Lucy Benjamin talks to What’s on TV about her guest role in New Tricks as ‘a cheapened, pensioner’ Marilyn Monroe lookalike, as well as working on EastEnders and balancing family life with her career…
Did you enjoy your time on New Tricks?
“It was a wonderful job. I felt very spoiled and looked after. My character’s storyline meant I got to work with the three main male characters, which meant working with Nicholas Lyndhurst, Larry Lamb and Denis Lawson. It was a real treat!”
New Tricks is often said to be once of nicest jobs on television to guest star in…
“I didn’t know what to expect, but honestly it was a pleasure. The ambience is very relaxed. No one takes themselves too seriously and the job gets done even though the pressure is on – they have a lot of stuff film in a day!”
When you were filming did everyone know it was going to be the last series of New Tricks?
“Yes, they all knew. I don’t think it affected [the working environment]. I think they all really felt they’d had a good run. It’s the 12th series, they’ve done a great job and have great storylines. They’re going out on a high and no one was down in the doldrums about it. It was more ‘Great, let’s make a fabulous one and go out with a bang!’”
What can you tell us about your character in next Tuesday’s epsiode?
“I play Lesley Carmichael who’s looked after her nephew, Tom, since his parents – Lesley’s sister and brother in-law – died in a supposed suicide 13 years before. When the police come calling at Lesley’s door her behaviour makes them convinced there’s more to this case than meets the eye. She’s hiding something and can’t keep what she knows a secret forever!”
What can you tells us about the lookalike element of this storyline?
“Lesley plays Marlin Monroe for a lookalike agency. When I went for my first meeting they weren’t sure who they were going to choose as my lookalike. I was really flattered when I was told it was Marilyn Monroe. I thought ‘I’ll take that!’”
We understand there’s a blink-and-you’ll miss it photo of you in character. Did you get to dress up as Marilyn?
“Yes I did! But, because it’s not a fantastic lookalike agency, I look like a cheapened, pensioner version of Marilyn Monroe in the photos of me dressed up in the iconic wig and white dress! I was cringeing. It was fun to do, but I never want to see the photo again!”
Did you enjoy the strong EastEnders connection on New Tricks?
“Yes! It was a bit of an EastEnders revisit. I worked with Tamzin Outhwaite (UCOS boss Sasha Miller) on EastEnders all those years ago. We’d so much catching up to do we didn’t come up for air! My path crossed with Tracy-Ann Oberman a little bit on EastEnders too, but I hadn’t worked with Larry Lamb before. I suppose it shows you we’re dependable actors, used to working on a tight schedule, and aren’t too bad at our jobs!”
Do you mind still being asked about EastEnders?
“No I don’t, it was a big part of my life. It was a mental part of my life and although I’ve been out of the show as a regular for about 12-13 years people still make comments about Phil and call me Lisa!
“The ‘Who Killed Phil?’ (2001) storyline was very much talked about. It obviously had a big impact at the time and I feel very lucky that I had such great stuff to do on that show.”
You’ve made reappearances in EastEnders in the past. Would you consider returning again?
“It’s such a cliche, but as an actor you can never definitively say no to anything without knowing what the future holds. I think if you’d asked me that a few years ago when my children were much younger I’d have wanted to dedicate more time to my family. When I was on EastEnders it was all-consuming. I’d film most of the time and come home and cram my lines for the next day. But now my children are older … ‘I don’t know’ is the honest answer to that. One would hope I would if they asked! It would depend on the storylines and how much they wanted me to be involved.
I’m very lucky and having a great time playing loads of different characters, but also have time for the kids too. I’m enjoying the balance I’ve got at the moment.”
Catch Lucy in New Tricks on Tuesday, September 8 on BBC1 at 9pm
We look forward to seeing if eagle-eyed viewers spot her photo as Marilyn Monroe!