Shirley (Linda Henry) has recently hit rock bottom after discovering the devastating truth about Heather's murder. As her life continues to spiral out of control in the coming days, Phil Mitchell makes contact with Carly in the hope that she can help.
When Shirley and Carly come face-to-face again, their relationship is initially as volatile as ever, but as the ice between them begins to melt, it's also clear how much they care about each other. Could this be the fresh start they needed?
Digital Spy recently caught up with Kellie Shirley, who plays Carly, for her first interview about her EastEnders return. Read on to find out what she had to say!
When were you first approached over your EastEnders return, and how did you feel about being asked back?
"It's always been spoken about, because when Matt Di Angelo and I left the show a few years back, the executive producer at the time said, 'Look, we really want you to be what's known as hidden treasure'. He said they always wanted to explore that avenue more in the future, because obviously Shirley is such a popular character and they wanted to have her kids around so we could see more stories for her.
"When the new executive producer Lorraine Newman officially took on the job, she got in touch and said, 'We'd really love you to come back'. They had this storyline in mind where Shirley would reconcile with Carly, so I was really pleased to be asked back."
How long were you back on set for?
"Even though Carly is only back for two episodes, it's quite a meaty storyline, so we had loads and loads of scenes to do. The Friday episode that I'm in is pretty much focused on Carly, Shirley, Phil and Denise, so it's pretty full-on!
"We filmed it over two weeks in July. I was filming on my birthday, actually, so it was really weird to be back there on my birthday - but it was obviously really nice as well."
Had the show changed much during your time away?
"Well, there seems to be a really lovely atmosphere now that Lorraine's in charge. But I was just working with the same people who I've worked with before and absolutely adore, so it was familiar territory. Although I did feel like the new girl again, I suppose!"
Was it easy or difficult to get back into the role of Carly?
"I suppose it's like putting on a pair of shoes, isn't it? When you put the clothes back on and you're in the Square again, it just comes naturally, I think. The scripts were really brilliant, too, so it wasn't hard at all because the writing was so good."
Had you stayed in touch with any of the cast after leaving?
"Yeah, they can't get rid of me! I've kept in touch with Linda [Henry] as she lives just around the corner from me, and with Matt who played Deano. I also see Charlie Brooks every now and again, because we both enjoy running so I see her at events and festivals, and she's a lovely girl. It's one of those things where your paths keep crossing, and we all get on really well."
What can we expect from the Carly and Shirley scenes that are coming up?
"Well, obviously it's quite a painful relationship between the two of them. When Carly left, her dad had just passed away, so it was high emotion. After being away for four years, she hasn't heard from Shirley very much, so she feels that their relationship isn't really in a good state. Things are quite volatile between them, and Carly has got real mixed emotions about seeing her mum again.
"Essentially, Carly absolutely loves her mum, but Shirley hasn't always been around for her, and so Carly sometimes feels a bit bitter towards her. But she does love her mum, and when she sees the poor state she's in after Heather's murder, she wants to help by sorting it out."
We'll see Shirley deciding to go away and live with Carly for a while. Do you think this is a good idea, or will it all end in tears?
"I think it's a good thing, because it's important for them to have a go at their relationship. I presume it will still be slightly volatile, but it's a shame that the viewers won't get to see it!
"But who knows what they've got in store for both of the characters in the future? I think it's good that they're both trying."
Carly recently gave birth to a son. Did you enjoy working with a baby on set?
"Yeah, but I was so worried about dropping him! He was so small! The baby was called Ryan, but in the show he's called Jimmy, so he's named after Carly's brother who passed away. Working with a baby was a really nice experience, especially as he was a really good baby.
"His mum was on set so that he wasn't frightened or confused. It meant that we finished the scenes really quickly, because you can only film with a baby for a certain amount of time. So that was good - we all got home early!"
You've kept busy since leaving EastEnders with a variety of different projects. Which ones stand out as your favourites?
"It's hard to choose, but since I've left, there's been a couple of things at the National Theatre that I've loved. I'm really looking forward to being part of the play One Man, Two Guvnors, as I've got that coming up and I'll be working on that with Rufus Hound and Jodie Prenger.
"I've also got two films coming out this month, including one called GBH, which is out in cinemas from September 28. I've got the lead part in that, so that's a nice career highlight. I've done loads of things that I'm really proud of, but it's difficult to single them out."
Is there a dream role that you'd love to play?
"I really would love to play Eliza Doolittle. I know that Kara Tointon has gone on to do that, and Martine McCutcheon played her as well, but that is the part that I absolutely love - a real rags to riches story. I'd also love to play Hermia in A Midsummer Night's Dream."
Do you still watch EastEnders?
"I try to catch it whenever I can. If I know that Linda or Di Parish have a big storyline coming up, then I'll be glued. But if you're doing a play, you're not home at 7.30pm when EastEnders is on! I definitely dip in and out of it, though, as I really like watching my friends."
Would you be interested in a more long-term return to EastEnders?
"Well, I think there's lots of scope for a really meaty storyline between Carly and Shirley, and I love working with Linda and Di so much. The dynamic is really exciting to play, and because Linda is such a fierce actress, of course I'd love to go back. It's a lovely place to work.
"I wish I could go into the scripwriters' office secretly and put it on their computers! (Laughs.) There's some brilliant actors on EastEnders, and I love playing my part. I'm quite busy anyway at the moment as I've got a few bits and bobs coming up, but we'll see."
> 'EastEnders': Kellie Shirley reprises Carly role - first pictures
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> 'EastEnders': Carly's return to Walford - spoilers and pictures
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EastEnders airs Carly's return episodes on Thursday, September 6 at 7.30pm and Friday, September 7 at 8pm on BBC One.