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Producer's Perspective 2009: Diederick Santer

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Producer's Perspective 2009: Diederick Santer
In continuation of our series of Year In Soap features, we caught up with EastEnders' executive producer Diederick Santer for a quick chat to hear his thoughts and feelings on the last 12 dramatic months in Walford. What's been his favourite episode and standout scene? Which storylines from the other soaps has he enjoyed the most? And who's been his favourite addition to the cast? Here, Diederick reflects on his year in soap...

If you had to choose one, what's been your favourite storyline of the year?
"I'm really pleased with the Christian/Syed storyline. It's bold and we thought long and hard before we did it to make sure we got it right and I'm really proud with what we've done. Marc [Elliott] and John [Partridge] have absolutely stepped up to the plate and like all good EastEnders stories, we're not even half done with it yet. There's miles to go. I loved the way the 'Who's The Daddy?' story with Heather played, too. As time goes on, I expect we'll discover more about what happened that night. It makes sense to me - he's a horny, drunk 18-year-old! Everyone thinks that they did it in the cubicle, but it's surely clear that they went home?"

Which single episode stands out for you?
"It has to be Archie and Peggy's wedding. I'm so proud of that episode. It touched people, it upset people and the audience had an emotional response to it. I had an emotional response to it, too. All I want as a storyteller is to touch people and for them to care about my characters. And that happened that day."

From the hundreds and hundreds of scenes, which ones in particular stick out in your mind?
"Definitely Danielle's death. That was a moment when you just went, 'Oh man…' It was so dark. Dot and Dotty singing 'All Things Bright And Beautiful' was great, too. That was June at her improvisational finest. And then you had the climax of Stacey's bipolar storyline when Jean theorised that her daughter has bipolar and Stacey said, 'I'm not mad, I'm not mad…' There was an excellent scene a few weeks later when Stacey was at the hospital talking to the Scottish psychiatrist - that was fantastic. Just watching Stacey face her darkest fear that she might have 'that horrible thing' that her mother has."

What's been your proudest moment this year?
"Probably June Brown's nomination for a BAFTA. I'm not one to complain to the referee, but it's beyond me why she didn't win. Week in, week out, she turns out amazing performances. The audience knew it and we knew it. With the greatest respect to the actress who won, you could hear the audience in the Royal Festival Hall that night sigh with disappointment. It was a missed opportunity by BAFTA - of which I'm a member - to connect with a big audience."

Have there been any storylines from the other soaps that you've envied?
"Siân Reeves, with whom I worked very happily on Cutting It for three years, has been fantastic in the Sally/Laurel/Ashley storyline in Emmerdale. It's classic soap psycho bitch material that reached a great physical climax with the church fire. That was really well done. What they're doing with the Tony Gordon saga on Coronation Street is magnificent. Some of the story twists they've taken, crossing him with Roy like that have been great. The twist in the Molvin love affair that's in the offing where Sally reveals that she has cancer just as Kevin's about to make his decision whether to leave Sally for Molly is great. I just love that as a twist."

Which character has been your favourite addition to the cast?
"We've had some great people come in this year, but I don't think we've seen half of what Neil McDermott can do. He's a fine actor and has some great material with Janine coming up. The E20 casts are astonishing - they're something special. Three of them will be moving across to the main show as regulars, too."

Is there anything that didn't quite work out as you'd expected this year?
"I knew there would be a reaction to Danielle's death - I felt it when we storylined it, when I read the script, when I went on set on the day we filmed it and when I watched the cut. I perhaps didn't perceive that it would upset some people to the extent that it did, but I still believe it was the right outcome. Also, for whatever reason, I don't think Sean's exit on New Year's Day was our finest moment. Unusually for EastEnders, we peaked Christmas and New Year with the same story and the same bunch of characters and by the time we got to New Year it had played out. Something else I didn't expect has been the way that the audience took Owen to their hearts to the extent that they did. It was really satisfying though, to 'redeem' a character in the audience's eyes in the way we did."

Is there any storyline that didn't make it to screen that you'd have loved to have played out?
"We had quite a few Dot stories lined up but June wanted time off to do Calendar Girls. Those stories will play out in the New Year. Then there was some Max and Tanya material which we've put on hold for now until Jo [Joyner] returns from maternity leave."

> Click here to read what Diederick has to say about what's on the horizon in 2010 Get the Inside Soap magazine on your iPhone or iPad

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