There’s nothing like a family reunion…
EastEnders star Gillian Wright has opened up about her challenging year on the soap as cancer-stricken Jean Slater, and singled out the episode in which her character pulled troubled son Sean (Rob Kazinsky) back from the brink of suicide as her personal highlight.
Asked if she had a scene during 2019 that was particularly special to her, the 59 year tells us: “The big speech to Sean in the barn, when he had the gun and was going to commit suicide. We shot all that in one day. Rob made a speech in the morning, and said: ‘We’re shooting 17 and a half pages today, and in the real word of film and tv, that would take three and a half weeks.’”
Asked how she approached the challenging dialogue, the star explains: “I spent a long time learning it. I try to learn things in neutral so that I’ve got all my options open on the day of the shoot. When I’m walking the dog, I’m saying all the words out loud in my head.
“I have an idea up my sleeve as to what I want to do with the lines, but I don’t want to be stuck in a rut so that I can’t change the delivery if I want to. So I have things to offer, but I might change or tweak them depending on how the other person is acting.”
She continues: “That speech was a big one, and it was an important one because it was talking somebody down from suicide. I thought that Pete Lawson was very brave with the writing, because Jean challenged Sean at one point, and said: ‘Right, go ahead and do it!’ and got a chair and sat down in front of him. That threw him, because he obviously wanted to do that act in private, and she was going ‘No, I’ll stay here. If you’re going to do it, do it now.’
“That is very brave. For somebody who has attempted suicide herself on a number of occasions, it was also a wonderful chance for Jean to give something back, having been in those places.”
The scenes in question aired in May, as part of actor Rob Kazinksy’s guest return to the soap. During a break away from Walford, struggling Sean admitted to having killed his father Brian when he was 16, and retreated to a barn, where Jean and Stacey found him in a dark state.
While Stacey was unsure of how to handle the situation, Jean was able to tap into Sean’s feelings, and reminded him of his more selfless qualities, whilst also reassuring him that the burden he felt would gradually get lighter.
Adds Gillian: “It was great having Rob back. It was ten years since we’d worked together, and it felt like yesterday when we got back on the studio floor. It was great for the three of us – myself, Lacey and Rob – to be together.”
EastEnders continues on BBC1