airs Matt Di Angelo's biggest ever storyline as Dean Wicks next week, as the troubled character rapes his sister-in-law Linda Carter.
Appearing at an EastEnders
press event this week, Di Angelo spoke candidly about his initial doubts over the storyline, why he eventually agreed to the plot, and the impact he wants the upcoming scenes to have. Read on to find out what he had to say.
Can you tell us about your initial reaction when EastEnders boss Dominic Treadwell-Collins told you about this storyline?
Matt Di Angelo as Dean Wicks
"When I initially had the meeting to come back, I'd just wrapped on another job and it wasn't in my head to go back to EastEnders
. I sat with Dom and the only reason I came back is because Dom was genuinely in love with the show. He was gushing about it - I don't know anyone that loves the show more than Dom.
"Dom was also the same way when he told me about this storyline. He had a genuine love for the story, for the show and it's kind of infectious. My initial response was kind of, 'No, that's mental. I don't want to do that, that's really intimidating'. I was intimidated, but we sat down and we did have a long discussion."What made you agree to it in the end?
is an institution - it's been going for longer than I've been alive and it gets an average of what, six million viewers? That's incredible, and with that great kind of power is a genuine responsibility to address these situations and problems that women go through a lot.
"That was what pushed me - that I'd have that responsibility under Dom's reign to address that situation. I'm honoured to take part in it."Did your nerves come partly due to the possible reaction from the fans? Did you worry that people might think of you in a different way after this?
wasn't my first job but I was 18 when I first started. The thing with soap is because the scripts come so thick and fast, a lot of your acting is instinctual. I don't think I could do this part playing a Glaswegian with a limp! It would be too difficult - there's too many scenes.
"Working on EastEnders
is instinctual and your face is in everyone's living room. In the last job I did, I had a goatee and I was in the 1400s playing a bishop that was a serial killer on the back of a horse. I can't relate to that too much, but with this, Dean is so close to me and you want to nurture your character. You do have a genuine fondness and a love for your character because you're there so many hours playing him.
"When this got thrown at me, it was almost like it was thrown at me - at Matt - but it wasn't, it's the character. As an actor, you want to play a challenging part. You want to be challenged and that's what Dom promised me when he said, 'Come back and I promise you I will challenge you'. And he really has."
Was there anything else that changed your mind?
Linda and Dean before the rape next week
"Dom said something about A-storylines and B-storylines that really stuck out to me. He said, 'Listen, you can take your pay cheque, you can do B-storylines, you can sit in The Vic, have a load of girlfriends, a few funny jokes and go. Or you can do A storylines and you can push yourself and you can be better at your job from it'. I feel like I genuinely am.
"After watching the episode and seeing the writing and direction, it just makes me really proud to be part of the show. Not just because I was in it, but because it's a good episode. It really felt like it was a really strong episode in the story and I just really enjoyed being part of it."What had your biggest fear been beforehand?
"So many people watch the show and you're in so many people's houses every night. It's a show that's on so much, four times a week. Like I said before, in my last part I had a fringe and a goatee and people won't associate me with that, but this show is so popular. But if I have to get abuse on Twitter and a punch in the mouth, I'm fine with that as long as one person speaks up. All jokes aside, that's fine."Can you tell us about the aftermath of the rape from Dean's perspective? Does he start to face up to what he's done?
"We had lots of talks with Rape Crisis and I worked heavily with the London Probation Centre, whose job it is to speak to these guys and help them realise what they've done. The strangest thing was that so many of them when accused or arrested, their reaction was genuine shock. That was the category we chose with Dean - genuine shock.
"There's a scene the next day where Dean speaks to Linda in a very normal way and asks if she wants to meet up again. In his head, it's so hard for him to think he's done anything wrong. When the rape happens, Linda's physical reaction is that her body doesn't scream: 'No, stop!' Dean reads it as him being a little bit forceful, but he thinks it happens and it's okay.
"So he doesn't address it, he carries on and he gets a new girlfriend afterwards. I think Dean is just so jealous of Mick and what Mick has - his whole family. He just wants to be Mick, I think.
"Before the rape, Linda is comforting Dean over something and she says, 'You're just like Lee, you bottle everything up. I'll make you a hot chocolate, it's Johnny's favourite drink'. He's just like, 'I'm not one of your kids, stop looking at me so maternal'. He just snatches it out of her. When Dean walks out the room, he's just thinking, 'You'll never look at me like one of your sons again'. It's just horrible."
What kind of impact do you want the storyline to have?
Dean thanks a horrified Linda for being there
"It does almost sound cliché and obvious, but even if there are 100,000 complaints, I couldn't care less if one person watches this and says, 'Do you know what? I saw how that played out and I should say something'. Hopefully the reaction is not just from the women but from the guys. There are guys out there who are young and can get women, but they are overly forceful with it. It's happening so, so much.
"There's a really messed-up grey area of consent and not consent and drunk girls and things like that. For me, this was the part that we were playing out that was different to your everyday rape stories that you see on TV. We're playing a really grey area and people aren't going to like it.
"I think some people are going to want the obvious stuff and they're going to want Dean to go to prison straight away and want him to get punished, and he might not necessarily. That's not life. So if it changes a woman's point of view and she speaks out, and if it puts the seed in some guy's head of 'I shouldn't be doing this', then job done." Are you looking forward to filming some dramatic scenes with Danny Dyer once the truth comes out?
"I think Danny is! (Laughs.) Of course I am. It's very complicated, though - it's not simple and it's not just black and white. There are many other things that are running through those episodes, so I can't say everything - I don't know everything - but they are so complicated. From an outsider, I will be watching and rooting for it to happen. And come on, it makes good TV. It's good - he does find out." Do you feel that Dean needs a comeuppance?
"Yeah. When I watch a film, the good guy has to win, right? It's just the way it goes. From a legal and judicial point of view, it's not carried through so much, so at least if it's in some other shape or form, Dean needs something. He can't do this and get away scot-free, of course not. So there does need to be something."Additional reporting by Peter Exley.Read more EastEnders spoilers and newsEastEnders begins this storyline on Monday, October 6 at 8pm on BBC One.