Ian Beale’s prodigal son Peter Beale returned to Walford in February 2020, five years after leaving for New Zealand and with a different face as newcomer Dayle Hudson took over from Ben Hardy, becoming the seventh actor to play the role.
Clashing with little brother Bobby Beale over his murder of sister Lucy, a one-night stand with old flame Lola Pearce and a burgeoning romance with bad girl Dotty Cotton have all kept the character busy – and there’s more to come.
Hudson tells RadioTimes.com about joining EastEnders, and who he’d like his character to clash with:
Were you an EastEnders fan before you joined?
Yes, I used to watch it with my family when I was growing up. One of the major storylines I remember was the Stacey and Max affair, and one of my first scenes was with Jake Wood. I remember thinking when I was young what an incredible actor he was, and still is. There was a nervousness about working with him it was surreal.
Was it difficult taking over from a role played by other actors?
I felt lucky I had them to research character traits he had in the past. Peter has been in New Zealand for five years and changed a lot which gave me a lot of freedom so I could experiment with Peter myself, which was the best of both worlds. The old Peters are there to draw on but I also had a blank canvas to make the character my own.
Have you spoken to any of the previous Peters?
I have been in touch with Thomas Law (who played him between 2006-2010), he emailed me which was really nice that he took the time to do that. I’d love to speak to Ben Hardy (2013-2015) just in terms of acting, obviously about Peter and the decisions he had to make, but he’s in Hollywood now!
What’s the biggest change to Peter’s personality since he’s been away?
He’s definitely lost his naivety. Being out of the bubble of his family and home town has taught him about real life the hard way. Peter is very much a realist now and lost his optimism because of what’s happened in the past. He’s had time to get over it but hasn’t really managed to. I think he’s lost faith in humanity to a massive extent.
How did you feel on your first day?
It was incredible. My first scene was with Adam Woodyatt (Ian) and Gillian Taylforth (Kathy) in the hospital after the boat crash. They were all laughing with the director and as soon as he said action, they just turned it on. I realised how experienced these guys are, they have such a process where they can really bring it. I knew that had to be my process, to be that good and that disciplined. I learned a lot on that first day!
Which actors or characters would you like to work with more?
Danny Dyer (Mick Carter) and Steve McFadden (Phil Mitchell) are actors I really look up to. Just being on set with them, I could learn a lot. I’ve like to have more stuff with Linda Henry (Shirley), she’s just great and I think Peter would be a bit terrified of Shirley which would be good to play! And Gillian Wright (Jean Slater) whom in my eyes, is one of the most talented people on the planet. She is an absolute superstar.
Who have you enjoyed having scenes with so far?
Adam has been my mentor, without a doubt. When I first got cast he gave me a tour and introduced me to everyone which was amazing, it helped get rid of the nervous energy I had and the sense of being overwhelmed. I was in awe of everybody! But straight away they were all absolutely gorgeous and really helpful. And working with established actors like Gillian, Letitia Dean (Sharon Watts), they are really playful in scenes. And Milly Zero (Dotty Cotton) is incredible. She’s got this amazing young energy, we have so much fun.
What were you doing before EastEnders?
This is my first actual role since drama school, so I felt on top of the world when I got the part! It’s probably the best piece of news you could ask for, to get a big role on such an institution of British TV and drama. I had about five weeks before I started filming hence a lot of nervous energy floating about. I couldn’t wait to start and once I did it was incredible.