Diane Parish reveals how she lied to friends and family but not her mum to keep EastEnders’ shocking Lucas/Denise storyline a secret…

So how difficult has it been keeping the fact that Denise is still alive a secret?
“I’ve had to lie to friends and family and it’s been bloody horrible. But it’s been worse for my mum. She doesn’t like to tell porkies and she’s been forced to lie to people she’s close to. In fact, I am drafting an e-mail to everyone she knows, a sort of disclaimer saying: ‘My mother is not a liar’.”

What have you been doing for the last few weeks outside of EastEnders?
“I couldn’t avoid the school gates, but I kept my head down and stopped going out. It was easier than dodging questions. It’s been quite a tough four weeks and I’m sure I’ll get eggs and tomatoes thrown at me when the kids go back to school in September. The hardest thing was people coming up to me when I was with my kids and saying: ‘Are you dead?’ That’s scary for a five-year-old and it did make me a bit cross.”

Did everyone think you were dead?
“Not everyone. I was in PC World the other day and this man came up to me and said it was all a big ploy because he hadn’t read about me leaving the show in the papers. He wasn’t the only person to think that. To those I said: ‘Wait and see.’ I’m so glad I can finally breathe a sigh of relief.”

Have there been any plus sides?
“Spending more time with my daughters Kenya (5) and Kaya (2). Don’t get me wrong, I’m not out all the time as I have young children, but this storyline did force me to stay in more. I’m like a 60-year-old in a 40-year-old’s body as I love being at home and doing things like gardening, cleaning and ironing – there’s nothing I love more than putting a long film on like Spartacus and getting stuck in to a big pile of ironing. I love being a mum – my girls are yummy. I did have a nanny for a short while and I hated it because she knew more about the kids than I did. My mum helps me out a lot at the moment as she’s only round the corner and the school and nursery are a few minutes walk away.”

Do you get annoyed when people go on about how slim you are?
“Yes. I hate all this emphasis on diets. I am naturally slim. I had an operation at 20 to remove a growth and I lost part of my stomach. I haven’t got my weight back up to what it was since then. I hate being called skinny. It’s as rude as telling somebody they are fat. I eat my dinners. I like a bit of cake and I like a bit of chocolate.”

What was it like watching your own funeral?
“You don’t often get the chance to be on the outside looking in. It didn’t upset me watching the funeral – I was like: ‘Wow, Shirley is upset about Denise’s death. And look, so’s Zainab!’ I loved that. It was sad too. Seeing Patrick cry was tough because he is normally such a rock. And the girls. I’m really going to miss Tiana who plays Chelsea and Belinda who was Libby.”

What do you think will happen to Denise now?
“She is lost without her babies, but then her sister Kim comes along and she’s a brilliant distraction. As for men, I think Denise should give them up and get a cat, but I’m sure she’ll end up in another destructive relationship. It does make me look at my own life and realise that I am blessed. I look at my job and my beautiful babies and can see how lucky I am.”