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A chat with 'E20' producer Deborah Sathe

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EastEnders: E20 producer Deborah Sathe

© BBC

EastEnders' online spinoff E20 returns for a second series next week, featuring another batch of newcomers to stir up life in Walford. The first run of E20 was a massive success for the BBC, and with series two featuring longer episodes, more online extras and a guest appearance from Britain's Got Talent finalists Flawless, the show looks likely to become bigger and better this time around. In the first of a series of E20 interviews, DS recently had a quick chat with the show's producer Deborah Sathe to find out more.

As you were also the producer of E20's first series, how do you feel about the show's success and the recommission?
"I am thrilled that we have another series. It was an incredible feeling watching Fatboy, Mercy, Zsa Zsa and Leon crash onto the Square, and now for series two we have four new troublemakers set to invade Walford!"

What were your main aims for the second series when you started working on it?
"We learned a great deal extremely quickly making the first series, and we have taken those lessons and put them into the new series. We've taken more risks this time, and pushed our characters further - it's sexier, darker and the episodes are longer, coupled with the fact that we have street dance!"

Now that you've seen the completed product, how would you describe the second series, and are there any major differences compared to series one?
"The main difference between this and series one are the episode lengths - they are all 14 minutes for the online audience, that are made into half-hour episodes for the BBC Three audience. And there are loads of extras both on the E20 site and on the BBC Three site. I am really proud of the characters for series two, they are sassy and exciting, but they've all got their secrets!"

What would you say were the main strengths of series one, that you hoped to replicate second time around?
"The writers had fun with Walford in series one, and they do that again. It's a real opportunity to celebrate life in Walford through young eyes. There's lots to laugh at in series two, in particular one scene where the new E20 characters start to meet the old ones!"

Were there any aspects of the first series that you thought could be improved on?
"It was great having the mainline cast in E20 and we have expanded on that. It's fun seeing these institutional characters through the new characters' eyes."

The 13 writers who worked on the first series were all brought back for the second - was that quite an easy decision to make, given the success of series one?
"Yes! But we also have another 15 young new writers learning how to create a new drama for online and television at the Theatre Royal Stratford East."

Eastenders: E20 Cast
Can you tell us a bit about how the new characters were created, and what you hope the newcomers will bring to the show?
"We started storylining and creating characters back in January. We really wanted authentic, recognisable London characters, characters that our audience would be able to say 'I know someone like that!', and then have them clash against the residents of Walford."

Can you also tell us a bit about the casting process and what drew you to Emaa, Tosin, Heshima and Amanda?
"You spend a long time with the characters in your mind, so casting them is quite scary - but when we met our four leads, we knew that they would bring our fictional characters to life, and they have, as you will see."

The dance element of the new series sounds quite important - what was the reasoning behind it, and what do you think it brings to the show?
"I think street dance is powerful and sexy. It comes from the streets, obviously, and when done well looks incredible. It's also something that the younger generation have reclaimed, reinvented and launched successfully into the mainstream, and I think that is really exciting."

Do you think any of the characters have the potential to move over to the main show, and is there a chance it could happen?
"I never say never!"

Finally, do you think E20 is a brand that can run and run beyond series two?
"I would love to make more, I think it's an incredible training ground for new talent, a great vehicle to teach the next generation of programme makers, and it's brilliant to watch, but let's see how series two does first!"

The second series of EastEnders: E20 launches on Tuesday, September 7 at 8pm, with the second episode following on Wednesday, September 8 at the same time. After that, new episodes will become available for viewing on the show's official site every Tuesday and Thursday at 8pm, while 30-minute omnibus editions will be screened on BBC Three on Monday nights.

> Meet the new EastEnders: E20 cast

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