plan on going anywhere anytime soon.”
Which is just as well, as we have the Christmas flash forward to resolve. An intriguing mystery, it was set up by the soap in February with a glimpse of a grim scene 10 months in the future designed to hook fans in for the whole of 2023 and keep them guessing how we get there.
Linda, along with Stacey Slater, Sharon Watts (in a wedding dress, make of that what you will), Denise Fox, Suki Panesar and Kathy Beale (dubbed ‘The Six’) were seen standing over a corpse on Christmas Day in the Vic. Who is the dead body? Which of the gang have done him in? Where did he get those cufflinks? And how is Linda involved?
“I honestly don’t know!” laughs Bright. “I’m trying to ply people for information but getting nothing back. It’s purely on a need-to-know basis right now. Curious Kellie would love to know the whole story, but at the same time I don’t want the weight of the secret as I’d have to start lying to people. At some point in the year there’s going to be a character Linda potentially could kill, but who is it? We haven’t even had a sniff of that yet.
“I can’t see Linda pre-planning a cold-blooded murder, I don’t think they’d do that. In my mind she would only kill as a defensive act, either protecting her children or herself. Personally, I think all six of us are culpable, we’re all in the frame somehow. And I don’t think the corpse is Nish Panesar, that’s too obvious!”
Another theory on the deceased’s identity is that it’s Dean Wicks, Linda’s rapist and brother-in-law, who was tellingly mentioned just before viewers were thrust into the future in the festive flash forward scene. Bright agrees there is unfinished business there. “I’d be totally up for him coming back as it creates drama and story. Linda has processed the rape and managed to get on with her life pretty well, it has come out in other ways like her alcoholism. But she’s okay because Dean’s not there, if he suddenly walked through the door it would be very confronting. I wonder what that would do to her.”
The gleeful perpetuation of speculation will continue in the coming months, and Bright advises the audience to stay alert as she lets slip another piece of the puzzle is about to present itself…
“It has been quiet on the flash forward front lately, but it will ramp up come September time going into the autumn. That’s when you’ll see all that stuff come to the fore again, then we’ll have a big build-up to Christmas.
“But there are little things happening, we’re working on episodes for July now and I know there’s something being filmed at the moment that involves a little clue… I don’t necessarily know what it means, but it’s definitely got something to do with it!” The plot thickens…
- EastEnders cast: Who is joining, leaving and returning to the soap?
- EastEnders boss wants to keep Linda Carter as "heart of the Square"
- EastEnders' Colin Salmon on personal reason he took George Knight role
- EastEnders' Kellie Bright fears "everlasting" Linda and Sharon feud
- EastEnders star Kellie Bright: "The show needed a Harriet Thorpe"
- EastEnders boss Chris Clenshaw explains the “Knight in Shining Armour”
- Sam Mitchell to return to EastEnders ‘before the autumn’ after surprise exit
- EastEnders' Danielle Harold pays tribute to Lola's story
EastEnders airs Mondays to Thursdays at 7:30pm on BBC One and from 6am on BBC iPlayer. Visit our dedicated EastEnders page for all the latest news, interviews and spoilers.