With fans about to watch the final E20 instalment online and on BBC Three, Digital Spy recently caught up with EastEnders actor Himesh Patel for a chat about his work on this year's series.
Himesh penned episode two of E20 alongside recently-departed cast member Charlie G Hawkins (Darren Miller). Here, Himesh reflects on the experience and also discusses recent events on the main show.
How did your involvement in this year's E20 come about?
"Charlie G Hawkins and I are great friends in real life and we were both incredibly keen to write something together. We thought a great start would be E20, so we approached [producer] Deborah Sathe and she led the way. It was great to have the support of people the whole way - at EastEnders, people really applaud creativity."
You wrote episode two, which was quite early days in the series. Did that mean you had slightly more freedom as you didn't have much in-series backstory to think about?
"The new characters come to Walford with a lot of interesting backstory, so we had that at our disposal. However, in terms of continuity we did have some freedom. With the early position of our episode, Charlie and I did discuss trying to foreshadow events that would take place later in the series."
As you've wanted to do a writing project with Charlie for a long time, was it nice to finally get that opportunity here?
"It was a great experience and I believe it's brought us closer together as friends. It's definitely not the last thing we'll do together. We hope to return to E20 if Series 4 is given the go-ahead and we also have a few ideas for our own projects."
Did you go online to see any of the feedback for your episode after it had aired?
"I haven't yet seen any online reaction, however people have mentioned this series as a whole has been getting great reactions and great viewing figures, so that's fantastic news."
"In terms of fun dialogue it has to be Faith, but it's fun to write for the others too. When we had a character as loud and extroverted as Faith, we needed to make sure that Donnie and Ava weren't drowned out."
Did you get any useful advice from former EastEnders star Emer Kenny (Zsa Zsa), who has now worked on three series of E20?
"Following her time on EastEnders, Emer is a great friend of ours so we knew where to go if we needed advice. It was also important to have a dialogue with her for continuity, because her episode comes directly after ours."
E20 has a big team of writers and obviously the producer Deborah Sathe too. With that in mind, how much freedom were you given to put your own stamp on your episode?
"The great thing about this experience has been the learning curve. Charlie and I wrote four drafts of our episode and throughout these drafts, it was a process of meeting with producers Deborah and Peter and striking that balance between our ideas and their ideas. They were incredibly accommodating and understand of where we were coming from and we are incredibly thankful to them for that. We had to learn to put some of our ideas to one side because on something like E20, it's about the style and substance of the show as a whole and not just one episode."
Your episode featured some characters from the main show, like Masood and Kim. How did you decide who to include?
"We had to look at who was available to be involved in E20, as a lot of the actors had prior commitments to the main show. When we heard Tameka was free, it was imperative we had her in our episode! Kim is a joy to write for and it was also very interesting to write for Masood and we were thrilled with how Nitin brought it to life. However, we were conscious not to include people just for the sake of it. E20 is primarily about the new characters, it's just a plus that we can use iconic characters from the main show."
"It's fantastic news and a lot of credit goes to the hard work of all the people involved, from the producers, to our team of writers, to the cast and the crew. All these people have worked very hard on the show, so for it to be getting such great viewing figures is fantastic. It's also a very exciting sign for online content. I think online shows are going from strength to strength and it's great to see E20 at the forefront."
A lot of fans have been saying that they'd like some of the new characters to cross over into the main show. Do you think they have the potential for that?
"I think they could give it a go - we have success stories from the first series, especially with the brilliant Ricky Norwood as Fatboy. However there's also the appeal of E20 being a separate entity from the main show, so it's up to the producers. I certainly wouldn't be against the idea."
"Incredibly pleased, there was lot of hard work from everyone behind those episodes, so for the viewers to make it their 'Best Wedding' is brilliant."
Whatever happens with Yusef, do you think Tamwar and Afia's relationship is strong enough to last? Or could this Yusef scenario tear them apart in the long-run?
"Every couple goes through problems. We both really hope it doesn't tear them apart."
What's it like to have Preeya Kalidas back on set at the moment?
"It's almost as if she never left, she got back into the rhythm of things so well. I haven't had an awful lot of scenes with her, but when I do we mainly end up in fits of laughter, which can sometimes be a hindrance…"
You went to see Nina Wadia's new film Four last week. Would you recommend it?
"I would definitely recommend it, if you like British film, black comedy and thrillers. Even if you don't, this is the film that will turn you! It's very clever, very well acted and Nina and her husband put a lot of hard work into it. Go watch it!"
As Charlie G Hawkins is such a good friend of yours, has life on set felt any different since he left EastEnders?
"It does, I can't just go to his dressing room when I'm bored in-between scenes and I don't have anyone to play pool with anymore! However I talk to him almost every day, so it's not too bad. He made a very brave decision and I know he's going on to do brilliant things."
EastEnders: E20's third series can still be watched in full on the show's official website.
Watch Himesh and Charlie's episode of EastEnders: E20 below:
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