EASTENDERS’ Cindy Beale is back from the dead after 25 years – but even the actress who plays her isn’t convinced it is a good idea.
Opening up for the first time about her comeback, Michelle Collins has admitted she thought the zany plot was “ridiculous” and fears she may regret her decision to return.
Michelle Collins has admitted she thought the zany plot to bring back Cindy Beale was ‘ridiculous’
Michelle she arrived in Walford in 1988 and became the first of Albert Square lothario Ian Beale’s six wives
Michelle, 61, said: “I said to my agent, ‘Oh, this is ridiculous, it’s never going to happen’.
“But we had this breakfast meeting and Chris (Clenshaw, EastEnders’ executive producer) got his laptop out and reeled it all off.
“We both went, ‘Wow, oh my God’. And then I was like, maybe this could work.”
Yet she added: “You want to know that you’ve made the right decision. I don’t know whether I have . . .
“But I’m liking it and I’m loving being back, actually. It feels like I’ve come full circle.”
Michelle became a household name after she arrived in Walford in 1988 and became the first of Albert Square lothario Ian Beale’s six wives.
Cindy had affairs, kidnapped her own children and hired a hitman to kill Ian, played by Adam Woodyatt, 54, for which she was ultimately sent to prison in 1998.
There she was killed off off-screen with viewers told she died in childbirth with daughter Cindy Jr.
But tomorrow night, Cindy is back — and Michelle is nervous.
Viewers will see Cindy lounging by a pool ignoring a call from George Knight.
At a special screening of her comeback episode, she said: “People always asked and I’d say, ‘Oh never say never’. But I didn’t think they could ever do it.
“It’s about timing. Life is about timing. And it wasn’t the right time.
“I think if it had happened five years ago I probably would have said no.
Kind of genius
“When Chris approached Adam and I, we’d both been touring and he’d mentioned it to me I said, ‘don’t be silly’.
“My agent said, ‘Let’s just go and meet Chris’, and he’s got an entire backstory for where she’s been for all these years. It’s kind of genius how it’s all been put together.
“Chris has been very caring about things and he knew that it needed to be handled with kid gloves, because it is such a huge thing to come back after that amount of time.
“The set is actually 20 minutes from my house, that’s the most important thing, and that’s actually the only reason I’ve gone back . . . and I get to work with Adam again.
“It’s exciting and it’s kinda scary, but that’s what life is about, isn’t it?”
Cindy famously hired a hitman to kill Ian
Tomorrow night, Cindy is back — and Michelle is nervous.
The move means Michelle has had to lie when asked the question that has plagued her for a quarter of a century.
She said: “The hardest thing has been not being able to tell anybody.
“I’ve always had ‘When are you going back?’ And now it’s like I am going back, it’s actually happening and I couldn’t tell anyone.”
Show bosses went to huge lengths to keep the secret, even using code names on set, so just a handful of crew knew the details.
Michelle and Adam sent to secret meetings in remote pubs, hiding in hoods in back rooms of restaurants and eventually filmed the big comeback at a secret location.
HOAR revealed last month that the Beales will make their return to the soap in scenes showing them flogging baguettes in the South of France.
Viewers will see the pair arrive at a farmers’ market stall in a Citroen van packed with sandwiches, with Ian using a translation app on his phone to speak French.
But the locals snub his lame catering, prompting Ian to remark how they would have been snapped up in Walford.
‘Surreal and nerve-racking’
Michelle said: “We filmed everything on location about six weeks ago and I’m now back filming everything in the Square, so that felt very different.
“But now I’m in there it’s surreal.
“It’s surreal and it’s nerve-racking but it’s also very exciting.”
But Michelle is thrilled to be back in soaps, where older women take centre stage.
She added: “For me as a woman of a certain age, the soaps have fantastic stories for women.
“They are matriarchal figures, and there aren’t that many shows on TV really that give women of a certain age central characters.
“And when you get to 60 as a woman you’re not written off and you get to do these fantastic things.
“I think that’s why EastEnders is great, because it’s not all about youth. It’s just about people and really strong women.
“I’ve always played really strong women. And Cindy was.
“I’ve never got rid of Cindy and even younger people know who she was. But I suppose that’s the power of social media.”
Even Michelle struggles to remember all that Cindy was put through, including the death of two of her on-screen children.
Lucy was murdered by her half-brother Bobby in 2014 in a huge EastEnders Whodunit and Steven was killed by Max Branning in a fire in 2017. Cindy was mum to six children in total.
Michelle said: “I can’t believe how many children she had.
“I’m trying to remember all their names. And I couldn’t remember because we had code names too.
“It was very confusing. I had to keep asking Adam who people were and if they were my child.
Even Michelle struggles to remember all that Cindy was put through
Actors Michelle and Adam had secret meetings in remote pubs ahead of the big comeback
Returning to Elstree, in Boreham-wood, Herts, where EastEnders is filmed, wasn’t quite the homecoming Michelle expected as the set has undergone an £87million makeover.
She still hasn’t had chance to speak to some of the old guard who were there for her original stint, including her on-screen mother in law Gillian Taylforth — another character who has returned from the dead.
Michelle added: “I haven’t seen Gilly yet, I haven’t seen Tish (Letitia Dean), I haven’t seen Steve (McFadden).
“I have to be taken around because I don’t know where I’m going.
“But that’s what makes it exciting in a way. I’ve only done two days.”
But she has been able to get to know the new Knight family, who include Bond actor Colin Salmon, Harriet Thorpe and Strictly star Molly Rainford.
She added: “I’ve met the girls, I’ve met Colin and Harriet. I was incredibly nervous.”
However, it hasn’t all been plain sailing for Michelle and Adam. Despite being close friends, they frequently clashed behind the scenes.
Michelle said: “It’s funny because in the old days we would row coming out of our dressing rooms, we would row going to the set, we would row on set and then we would row coming off set.
“We spent our entire lives squabbling. It was kind of bizarre.
“But both of us have mellowed and I think we’re both just kind of comfortable in our lives and it felt like it’s the right kind of time.”
Viewers can watch Cindy’s return from the dead in a longer than usual episode tomorrow night on BBC One.
Beeb bosses scrapped the usual schedule, where episodes are shown first on iPlayer, to maximise the surprise of Michelle’s return.
After years of low ratings, a lot is riding on the comeback of an Albert Square legend.
- EastEnders is on tonight, BBC One, 7.30pm.
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