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Laurie Brett

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Laurie Brett
In the three years that she's been with the show, EastEnders' Jane Collins – soon to be Beale – has been through the mill.

Her husband, David, died from Huntington's disease in 2004, she embarked on an affair with Grant Mitchell (Ross Kemp) in 2006 and at the end of last year, her wedding to Ian Beale (Adam Woodyatt) was upstaged when her infidelity was uncovered by Ian himself, who concocted a sham wedding in a bid to make a fool of her in front of everyone.

Plenty of mud and litres of water via a rain machine later, Jane and Ian were back on track. And it's not until now that they've decided to tie the knot in a covert ceremony. However, not all goes to plan – it's Walford after all – when Ian upsets the apple cart and uncovers Jane's secret.

Laurie Brett – the 37-year-old actress behind one of Albert Square's much loved characters – broke off from filming earlier this week to chat to DS about .the impending nuptials, her secret – what it is and could have been – and what's to come for her character.

Jane's hatching a plan in week 27 isn't she?
"Well, Ian and Jane both are really. There have been little hints left in a couple of episodes…in the previous weeks that they've got a little secret that's all theirs. And they're plotting to go off and get married secretly!"

And you told me at the Soap Awards that Jane and Ian wouldn't get married again!
"[Laughs] We didn't even know about it then! We had a little inclination but we thought it was going to be a lot longer away that it's been. But it's always just as much of a shock to us than it is to everybody else!"

Are you pleased they're getting married?
"I think it's a good thing that they are. They've been together three years now and they're pretty solid after everything that happened last year. So yeah, I'm glad it not a big fiasco and a big do. They've had that already, thanks very much. I remember the mud…They have done the big thing - well, they were about to but it was all a hoax.

"But I think it's quite fitting really that they do something that's really private and just them. Most people think we're actually are married anyway. Everybody on the Square treats Jane like she's Ian's wife and she gets it a bit tough because of that, too. So she might as well be. In for a penny and all that!"

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And Ian starts poking fun at Shirley's friend Heather in the café this week, doesn't he?
"Yeah. He's a bit naughty and says that he's got to go and pick up something from the wholesalers and when he goes, he says 'I think I'd better get some more cake while I'm at it because she can put it away that one'. And then he goes over - and for Ian Beale to give away a freebie – gives her a free piece of cake! Then he turns to Jane and he says 'just encouraging repeat business...' It's a really awful thing to do!

"So that happens and then little Jay [Bert's Grandson] comes into the café and says something nasty like 'can I have you autograph? You are Cake Moss aren't you?' and Jane just snaps and tells him to get out. When Heather turns to Jane and says 'you get used to it after a while', Jane tells her that she shouldn’t have to and that it's a horrible thing for people to mention. Jane then introduces herself and they sit down and have a chat and a bit of cake.

"Then Ian then comes in, in his inevitable way, once Heather's gone and asks what Jane's just sponsored her for and says 'don't tell me it's a pie eating contest? Mind you, you look like you were giving her a good run for her money. If you're not careful, you'll end up looking like her.' And Jane just absolutely loses the plot and tells him that the wedding's off."

And then Ian spots that Jane was called Lesley…
"Well Jane's been trying to hide it all and do all the paperwork. It's not a huge secret she's got but it's something she'd rather forget. Something which was extremely hurtful when she was a child and she had relentless years of bullying because of it. She was on the heftier side of things when she was younger…"

Your secret has been a hot topic of debate on the DS forums. Can you clear a few things up for us? Was Jane ever going to be revealed as a man?
"I go on your site now and again but I think it was Adam [Woodyatt] who said something about this. Absolutely not, no. It's a bit bizarre. I suppose you would have thought it because I'm so much taller than everybody else – I'm probably the tallest woman on the set – so compared to everyone else, I probably look a lot bigger. But as you saw on the red carpet, I am only a size 10! I can see where they were coming from, though…"

And did Jane kill a child when she was younger?
"No. I think that was something that was a possibility when they were deciding what to do with it. I think they were thinking of doing something that was a bit extreme. And because Jane's been on the show three years, it'd be something that would have been quite shocking. But because my character is quite well established now, the writers just thought it would be too much."

"She's just like every woman who's sitting at home who has kids – maybe her own, maybe not – juggling a job, going to the supermarket and holding down a bloke. It can be absolutely hapless. And there are millions of women out there like that and I just think that to take Jane out of that would be a hard redemption.

"Jane's probably the nicest person I've ever played and I've put a lot of effort into the character and would have hated to see it all be destroyed by one sensational storyline. I just think it's more fitting for Jane that it's something quite normal that she'd rather not talk about and rather not remember. And anyone who'd been bullied a bit – which I think most people have – any name calling which comes up, you go straight back to that place and it hurts just as much.

"Ian probably thinks she's bonkers for even worrying about it but it matters to her."

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Did Jane cause her ex-husband's illness by smashing into him in the car?
"Well as far as I know – I researched Huntington's quite a lot – it's impossible. It's absolutely 100% genetic. And it can come about at any time. Some people don't get it until into their 40s but a lot of people get it in their 20s. That's why Jane never had kids with David because it's 50:50 whether your kids will suffer and you don't know whether they will until you've had them.

Has the Huntington's storyline been your most challenging storyline?
"Yeah, it was. And it was my first big storyline. Coming into the show in such a big way, we felt such a big responsibility to portray it in its right light. We had the backing of the Huntington's Society and we had consultants with us all the time and learnt quite a lot about it…If you do it wrong, other people who are in that situation are going to be hurt by it - you feel a huge responsibility. A bit like Emma [Barton] and Perry [Fenwick] with the Down's Syndrome storyline. What they don't know is nobody's business now."

Is Jane getting broody with Ian, then?
"Ian has had a vasectomy. I think it was about a year ago before the Grant stuff. She was quite broody then. But finally, Ian did come around to the idea of having it reversed. And it was Jane who then said that she realised if she was going to be part of Ian's family, becoming a step-mother to Peter and Lucy is more than enough.

"Jane, being a very sensitive person to other people and who's also very sensitive about the kids, realised that with what she'd asked Ian to do [to have a baby] she'd have alienated herself from the kids that were there. She realised that the family that she had was more important. But she's still got time, she's still only 36. So she could still say to Ian in the future 'right, let's do it'.

Is that where the scripts heading?
"Not at the moment, no. I don't think there's anything being done about it. But certainly, if Ian and Jane stay together, it's sure it's something they'll consider. Whether they'll do it or not is a different thing. I'm sure there are a lot of couples in the same situation as Jane and Ian – people get together in their 30s, second marriages, third marriages etc. And if one hasn't had a child, I suppose it's always going to be brought up and discussed at some point. There comes a point when the clock starts ticking…"

What have you got coming in the weeks ahead?
"There's a lot of family stuff - Lucy in particular. And Bobby becomes a bit of a handful as well. But it does get a little bit dark. So yeah, there's some good stuff coming up but it takes a little while to come out…The storyline's pretty much driven by the kids becoming teenagers really."

What about Jane and the new character, Jase? Jay's dad, played by Stephen Lord? A possible affair?
"I think you could be right there. It's got potential, definitely. It's soap land so you never know! You never know Mr. Grant Mitchell himself might come back!"

What about Ronnie and Roxy Mitchell? Are you looking forward to them? Have you had many scenes with them?
"I think there's going to be fireworks between Jane and those two – what with the Beale-Mitchell war. This time it's the women!"

Thanks for chatting with us, Laurie! Get the Inside Soap magazine on your iPhone or iPad

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