EastEnders’ Cheryl Fergison talks about the mystery surrounding the father of her character’s baby!
What was it like meeting George Michael (well, the lookalike on the TV Times photoshoot anyway)?
“I must admit to walking in the room… for this photoshoot and literally putting one foot in and then putting one foot out again before he saw me. I had to go out to have a cigarette before I could come in as I thought: “You mad TV Times people, you’ve done it – you’ve actually got the real George Michael sitting in there!”’
So you are a fan as well as Heather?
“At the casting for the part of Heather they said she was a George Michael fan and I flatly said: ‘Oh, is she? That’s nice.’ What I didn’t tell them was I’d got all his CDs in my car and was secretly thinking: ‘Oh my God, that’s exciting – this could lead to good things!'”
Have you had any contact with George?
“He has sent me a couple of little signed presents so I’m quite chuffed. He sent me a book and a CD. I opened it up and he’d written: ‘To a fan from a fan, love George’, which was lovely.”
What would you do if you did meet?
“Perhaps have a cup of tea and a bun with him somewhere. Someone needs to set a meeting up…maybe you could do it TV Times?! Or how about a George and Heather single for Children in Need or Comic Relief? That’s got to be on the cards! I keep suggesting it to people, but they brush it under the carpet like I’m a mad woman! I’m a musician in real life so I do sing and write songs so I wouldn’t shame myself. I’ve got a little music room at home and play loads of instruments. I bought myself a set of drums when I went through a mid-life crisis! George could pop round my house anytime and as long as he doesn’t go anywhere near my Careless Whisper CD, we’d be all right!”
Are you enjoying life at EastEnders?
“If I could stay here as long as June Brown then I’d be very happy. I love it.”
Has it been difficult keeping the identity of the father under wraps?
“They didn’t tell me who it was for a long time. At one point, I was shipped one way into a studio while the dad was taken into another. It was like Miss Marple! If I had a pound or Euro for every time somebody shouted: ‘Who’s The Daddy?’, I’d have the loveliest house in Majorca by now! I felt like I had to find an original answer to everybody’s question, which drove me crackers. So in the end I said it was Phillip Schofield, purely because I had a crush on him when I was younger!”
What were the birthing scenes like?
“It was the hardest two weeks of my working life. The script was a one-woman show and I kept thinking when I gave birth to my own son Alex, who’s now 10, I never spoke, just screamed a lot! Alex came by Caesarean so I did have to push to a certain extent but I was totally exhausted filming this because I had to do it 50 times! By the end, people were saying I looked like a new mum who’d just given birth!”
Do you enjoy being part of such a high profile show?
“I’d be a fibber if I said I hated it because genuinely the recognition is very nice as people just want to cuddle Heather! But it does sometimes take its toll on Alex. It’s about finding the right balance and Alex helps me now if people want a photograph as I ask him if he would mind taking it. So he’s getting involved, rather than him being in the photograph – which I don’t agree with – or feeling left out. I try to keep things as normal as I possibly can with him.”
So, is Alex a fan of EastEnders?
“He doesn’t watch it – he thinks it’s a bit odd! His teacher told me that at school he likes going on the EastEnders website and playing a game where he can style Heather – but actually what he likes is making his classmates laugh by taking Heather’s clothes off so she’s in her underwear and changing her headbands around. So basically he likes making fun of his mother!”