Kellie Bright: ‘Why EastEnders makes me count my lucky stars’

EastEnders star Kellie Bright tells TV Times how she went from the personal high of being runner-up in Strictly 2016 to the “dark and horrible place” that is Linda Carter’s latest storyline.

Hi Kellie, how life’s been post Strictly?
“You spend weeks thinking about your dances and going over them in your head, and that doesn’t just automatically stop when the show does. I had a few nights where I’d wake up and go “Oh, I’ve just realised I’ve been going through the rumba in my head” or “I’ve just been dreaming about my American Smooth…”’ I was so busy, because I was filming EastEnders as well, that it all went by in a bit of a blur. It has only been since it has finished that I’ve been able to sit back and digest it all, and think “Wow, I did that!”’

All that glamour is in sharp contrast to what your EastEnders character Linda Carter is going through. This week she discovers that her baby son, Ollie, has a head injury that could leave him brain damaged…
“Linda finds Ollie in his cot, unconscious and, as he comes round, he starts convulsing and having a seizure. So her and Mick’s immediate thought is that he’s got epilepsy, like Nancy. It’s not until they’re at the hospital and they’re asked if he has bumped his head that the seriousness of the situation starts to unravel.”

There’s heart-wrenching scenes where Linda is forced to give Ollie mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. As a mother [Kellie has a four-year-old son Freddie with her actor husband Paul Stocker], they must have been difficult to film.
“Unfortunately, part of the job of being an actor is that you have to imagine yourself in that situation – which is why, when you are playing really emotional storylines, you feel so exhausted. It takes a lot out of you when you’re having to take yourself to quite a dark and horrible place. No one wants to think about those things. What it does do for me, personally, though, is it makes me come home and feel very grateful that I’ve not been in that situation; that I’ve not had to do that with my own child. It makes you look around at what you have, and you count your lucky stars a bit more.”

In addition to filming this story, you’ve recently welcomed a new face to the fictional Carter clan. Ted Reilly has joined the cast to play Linda’s ‘sausage’, Johnny [replacing Sam Strike, who quit the soap in 2014] How’s Ted fitting in? 
“It’s not easy starting on EastEnders – it’s a beast of a show to get to grips with – so we’re all holding his hand. I immediately feel like his actual mother, which is ridiculous because he probably thinks “What are you doing, woman?” But I can’t help it; I mother them all.”

Dominic Treadwell-Collins has decided to step down as the soap’s executive producer.  Dominic created the Carters, and Linda is based on his own mother, isn’t she? 

“As a family, we feel particularly close to Dominic and also very grateful, because without him, none of us would be here. I’ve met his mum a few times, actually, and her name is also Linda. She’s lovely, and I absolutely adore her. She doesn’t have the same dress sense as my Linda, but there are elements of her personality that are quite similar.”

With Dominic heading off, it’s not surprising that the rumour mill has gone into full swing about Kellie’s future on the show. The good news for fans, though, is she’s going nowhere for now. After notching up two years in Albert Square, during which time Linda has survived a harrowing rape ordeal at the hands of Dean Wicks, she’s still very hungry for more.

You’ve been a working actor most of your life [Kellie shot to fame as a child actor in the 1990s playing Joanna Burrows in hit ITV sitcom The Upper Hand] but is Linda your favourite part so far?  
“I’ve loved so many things that I’ve done over the years that I couldn’t pick out one job over another. But what I will say is that I love playing Linda Carter, I love my job on EastEnders and I feel very lucky to be there. I’m having the time of my life!”

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