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'EastEnders': Khali Best talks Dexter's father arrival, Lola, more

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Khali Best as Dexter Hartman in EastEnders

© BBC / Nicky Johnston

Khali Best



Dexter Hartman's world is turned upside down on EastEnders next week as he comes face-to-face with his father Sam James.

Sam (Cornell S John) walked out of his family home when Dexter was just a baby, but a new storyline sees him arrive in Walford hoping to build up a relationship with his son.

Digital Spy recently chatted to Khali Best, who plays Dexter, to hear about Sam's arrival, life at EastEnders and the British Soap Awards.

After a few months on screen now, how are you finding your time at EastEnders?
"I'm loving it - it's been excellent. There's a great working environment here and everyone is lovely. When I first joined the show, everyone was so welcoming. It wasn't just a few people - it was the cast, the crew and everyone else. I've made friends with a lot of the younger cast members."

We've seen Dexter and Ava in quite small doses so far, before their story really kicks off next week. How do you feel about the way they've been introduced?
"I think it's been a good introduction to the show. Sometimes it's better to have that slow introduction and hopefully leave the viewers wanting more, rather than bombarding them with too much straight away! It's been a very good way to do it."

Are you pleased that Dexter's father is now being introduced to Walford?
"Yes I am, because I think it's going to give Dexter more colours that he can show. It's going to give him a lot more to do in terms of storylines.

"It's also lovely to work with Cornell, who's playing the role of Sam. He's done a lot of Shakespeare and other theatre work in the past, and he has a very powerful presence in scenes. He's great to work with."

Dexter returns and meets Sam.

© BBC

Ava, Sam and Dexter.



Can you tell us about Dexter's introduction to Sam?
"The first time Dexter sees Sam is outside his house. Dexter doesn't have any idea who he is. Later that day, Dexter sees Sam inside the house and Ava just introduces him as an 'old friend'. She's holding a lot back, as she doesn't tell Dexter that Sam is his dad.

"When Dexter is speaking to Sam in their first few conversations, he stays in the dark about who this man is, as he's calling himself 'Jacob'. They get along really well, though. It's obvious that 'Jacob' has a lot of shared history with Ava, and Dexter is excited to hear more about that.

"Dexter also thinks that 'Jacob' would be a much better match for Ava than Billy Mitchell! He's very protective and always has that watchful eye over his mum."

How does Dexter react when he later finds out that Sam is his father?
"The initial reaction is anger, because Ava has been lying to him. She's had opportunities to tell him but chose not to take them. Dexter has a small amount of hatred towards his mum for that, but it shouldn't be anything too major. I think Dexter just doesn't know how to process it, because it's too much emotion for him to deal with at that time."

Is there any chance of Dexter, Sam and Ava becoming a happy family?
"I don't know at this point! We'll all just have to wait and see."

Could Sam have a hidden agenda?
"I hope not! Hopefully he's going to be a nice guy, but you never know what the writers have up their sleeves. Whatever happens, I'm sure it's going to be exciting, as the relationship between Dexter and Ava is interesting to watch and now there's a new person in the mix."

Dexter realises he is standing in front of his father.

© BBC

Dexter realises Sam is his father.



We know from some of the recent episodes that Dexter used to be in a gang. Would you like his background to be explored more?
"Well, the gang storyline was more Liam's story, but it was nice to have some involvement in it because Dexter was from the same area. Because of that, the viewers were given a new insight on where he's come from and the type of person he could have still been if things had been different.

"As for Dexter's background being explored more, it's there for grabs for the writers! It depends what they want to explore, but it's all there for the taking. That's the beauty of it - there's so many different avenues that Dexter could go down."

Would you like Lola and Dexter to become a couple?
"It could be interesting. I'm not sure yet whether they'll be getting together, but I think Dexter does like Lola because he can see that she is a real, genuine person."

How similar are you to Dexter?
"Because we're both young and we've come from a similar area, playing Dexter is not too far away from home for me. I think we've both made the best of our lives - both Khali and Dexter!"

You landed the role of Dexter after some workshops held by the producers. What was that experience like?
"The first workshop was on a Saturday, and it was mainly improvisation. They put me in situations and watched how I'd react.

"I was recalled to return again for another workshop, and in one of the last situations, I was paired up with Clare Perkins. We were put in a mum, dad and son situation so I think that's where it all came from."

Khali Best as Dexter Hartman in EastEnders

© BBC / Nicky Johnston

Khali Best



What was your first day on set like?
"I wasn't actually filming on my first day, but I had a chance to watch some scenes being filmed. I watched Tameka [Empson] and Chucky [Venn] do a scene, then Ricky Norwood, and then Jake [Wood] and Jo [Joyner]. It really helped me to better understand what shooting a scene on EastEnders would be like.

"The next day, I had my own filming to do and was a lot more prepared. It wasn't as hard as I thought it was going to be."

Dexter is building up a strong relationship with his grandmother Cora. How do you find working with Ann Mitchell?
"I'm blessed to be working with Ann. She's one of those people who has great wisdom because she's got so much experience. If Ann tells you something, you'll remember it for the rest of your life!"

You're up for 'Best Newcomer' at the British Soap Awards. What was your reaction when you heard the news?
"I was really excited to hear it, especially as it's happened so soon. I haven't thought much about the night itself as I just want to keep working on and concentrating on the job. We'll see what happens!"

> British Soap Awards - full shortlist and details of how to vote in the viewer categories
> 'EastEnders' casts Cornell S John as Dexter Hartman's father
> 'EastEnders': Dexter Hartman's father Sam arrives - spoiler pictures
> Read more 'EastEnders' spoilers and news

EastEnders airs Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays on BBC One.

Digital Spy Soap Scoop video - press play below to watch Amie Parker-Williams reveal gossip on infidelity in Coronation Street, a fire in Emmerdale, a new arrival in EastEnders and a murder probe in Hollyoaks.

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