EastEnders' actress Tameka Empson joins a host of stars lending their voices to festive children's animation, Aliens Love Panta Claus on Sky. Here she reveals what's in store and what's top of her Christmas wishlist this year....
Since becoming a mum to four-year-old Nylah, soap star Tameka Empson (aka EastEnders’ Kim Fox-Hubbard) has been keen to appear in shows they can both watch together.
That’s why she enjoyed lending her vocal talents to Aliens Love Panta Claus, a festive animation based on the popular children’s book Aliens Love Underpants.
The half-hour special on Christmas Eve, also stars Matt Lucas, Ashley Jensen and Romesh Ranganathan and sees the fun-loving, pant-obsessed aliens on a mission to save Christmas.
Here Tameka, 41, who was a contestant on Strictly Come Dancing in 2016, tells writer Hannah Davies more about the fun musical animation, reveals how she’d love to do a Strictly Christmas special and tells us what she really wants for Christmas this year…
Tameka Empson’s interview with What’s On TV
What’s On TV: Had your read the Aliens Love Underpants series of books before?
Tameka Empson: “I hadn’t. I like to read to my daughter, though. We have the Little Miss collection, which I’ve been reading to her since she was born and it’s quite nice because she identifies with all the different characters!”
WOTV: What was the appeal of lending your voice to this?
TE: “It’s nice to do something that my child can watch. I don’t expose her too much to EastEnders, but this is something we can both enjoy. She watches EastEnders every so often, though, and at one time when she saw Pearl on screen she thought it was her! I was a bit scared of breaking it to her that I have another child on TV, but she’s worked it out!”
WOTV: Tell us about your character, Zingy…
TE: “She’s a funky alien and very much the straight talking girl of the alien group. She’s a real go-getter and she doesn’t take any nonsense – a bit like Kim! It’s nice because with animation you can be creative and OTT and a bit more crazy. You can be larger than life and it’s really good when you can bring that to a show.”
WOTV: There’s a Christmas message at the heart of is, but some catchy songs, too…
TE: “Yes! It’s all about working together and spreading the Christmas joy – and underpants – around the world! Underpants are the best gift, aren’t they? But what makes the show stand out is the animation and I love the music. It’s like a musical for children!”
WOTV: Are you a good singer?
TE: “People say that, but do you know what, if I have a character I can sing, but me as myself? I don’t know! I really enjoyed recording the songs for this, though. We went to these studios and they were so plush… I felt like I was in Abba!”
WOTV: You’re one of the EastEnders stalwarts now. Are you still enjoying playing Kim?
TE: “I was only supposed to be in it for two episodes, but I loved it. It didn’t feel like work, I was just playing about and getting paid for it. I never feel settled, though, and I’m always on my toes with it. I never sit back and say, ‘I’m going to be here for another five years or so’ because you just don’t know. But I am very grateful because I do love Kim – everybody’s got to have a Kim in their life!”
WOTV: Do the cast do a Secret Santa or anything special for Christmas?
TE: “No because there’s so much going on with all the different storylines, so you don’t always see everybody at the same time. But there’s always a Christmas party that people go to and relax after a good year’s work – unfortunately I’m going to miss it because I’m doing panto this year.”
WOTV: Do you have any Christmas traditions as a family?
TE: “My mum always puts on her Christmas attire and her earrings are getting bigger every year. It’s like Pat Butcher but with a Jamaican slant! We used to always dress up for Christmas and always put on our finery, but we’re getting into the Christmas jumpers now – that’s our new tradition.”
WOTV: After your Strictly experience, would you like to do Strictly Christmas special?
TE: “Oh yes! Let me tell you, I don’t think I’ve finished my Strictly story to be honest. I can still do the Paso Doble, I can still do all my routines. It was a bittersweet time I have to say. I wish I’d been there for longer because I really enjoyed it, but with the injury it wasn’t great. So a Christmas special? Who knows!”
WOTV: Are you still in touch with Gorka?
TE: “Yes, but it’s very hard watching him because, as I’ve said before, it’s like seeing your ex boyfriend moving on with someone else. And when he nearly went all the way with Alexandra Burke, I thought, ‘Do me a favour, that could have been me!’ But it’s okay. Gorka is so sweet and I catch up with him whenever I can.”
WOTV: Is there anything you want for Christmas?
TE: “I want a rest! I want a week in a spa where I don’t have to wear clothes and I can just lounge around in my underwear and a big fluffy dressing gown. I love a pamper, so I’d love a massage, acupuncture, hot stones and a little bit of cherry brandy… that’s what I want!”
Aliens Love Panta Claus is on Christmas Eve at 8.30am on Sky1
Main pic: David Fisher/REX/Shutterstock