EastEnders spoilers follow.
Note: The following article contains discussion of sexual misconduct.
EastEnders has kicked off a big, new story for Linda Carter this week, as she was left horrified by the return of Dean Wicks.
Prior to that, Dean hasn't been seen on screen since 2016, when he escaped justice for raping Linda Carter, and attempting to rape Roxy Mitchell.
Linda's ordeal continued in tonight's episode (October 30) as Dean made it clear that he was planning to stick around in Walford for the foreseeable future.
Here, Kellie Bright, who plays Linda, discusses Dean's return, and teases her alter-ego's involvement in the much-anticipated Christmas episodes.
Why does Halloween mean so much to Linda?
"Halloween means so much to Linda because it was her thing with Mick, and they always made a big deal out of it. They had kids when they were still kids themselves, and they always dressed up as a family for the pub Halloween events. To them, Halloween was as big as Christmas. Everything this year is the first one without Mick, so every holiday is marked with a tinge of sadness, including Halloween."
What is Linda’s reaction when she sees Dean in the kitchen?
"Linda’s in deep, deep shock. He is the last person that she expected to see walking through the door of her kitchen. He’s in her home and in the exact room where he raped her. She obviously goes into complete shock, and her body is filled with adrenalin. She is absolutely terrified, above and beyond anything else. It doesn’t matter what Dean’s saying, as Linda is in fight or flight mode from the moment he appears."
Does Dean’s response shock her, or has she come to expect this?
"Dean is taking the stance that he has always taken over it. He has always said, "It was consensual. You wanted me, and you told me that you loved me". He’s twisted everything in his head so that he believes it wasn’t rape. I think that’s what happens in these situations sometimes: the perpetrator convinces themselves that what they’ve done is not rape. So, Dean’s attitude is nothing new to Linda, but he plays games with her."
He tells her about the business deal with the Beales – does Linda believe that Ian and Cindy could be so heartless?
"Linda knows Ian Beale of old and that he would betray his own mother for a deal. She is horrified, but I don’t think Linda is thinking, 'How could they'. She’s up in arms about it and goes the next day to say, 'What the hell do you think you are doing? Why on Earth would you go into business with this man?'. But Cindy doesn’t know anything about him – she only found out Dean’s history later."
What’s her reaction to his news from Shirley?
"It’s all those mind games again. Immediately, she feels guilt about Shirley and that she’s not kept in touch. Linda also feels guilt towards Mick because she knows that’s not what he would want for Shirley. I think she’s genuinely upset by what Dean says about Shirley – even though part of her, maybe the bigger part, thinks he’s making it up just to get to her.
"There is a little part of her that’s like, ‘Oh no, what if Shirley has been really ill and I haven’t been there?’ That’s what Dean does, he gets under her skin."
What was it like to play those scenes?
"They were very well written scripts, and it all fell into place easily. There’s something really nice about revisiting old screen dynamics. Matt and I haven’t worked together for seven years, but there’s that familiarity between us. The Linda and Dean relationship has already been set up, so the audience will know immediately what has gone on."
Do you think Dean’s arrival as a silent partner could make things worse between the Beales and the Knights?
"For Linda, it’s really stuck a nail in the coffin, and I don’t think Elaine needs any more excuses to hate Cindy. It’s not done them any favours."
Will Linda look to her new family for support?
"She will. Obviously, Elaine was around when it all happened to Linda, so she was present for what Dean did and the aftermath of that. As for the girls and George, George and Linda are fast establishing a father/daughter relationship, and they are all living under the same roof, so they are naturally getting closer and closer."
Do you like the George and Linda relationship?
"I do like it. I also like the friction to play. As an actor, it’s nice having the drama. But it is nice that Linda and George are bonding. Long may it last, is all I say."
What’s it like to have Matt [Di Angelo] back?
"Matt is naturally funny and makes me laugh a lot. I have really enjoyed working with him this time, even more than the first time. That’s probably because we didn’t have that much together last time, in a weird way.
"We had a big story, and we filmed moments together, but it wasn’t like we were continuously together. There was never a Linda and Dean romantic relationship, and he wasn’t part of my immediate family where we would be together day in, day out. So, I didn’t have as much with him, but now I have got loads. But I don’t know what will happen next."
Is it hard for Linda to have Dean back without Mick there to protect her?
"I think so, yes. I think she feels far more vulnerable. She hates the fact that she feels so vulnerable around Dean, but it’s understandable. He scares her in a way no one else ever can or would. And because Mick isn’t there, it is 10 times worse for her."
Are you excited about The Six and Christmas now?
"I am excited. For me, when I have a big storyline, I still get a nervous tummy and butterflies. I really want it to be great, and I know I have to deliver. I am excited to be working with the other five women and doing some really good, juicy stuff with them. I love the fact that we’ve had this secret building on the show for the whole year, and it’s really clever.
"I love the fact that I am part of something that hasn’t been done before, so I’m really embracing that. I feel like I’m at the foot of the mountain, about to set off for the climb, and although I know it’ll be magnificent at the top, it’s still a climb to get there."
EastEnders airs on Mondays - Thursdays at 7.30pm on BBC One. The show also streams on BBC iPlayer.
If you've been affected by the issues raised in this story, you can access more information from Rape Crisis England and Wales, who work towards the elimination of all forms of sexual violence and sexual misconduct, on their website or by calling the National Rape Crisis Helpline on 0808 802 9999. Rape Crisis Scotland's helpline number is 08088 01 03 02.
Readers in the US are encouraged to contact RAINN, or the National Sexual Assault Hotline on 800-656-4673.
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