Returning EastEnders star Lin Blakley has spoken about working with new Ben Mitchell actor Max Bowden ahead of her brief return as kindly Pam Coker, which airs in the coming weeks.
Pam was a regular character between 2014 and 2016, and her late grandson Paul Coker was the love of Ben’s life – until he met Callum Highway (Tony Clay), of course – and formed a close bond with the troubled Mitchell lad, back when he was played by Harry Reid, as he grieved for his boyfriend who was murdered in a homophobic knife attack.
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The sweet-natured owner of Walford’s funeral parlour has popped back three times since she left, but her 2019 reappearance is the first time Blakley has acted alongside Max Bowden, who replaced Reid in April earlier this year. Was she apprehensive about creating the same chemistry with a different Ben?
“I hadn’t met Max before I came back for this stint, but I had seen him on screen,” Blakley tells RadioTimes.com, “I loved Harry but Max is a different Ben entirely – he’s harder.
“It was funny, and I’m not just saying this, but as soon as I met Max it was very natural. We said hello, then got on set and it was as if we’d done it before. Max is a lovely young actor – as was Harry – but is very different. He has a strength in him. But I immediately felt like I was his Nan!”
Pam’s return shakes Ben who starts to feel guilty at moving on from Paul with Callum, but Blakley insists her character encourages him to let go of the past – as that’s what her beloved grandson would’ve wanted.
“Ben struggles with Pam knowing how he feels about Callum, but Pam wants him to move on and is sure Paul would only want that too. You can’t pine for him. It doesn’t cross her mind Ben is being disloyal at all, lots of people lose loved ones and have people behind them telling them to move on.
“She’s not saying to forget him completely, but if something comes along and feels good then you should go along with it. There’s a big scene where she senses Ben’s guilt and they talk very deeply about it. Pam immediately has a good feeling about Callum, he’s got warm eyes and she thinks he’s going to be good for Ben. I hope it works out for them, but no one knows whether it will yet!”
Will Pam Coker and husband Les come back for good?
Bowden’s Ben is certainly a chip off the old block, turning the character into a darker, dodgier descendant of Phil, but Pam remains unaware of his criminal activities – so far. “She doesn’t know about any of that but if she did it would be quite fiery,” warns Blakley.
“Pam does tough love when she needs to. Ben hasn’t got anybody in is life to give him a hug and be given a talking to if he’s been naughty. Pam has to be that person, she really cares about him. But poor Ben hasn’t had much of a chance, has he?”
Blakley is delighted to be asked back again, and is refreshingly honest when asked if she would like to return full-time. “I would, yes! I love going through those gates at Elstree, it really is like going back to another family.
“This is the fourth time I’ve been back, being full-time again hasn’t been come up but whichever way it’s still nice to pop back now and again. Knowing there are EastEnders fans out there who wan to see Pam back is a nice feeling. I’m sure Roger Sloman, who played Pam’s husband Les, would love to as well. We meet up every few months for a coffee and a chat.”
The announcement that the couple were being written out was met with controversy back in 2016, but Blakley bears no bad feeling about the decision. “It was a shame because I think they were loved, but these things happen in soap land – and it’s nice there’s a door open there.”
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