I was lucky enough to meet not one but two EastEnders legends while at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane recently – the brilliant Anita Dobson and Bonnie Langford who currently plays Carmel in the soap.
Bonnie told me: “I still can’t believe they cast me and it’s all gone so quickly, but I am enjoying the role and you do reach such a huge audience.” Anita, though, admits she is stunned that people still remember her as Angie Watts. “I think whatever I do now I will never escape Angie,” she said. “And that is great because to be known at all in this business is hard, so to me she was a gift of a role.”
The new Great British Bake Off presenters and judges have posed for their first pictures together ahead of the new series launching on Channel Four. Paul Hollywood, the only original judge, tells me that the show will survive as “it’s not about us judges but the people, plus the fact no-one really likes change...”
Former England cricket star Freddie Flintoff will host ITV’s new show Cannonball, featuring contestants trying to conquer an aquatic obstacle course. Each week the ITV show will see 24 contestants face water-based challenges focused on speed, accuracy, height and distance. The series has started filming in Valletta, Malta, in the last few days.
Strictly Come Dancing does not return to the BBC until much later this year, but agents and stars themselves are using the platform to remind the casting executives they would like a role. The latest one is Tommy Cannon, of Cannon and Ball fame, who at 78 could be the oldest person on the show (if you discount Sir Bruce). But insiders tell me ‘the medical is quite tough to pass for the show, so it all falls to that really.”
Gorgeous James Norton will be back in the 1950s soon in the new series of Grantchester. He tells me: “I do love the clothes and the style that people had back then. Everyone tried to look their best and of course, it seemed a far more respectful society. We know it’s true as so many people are still here who remember that time very well.”
Blue boyband star Lee Ryan has joined EastEnders and reveals to me: “I was nearly a Fowler! I was approached to star in the soap first when I was in my teens and, again, in 2014, when bosses were recasting the part of Martin Fowler. But I am much happier with this part, and it feels good at this age to now be in such a hit show.”
Strictly Come Dancing pro Kevin Clifton tells me that he owes his success to the brilliant Sir Bruce Forsyth. “He is such an icon and a nice man, but when he started calling me ‘Kevin from Grimsby’ on the show that really took off and people loved it,” he said.
“It’s basically thanks to him so many people now know who I am. I still miss him on the show even now.”
Coronation Street actress Brooke Vincent, who has played Sophie Webster since 2004, admits she is frightened to the leave the security of the show. “I did a play late last year, and while I enjoyed it all I did wonder what sort of life I would have if it were not so secure with regular TV work, so I don’t think I will be going anywhere in the short term,” she said.
Singer Katherine Jenkins, now starring in Carousel in London, admits that she does not read her reviews as she does not want it to affect her performance on stage.
“I think we are all tempted to have a sneaky look, but then if you find something bad then you will take that in and it all goes wrong from there, so I don’t bother and just want people to enjoy the show,” she said.
Faulty Towers and Monty Python legend John Cleese is set to star alongside Alison Steadman and Jason Watkins in a new BBC series. The show ‘Edith’ will see Alison playing the widowed protagonist, for whom life is good. Her children live locally and drop by regularly. John tells me: “It’s a rebooking by the BBC. I was last there around 40 years ago, so I’m quite happy about it actually.”
Did you know that Emmerdale actress Roxy Shahidi (Leyla Harding) holds daily yoga classes for the actors on the show? “I am qualified now, so we all join in and it’s great fun, plus it’s all so relaxing and good for you,” she said. Can’t see Zak Dingle joining in though, can you?
Former Coronation Street favourite Thelma Barlow, who played Mavis, tells me: “I left 20 years ago and then I watched it faithfully for about 12 years, but it is such a commitment. I occasionally drop in, but I don’t know who half the people are now! But it is nice to see old friends like Barbara (Knox) or Helen (Worth) or Malcolm Hebden or Bill Roache.”