The BBC soap is working with Prostate Cancer UK and Macmillan Cancer Support on Alfie's story, and the star explains that he hopes that it will raise much-needed awareness and offer encouragement for men to get checked.
Meanwhile, Alfie is still nursing a broken heart as his ex-wife and soulmate, Kat Slater (Jessie Wallace), is due to marry Phil Mitchell (Steve McFadden).
Despite their ongoing rivalry, Phil has been on hand to support Alfie through his health scare in recent weeks. But it's only after Alfie confronts Phil, upon learning a big secret that could tear Phil and Kat apart, that Alfie delivers his own bombshell.
Ahead of the emotional scenes, Richie discusses Alfie's state of mind since his cancer diagnosis, teases an explosive showdown with Phil and tells us that his alter ego is "broken" over losing Kat.
While we will never lose hope that Kat and Alfie will find their way back to each other one day, the question is: will he spill the beans to Kat when it comes to Phil's actions?
The actor also speaks about Alfie's touching friendship with Linda Carter (Kellie Bright), as Linda pledges her support through his illness.
Read the full interview below as Richie chats to RadioTimes.com and other press.
In recent weeks, we’ve seen Alfie struggle to come to terms with the prospect that he may have prostate cancer, and this week Alfie’s diagnosis is sadly confirmed when he opens up to Phil. Can you explain how Alfie is feeling in light of his diagnosis?
I think this is a point where Alfie hits rock bottom. He was just settling back into the Square, he’s got a great job at the bookies, he’s got a roof over his head and he’s got a relationship with Kat and the kids and this big bombshell has just blown his world apart.
What’s a big shock is how he confides in his arch enemy, how he finds solace being with Phil Michell, as they’ve had 21 years of not much love lost between them.
Alfie’s not quite sure why and how Phil has become his shoulder to cry on, but there’s a sense with Phil that he’s doing it for his own purposes, and people are wondering whether it’s to keep Kat away from Alfie because he thinks there might still be something there - or is it to just appease Kat?
Some of those scenes must have been incredibly hard to film. How has working with the charities helped inform how you portray these?
The luxury of doing a show like EastEnders is the level of research. The team work so hard to make sure what we’re putting on screen is as accurate as possible, and it’s great to have access to amazing charities like Macmillan Cancer Support and Prostate Cancer UK, who EastEnders put me in contact with, as it’s been so helpful to be able to talk with survivors and people that have gone through this.
Since the story has gone out, I have been inundated with people private messaging me on social media - and even last weekend, I was at a festival and a woman backstage pulled me to one side and said, 'Thank you so much, and I want you to thank everybody at EastEnders for finally shining a light on this.'
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If Alfie’s story can make one mum, one daughter, or one sister say to their family. 'You know what? You’re at an age now, why don’t you just go and get checked?' and if it just saves one life then look what we’ve done.
It’s gathering momentum. I do get stopped in the street and people come up and just tell me their stories. A lot of them are of a similar age to me. There are guys in their 20s who watched Alfie, who are now in their 40s and even older that have gone, 'You know what? If that guy Alfie can go and get a checked, then why shouldn’t I?'
Kat and Alfie are one of Walford’s greatest love stories. How does Alfie feel at the prospect of Kat getting wed to Phil?
Alfie never, ever thought this would happen. He’s broken, and I think the fans of Kat and Alfie are going, 'No, this can’t possibly happen, Alfie has got to stop it or somehow put the block on it.'
We know Alfie learns a horrifying truth from a drunk Keanu. Can you explain this in more detail and how it makes him feel?
When Alfie finds out, purely by accident through Keanu being drunk, he takes it on board. I don’t think it’s until the next morning when he confronts Keanu on what he meant that it all makes sense, and Alfie just loses it - because it’s the day of the wedding and it horrifies him.
That plays on Alfie now, knowing this truth, and he hopes that ultimately one day that Kat will know and find out - but now Alfie always has this over Phil, so I will be interested to see how it plays out.
Given their long history together, do you think Alfie feels entitled to tell Kat the truth, even though he knows it will break her heart?
I think Alfie, certainly with what he’s going through at the moment, doesn’t want all-out war, because there’s children involved. It’s not just war between Kat, Alfie and Phil - you’ve got to think of Tommy and the twins, and what the fallout and the aftermath will do to them.
Without giving too much away, Alfie can’t hold it all in, and he tries to look elsewhere for advice on what to do.
It’s not long before Alfie arrives at Peggy’s and punches Phil for his actions. Has this scrap been a long time coming for the pair?
I don’t think Alfie is going in there necessarily to try and whack him one. He goes in there to ask, 'Why? Why are you doing this and how did it happen? You need to tell Kat!' I think it’s just all the angst inside Alfie that’s been building up and building up in the last few months, and he just explodes - and the one closest to him who’s going to cop it is Phil Mitchell.
Finally, we know Alfie heads to the hospital for his prostatectomy at the end of the week. Is he relieved to have Linda join him? Can you explain their friendship in more detail?
I think, for Alfie, it’s almost like a sense of relief, because Alfie trusts Linda implicitly. The fact Linda knows and is there for Alfie is a great relief, and he just cries on her shoulder. I think there’s a lot of love out there for Alfie and Linda.
EastEnders will air these scenes from Monday 18th September on BBC One and BBC iPlayer.
For those affected by the storyline and looking for someone to talk to, details of help and support are available at bbc.co.uk/actionline, or you can all for free, at any time to hear recorded information on 08000 560 190
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