EastEnders boss Chris Clenshaw promises Cindy Beale resurrection "answers"
Executive producer Chris Clenshaw has explained why the soap brought back Michelle Collins as Cindy Beale.
Cindy Beale's dramatic return to EastEnders has posed more questions than answers.
The iconic villainess and first wife of Walford legend Ian Beale (Adam Woodyatt) made her sensational comeback tonight where it was revealed that she had not died in prison in 1998 and had also led a new life as Rose Knight, the wife of the new Queen Vic landlord George Knight (Colin Salmon) and the mother of his daughters Gina (Francesca Henry) and Anna (Molly Rainford).
As George learned that Rose was not who she said she was, the soap cut to actress Michelle Collins back as Cindy Beale sitting by a glamorous poolside in an unknown location where she declined to answer a phone call from George – the husband that feared she was dead.
However, we do know more is to come from Cindy and returning alongside her will be none other than Ian Beale himself, played once again by Adam Woodyatt, who was last seen in the soap for a shock cameo at Dot Branning's funeral in December last year.
Speaking to RadioTimes.com and other press at an event this week, executive producer Chris Clenshaw lifted the lid further on Cindy's return.
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Clenshaw commented: "Cindy may have been declared dead on-screen over 25 years ago, but this iconic villainess has always remained very much alive in the memory of both the residents of Walford and our audience, and as we all know too well in Soapland – we never saw the body and you know what that means.
"Of course, we couldn't bring Cindy back [from the dead] without Walford stalwart Ian, who was last seen fleeing the Square after his former best friend and then-wife Sharon Watts attempted to kill him with a poisoned carbonara – not the first Mrs Beale to try and send Ian to meet his maker – but he's a survivor and we're absolutely delighted to have Adam back with us."
The executive producer also discussed the enduring appeal of the two characters and recalled some of their greatest plots.
"There's good reason why Cindy and Ian remain two of Soapland’s most iconic characters – they've been involved in some of the show's most memorable storylines," Clenshaw recalled.
"During her drama queen reign, Cindy had a scandalous affair with Wicksy, hired a hitman to kill Ian, and conspired with lover David Wicks to smuggle the Beale kids abroad.
"Of course, the drama didn't stop for Ian once Cindy departed thanks to stories including his bitter feud with Phil Mitchell, his numerous, numerous wives, the continuous drama with his kids and, of course, being at the heart of the gripping ‘Who killed Lucy Beale?’ plot. And as you know, those are just a few of the highlights that the Beales delivered."
Cindy supposedly dying during childbirth in prison in 1998 did present challenges for a return, naturally, but Clenshaw explained how this was approached.
Discussing the logistics of bringing back Cindy, Clenshaw added: "When we decided to bring Cindy back, it was imperative that we stuck to the facts that had played out on-screen beforehand to ensure that the storyline was credible.
"So yeah, back in 1998, viewers were led to believe that Cindy had died off-screen whilst giving birth to her namesake daughter, who was then left in the custody of her sister Gina. But crucially, neither we nor Ian ever saw the body."
As Woodyatt – who was also present – gave a mocking sceptical look, Clenshaw laughed: "That's true. Give me that."
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On the decision to bring back Cindy, Clenshaw revealed: "I don't know if it was always part of my master plan, it was always going around in the back of my mind, it was always there.
"It wasn't until one of our writers had pitched a kind of different story – but it was the return of Cindy – and everyone gasped and was behind that idea, which made me go, 'Well, maybe there is something in this.' I think these things can take a while to get from idea to screen and everything's got to align."
On making her return credible, Clenshaw said: “Yeah, [it] took quite a while I suppose. We started talking about it well over a year ago, a few of us in the team.
"The first thing was we started to look at the story and, obviously, make sure it was credible in terms of, 'She's dead, how could that have worked?' But, you know, as I said earlier, we didn't see a body. So it was making sure that that worked."
Clenshaw also noted that they had to align the availability and agreement of returns from both Adam Woodyatt and Michelle Collins.
The producer said of Ian's return: “Adam’s been away from the show for a little while now and I think, personally, that EastEnders without Ian... something feels missing."
Finally, teasing what viewers can expect from Thursday’s extended episode, Clenshaw added: "This special episode is just the beginning of some sensational new stories for the Beales, who will return to the Square full-time later in the year.
"I'm sure you'll have many questions about the circumstances relating to Cindy's death, reappearance, and reunion with her ex-husband Ian. Many of these questions are about to be answered."
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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. If you’re looking for more to watch, check out our TV Guide and Streaming Guide.
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