EastEnders bosses cast the little sister of Walford star Lacey Turner ‘by complete accident’, unaware they were even related.
Executive producer Bryan Kirkwood picked Lily Harvey, nine, to play cheeky youngster Shenice after being impressed by her audition tape.
It was only after he made the decision that he learned she was the sister of 22-year-old Lacey, who bows out of her role as Stacey Branning at Christmas.
Kirkwood said: “The truth of it is I didn’t know she was Lacey’s sister until after I said she was the girl I wanted to cast. Whether by accident or design I sat down and watched a tape of a very talented young girl and it was only after we decided that I was told it was Lacey’s sister. So it was complete accident.”
Lily begins filming in January and hits screens in March as Shenice, the daughter of Kat Moon’s new friend Martine (Tamara Wall).
Kirkwood made his comments at a screening of EastEnders‘ heart-rending New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day episodes, in which Ronnie Mitchell (Samantha Womack) loses her one-day-old son James to cot death.
While new mother Kat (Jessie Wallace) is getting emergency treatment in hospital and the rest of Albert Square is ringing in the New Year, shocked Ronnie runs into the Queen Vic and switches her baby for Kat’s newborn, Tommy.
Kirkwood described the devastated mum’s actions as ‘one of the most powerful moments in EastEnders history’, and heralded the plot as one of the show’s ‘biggest and bravest’ to date.
The soap worked with the Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths (FSID), to ensure the sensitive subject was portrayed correctly.
Ronnie’s secret will remain hidden from everyone but the audience for ‘a long time’, a show source added.