EastEnders’ Lacey Turner reveals new Christmas murder mystery theory
The soap star talks exclusively to Johnathon Hughes about the explosive autumn ahead, and an upcoming important milestone…
After almost two decades as Albert Square drama magnet Stacey Slater, actress Lacey Turner is used to digesting big bombshells when she picks up her latest script.
There’s been a fair few of those in recent months, but which was harder to swallow: her character’s sinister stalker turning out to be a mild-mannered geography teacher, or the fact she’d be playing a grandmother at the tender age of 35?
“I was a bit shocked by that at first!” laughs Turner, speaking exclusively to RadioTimes.com. “Our producers told me about a year before the story started, which was lovely of them.
"For Stacey’s daughter Lily to be pregnant at 12 was shocking but the truth is, it happens. I got lovely feedback from viewers, one lady said she was in a maternity ward opposite an 11 year-old girl who’d just given birth. It’s always nice to play something based in reality, albeit a scary reality.”
Lily’s journey to becoming a young mum has seen Stacey step up to support her overwhelmed offspring, and cemented her status as a modern-day EastEnders matriarch. How does Turner rate her alter ego’s efforts as a grandparent thus far - bossy or just organised?
“She has a tendency to take over, but she means well. Stacey is a busy woman and wants to make sure everything gets done. Do you know what would be lovely? If she just sat down for a minute to watch some telly and stopped talking!”
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Turner joined the soap in 2004 when she was just 16, just weeks after completing her GCSEs, and was instantly catapulted to stardom, winning countless awards, critical acclaim and earning a devoted fan following. She knows a thing or two about being thrown into the relentless pace of a continuing drama, and is full of praise for how young co-star Lillia Turner (who plays Lily) has coped with such an intense plot.
“Lillia has this natural ability which you’re either born with or you’re not,” she beams, clearly proud of her fictional daughter, who won Best Young Performer at this year’s British Soap Awards. “Her instincts are bang-on and she’s amazing to watch. She is an old head on young shoulders and doesn’t need much guidance. I have one eye on her all the time, and we all look out for each other. It’s brilliant casting because she looks like me when I was younger. Everyone thinks we’re related in real life, also because of the surname, but we’re not!”
While her petrified daughter was in labour upstairs at the Slater house, Stacey was being terrorised in the kitchen by crazed stalker, Theo. The unassuming tutor had developed a dangerous obsession with Stace on her anonymous SecretCam account (EastEnders’ version of the OnlyFans platform).
The resourceful single mum was uploading privately risqué content to paying subscribers in order to make ends meet, and got spooked when one of her online followers started making obscene demands and threatened to hurt her and her family if she didn’t comply.
When she found out the kinky keyboard warrior’s identity, brave Stacey dispatched Theo and his creepy campaign has now been exposed, but frustratingly, it continues, as there’s not enough evidence to prove what he did, so he’s free to walk the streets - and move next door to the object of his twisted desire.
“The storyline has been interesting and difficult to play, but you use those complications and your imagination. Stacey was absolutely terrified when Theo admitted everything, but no matter how scared she was, she still stood in the front line with her family behind her trying to protect them. That is her natural instinct.
"William Ellis, who plays Theo, is so fantastic at being intimidating and a little bit creepy. At first he thought Theo was misunderstood, but the more the story went on he realised he was just a creep!”
As viewers have seen, Theo is now hellbent on getting his own back for Stacey’s rejection and reporting him to the police, leading to him exposing her SecretCam sideline to the wider community in an attempt to humiliate her. However rattled she might be, the Stacey Slater we know won’t put up with this for long, and Turner teases we can expect a compelling climax to the stalker arc.
“There’s a turning point coming up where she finds fire in her belly to be angry and decides she is not going to be a victim,” teases Turner. “Stacey has no regrets about the camera work, she did what she had to do to keep her family afloat, but is absolutely raging with Theo at this point and in her mind she is going to take him down!
