Completing this week's set of E20 interviews is probably the most interesting character out of the four - Zsa Zsa (or Jar Jar in a posh accent) Carter.
As the niece of Shirley Carter, Zsa Zsa's the only character who actually has a reason to be in Walford. That's not to say that you need to have a relation to someone in the area to be there, though. Far from it. Zsa Zsa, however, has an instant connection with the show - in some ways, you identify with her as we've come to know Shirley via Linda Henry's amazing portrayal of her.
So where did the character come from? How did Emer - a writer on the web series - come to be cast in a role she helped to create? And will we ever meet Shirley's sister - and Zsa Zsa's mother - Tina Carter?
Read on for more...
How would you describe your character?
"When I think of her, I think Zsa Zsa's just like me if I didn't have the need to be nice to anyone. She doesn't care about anything. She'll be rude to people and her first defence if people are rude to her is to cut them down with her words. She's not afraid of a physical fight, either. She has a massive physical fight almost as soon as she turns up. She's a really fun character to watch because she's so fearless and bold but underneath, there's a very vulnerable side to her - just like Shirley. Her hard exterior shell has been built to cover her heart up."
Is she a mini Shirley?
"In terms of personality, definitely. I was one of the writers on E20, so I was there when we came up with Zsa Zsa and we never said she was anything like Shirley. It just happened. In terms of acting her, I didn't ever think of her as Shirley until my first day in the main show when I had a full day with Linda Henry. That was really when Zsa Zsa's character was shaped. The words were there and I knew what she was like but when I saw Linda speak and when I engaged with her, I realised that it was like looking in a mirror. Zsa Zsa grew up away from Shirley but she can't fight her genetics - she can't help being like Shirley. That's probably what Zsa Zsa's mother Tina's like, too."
Was it always planned that Zsa Zsa was Shirley's niece? How come the similarities were unplanned?
"Zsa Zsa changed a lot while we were writing her, as did her story - up to the week before we started filming. She was pretty fluid until I was actually cast three days before we started filming. Until we started filming, we were pretty unsure who Zsa Zsa was. Once we got her, she was there and that's when it clicked."
Do we meet Tina Carter - Zsa Zsa's mother and Shirley's sister?
"Not yet, but there's definitely the possibility in the future. I'm sure she'll be in soon."
How did you come to write, then be cast in the show?
"No EastEnders writer has ever acted in the show, so I feel special! I've always been an actress since I was 16 and I've always written, too. In the summer, I saw an advert asking if I'd like to take part in writing a teen drama. I sent in a part of a script I'd done, was invited for an interview with 12 other writers and was trained for a month in the BBC Talent summer school. On the first day, we were told that some would be commissioned to write scripts for an online EastEnders spinoff. At the end, all of us were commissioned!
"Afterwards, they cast all the characters except Zsa Zsa because I think they had trouble finding her. I don't think they knew who she was. They spent two months looking and then called me up to audition. I didn't really expect anything from it and then next day I got the part. It was a whirlwind."
How does Zsa Zsa transition into the main show?
"Because of the family connection between Zsa Zsa and Shirley, that continues. The pair recognise their similarities and that brings a warmth to their relationship. At first, though, they really clash and Heather thinks that Zsa Zsa's complete trouble - which she is! Elsewhere on the Square, there's a lot of story between the other young people on the Square. Zsa Zsa definitely gets stuck in."
Is she your everyday soap bitch?
"It's quite interesting because I know when Zsa Zsa comes in, people will just hate her because she's a real bitch. That's quite intimidating because there are so many good bitches on the show - Janine being the queen of them all. Zsa Zsa's a little different in the way she looks and talks, though. So we've definitely tried to make her different."
What's your take on bringing this group of youths to the fore?
"Because the younger characters that are already there have had so much happen to them over the years, they're quite damaged, yet we don't know much about them. It's bringing a bit of vitality back to the younger generation. When we were writing for it, Dom [Treadwell-Collins] said, 'We want this lot to come in and really rough up the Walford teenagers'. In our first episode, I don't think they've had as many teenagers in one ep as they do. It just felt like a massive party on set."
Do you think the younger focus could alienate regular viewers?
"I think a story's a story and if they like a story, they'll like the episode. The great thing about EastEnders is that there's always so much variation, despite the fact it's long-running. Only recently we had that episode which was pretty much just Stacey and there was that episode with just Dot on her own. It's nice to have those episodes where you see Albert Square in a bit of a different light. With our first ep, you see the teenage underworld. Hopefully, it'll remind the older viewers what it was like to be a teenager and teenagers will see it as what they're going through now."
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> Click here to read my recent interview with Samm Attwater who plays Leon Small
> Click here to read my recent interview with Ricky Norwood who plays Fatboy
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