EastEnders’ Phil Mitchell is back on the booze and dicing with death! Steve McFadden tells us more…

Phil’s back from Portugal and back on the booze. And doesn’t everyone know it!
Having gone AWOL he turns up at baby Janet’s birthday party and falls head-first into her cake!

It would be funny it we didn’t all instantly know it’s going to be tragic. Last time drink ruined his marriage to Ben’s mum Kathy and very nearly his life didn’t it?
“We had a bit of a debate over whether Phil should really have got over the alcoholic thing as I always felt there was more story potential in him being a drunk. So I’m really pleased to be doing it again.”

Given his wretched life there have been more than a few times when Phil could have reached for the bottle again. But it’s taken Stella’s death to push him over the edge. Do you think he blames himself for not stopping her abuse of Ben and feels responsible for her suicide?
“Phil desperately wants a family and wants to be in love with somebody but he always ends up being kicked from pillar to post. He’s never been in control of his relationships, they are just a mess. I see him as a victim and I really empathise with him. All those around him end up letting him down. He’s always the butt of a lot of hostility from women and it’s what usually tips him over the edge. He has alluded to the reasons he became an alcoholic while he was with Kathy. I think it was all to do with his dad. He was a big powerful man who was a bit scary. There was a bit of a shadow there when he was growing up.”

But playing a drunk is not easy. The first time round you took the storyline so seriously you videoed yourself after a few too many drinks didn’t you?
“I stood in front of the mirror swaying and I was slurring really badly. Trouble was, I forgot to turn on the camera. But acting legless is really draining and tends to invade every moment of my life. It makes me fretful and other people think I’m moody and angry.”

How did you find the overwhelming response to the storyline first time around?
“I got hundreds of letters. People with similar problems poured their heart out to me. They also said that it was the first time they’ve seen alcoholism portrayed realistically, which was a compliment. I had nice things said about me by fellow actors too. It’s great when people take you seriously as an actor and not just “He was a thug in real life and now he’s a thug on the Square.”

Thug or not, drunk or not – we still love ‘im!