"So you think Theo is gone, then he appears again and we kind of replay a story we’ve already done which ends slightly differently, and with a few more people involved. Hopefully, this is the end of Theo Hawthorne!”
Which further fuels speculation that Theo could be the cufflink-wearing corpse glimpsed in February’s ominous flash forward to Christmas Day, in which Stacey and five fellow Walford women are standing over an identified dead body for reasons (as yet) unknown.
The nifty narrative device has kept fans guessing all year about how we get there, and with the festive season now fast approaching everyone is conducting their own investigation - including the cast, who are apparently still in the dark.
“As it stands today, I still don’t have a clue who that dead body is!” insists the star. “I kind of don’t want the responsibility of knowing, it’s a bit of a big one. Depending on how they decide to shoot it, I might not find out until I watch it myself on Christmas Day - they could film multiple endings and we’ll all have to tune in to see which one they use.”
The sextet of strong women, dubbed ‘The Six’, recently reignited interest in the mystery by attending the National Television Awards dressed in the individual colours assigned to them in the glossy promo campaign, which made for a memorable red carpet moment.
“I don’t know whose great idea that was, I was just told to wear something in my colour from the poster! I feel so lucky to be in such an amazing group of strong, talented women. We have a WhatsApp group that is very active. We mainly talk about shoes and outfits, but also theories - although whenever I come up with one I realise there’s something which means it doesn’t work!
“My feeling is none of the women did it. We might be keeping a secret or trying to help someone who had already done it - I don’t think one woman killed him, whoever he is. It was either a collective thing or they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Although how did Stacey get all that blood on her hands? Trying to stop a nosebleed?! EastEnders is a big machine and when people are excited about something big like this, that creates such a nice vibe. It’s lovely.”
It’s not the first time Stacey has been in the frame for taking a life, having been famously exposed as Archie Mitchell’s murderer in EastEnders’ iconic live episode for the 25th anniversary back in 2010.
“I only had to keep that secret for about half an hour, they told me as we were about to go live.” recalls Turner. “Had I been given a bit more notice I probably would’ve had a conversation about it! I struggled for years to come to terms with the fact Stacey actually killed someone. I’d rather she didn’t become some sort of serial killer!”
Talking of Stacey’s eventful past - incredibly, it’s almost 20 years since she first came to the Square as a gobby, troubled teen with a chip on her shoulder so big it could’ve been wrapped in newspaper and served up at Beale’s Plaice. Apart from a three-year break to pursue other roles, and two maternity leaves, Turner remains committed to the show and is clearly appreciative as ever as she considers her upcoming milestone.
“Life goes so fast here, I don’t feel old enough to have been doing it for 20 years. Never mind playing a grandma! I learnt from watching those incredible matriarchs like Barbara Windsor, Pam St Clement, June Brown and Wendy Richard. They had such professionalism and could tap into emotions so quickly in every scene day in, day out.
"I see Lillia watching and learning and I remember being petrified, but I think it’s good to be kept on your toes and not necessarily a bad thing to be a little bit intimidated and nervous when you start out. You can use that.”
While we’re walking down Walford’s memory lane, Turner has no hesitation when asked to name her favourite era of her ‘Enders tenure: “It will always be Max and Stacey’s affair. Everything was spot-on, it was brilliantly written and spread out across a whole year, working with a great cast who made it effortless to play. The Christmas reveal in 2007 was perfect, I’ll never forget that.”
As for the next 20 years, where does the actress see Stacey circa 2044? “I’ve always thought of her as your girl next door, so I want her to still be how she is now. I hope she’s not rich or anything, just a normal mum and a grandma. It would be nice if she had a little less drama in her life, but I can’t imagine that will happen.
“And I hope she’s still flipping bacon on the bap van because I love that! Maybe in 20 years ‘Stacey’s Baps’ would’ve expanded. I’d love to see it set up at music festivals - we should take it to Glastonbury!”
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