Actor Neil McDermott has discussed his return to EastEnders as Ryan Malloy for the first time.


Ryan was a major character on the BBC One soap from 2009 until his exit in 2011 but returned for guest appearances since.

The character was last seen on-screen in 2016 when he moved away to Wakefield with his prison officer girlfriend Helen who he later married off-screen.

Next week in the BBC One soap, Ryan makes his explosive return to Albert Square following news of his 12-year-old daughter Lily Slater (Lillia Turner) being revealed to be pregnant.

"I got a call to ask if I would be willing to come back and when I heard the story, I was really excited about what was going to happen and the role Ryan would play," revealed McDermott. "I was really pleased the stars could align and I had the time to return. It’s always good to revisit the character too because you’re always wondering where he is and what he’s up to. I also think it’s good for the viewers to see the characters from the past re-enter the lives of Lily, Stacey and Whitney."

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Of course, it has been years since we last saw Ryan on-screen, but has he changed much?

"Obviously he’s a bit older now and he’s got a few more grey hairs, but apart from that I just revisit the same sort of thinking as I did when I was here before," noted McDermott.

Ryan is reunited with Stacey and Lily despite not having a particularly close relationship with either of them in recent years.

"Who knows what the future holds for Ryan, and for Stacey too," teased McDermott. "We’ll have to see if there’s ever a prolonged period where they can be on the Square at the same time and to try and make that work. As I understand it, Ryan does want to be a good dad to Lily and he feels like Stacey has asked him to stay away and that’s why he’s not there at the moment. He’s respected her decision but with the news of Lily’s pregnancy, he feels he needs to come back and try to see how he can be part of her life more."

The actor added: "He’s coming into the Square with trepidation because he’s just found out from Whitney that his daughter is pregnant at the age of 12. I think he’s in a state of shock and he’s wondering what to do. We learn from the episodes that he and Helen have probably had a lot of conversations about the best way Ryan can behave when he’s back in Walford and to get what he feels is right for Lily. I also think he’s treading on eggshells a bit, trying not to frighten anyone off too quickly."

Lacey Turner as Stacey Slater and Neil McDermott as Ryan Malloy in EastEnders.
Lacey Turner as Stacey Slater and Neil McDermott as Ryan Malloy in EastEnders. BBC/Jack Barnes/Kieron McCarron

However, does Ryan have a plan for what he wants out of his comeback in Walford? Well, it seems so...

"Ryan comes back with a bit of an agenda of his own," confirmed McDermott. "He’s of course not been around for a while, so whatever he thinks should be the right thing, isn’t going to be taken too well by Stacey and other members of the Square – he hasn’t been around, so why should he have a right to say anything at all, which I understand.

"In Ryan’s mind though, something massive has happened here and he tries to be of some help. We learn that he’s doing alright for himself and has money that could help the situation. He’s carefully trying to tread his way through to become a bigger part of Lily’s life, but it's whether or not Stacey, Lily and the family want him around."

Of course, Lily is not the only character dealing with a troubled pregnancy, with Ryan's sister Whitney soon to be diagnosed with Edward's syndrome.

"When he first arrives to the Square, he obviously knows Whitney is pregnant but he doesn’t know the full situation, but soon learns that during the episode," revealed the actor behind Ryan. "Ryan has always tried to be there for her - obviously when I was here but even in episodes towards the end of my time at EastEnders were about Ryan comforting Whitney and assuring her he’s only a phone call away.

"They have a really good sibling relationship, although he messes it up sometimes and she does too, there’s a lot of love between them but there’s some things that get in the way sometimes."

Neil McDermott as Ryan Malloy and Scott Maslen as Jack Branning in EastEnders.
Neil McDermott as Ryan Malloy and Scott Maslen as Jack Branning in EastEnders. BBC/Jack Barnes/Kieron McCarron

McDermott revealed that he tries to keep an eye on storylines in EastEnders related to his character's family and will be looking to see how Whitney's storyline turns out.

"She’s got a lot to deal with over the next few months and Shona is a fantastic actress, so I think she’ll play that with a lot of sensitivity," he commented.

The actor confirmed that viewers' first look at Ryan's return will be the character on his own - which was McDermott's first day of shooting.

"It was so lovely to see members of the crew that were here before," the actor revealed. "I was in and out on my first day – when I shot that first scene. The next day, I came back and shot some more scenes with Shona and Lacey."

On reuniting with former on-screen love Lacey Turner, McDermott revealed it was: "Lovely! We’re good pals from when we worked closely together before, likewise with Shona. It’s really nice to come back and work with the guys again and see what they’re up to in their lives and catch up. We very quickly tried to get back into the rhythms of our characters; the way they would talk to each other and how they feel about each other. It was really nice to revisit."

Additionally, the return meant it was the first time that McDermott got to act with Lilia Turner in the role of Ryan's daughter Lily.

The actor said of Lillia: "She’s got a big storyline right now, I think it’s her first major storyline and she was great. She’s 13 years old and working with someone she doesn’t know, who’s playing her dad, but we hit up a rapport quite quickly. I hope she had a good time working with me, I enjoyed working with her and I thought she did an amazing job."

Finally, while McDermott's comeback as Ryan is only for a short stint, will this be the last that we see of the character?

McDermott commented: "I’ve popped back to do various bits – Whitney’s wedding and I think I’ve been back before but ended up in prison (laughs). But it’s always really lovely, it feels like a home from home a little bit and I feel very comfortable working here. It’s a lovely phone call to receive, especially when I’ve got the time and can make it work."

EastEnders airs Mondays to Thursdays on BBC One at 7.30pm and on BBC iPlayer from 6am.

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