When Benidorm kicks off for its eighth series on Monday (ITV, 9pm), there are some touching moments. Swinger Jacqueline has a large urn decorated with the Scottish flag. It contains the ashes of her sex-mad husband Donald who we find out passed away in his sleep.
In real life, Scottish actor Kenny Ireland, who played Donald, died in 2014, and the first episode of the new series has a proper goodbye to him and his memorable character.
“Jacqueline gets to scatter Donald’s ashes over Benidorm because it was the place he most loved in the world,” explained Janine Duvitski, who’s played Jacqueline since the series began in 2007. “It’s all very moving and a tribute our show really wanted to make.”
Jacqueline’s joined by hairdresser Kenneth (Tony Maudsley) and her old pal Troy (Paul Bazely) who’s back holidaying at the Solana after a few years away. They take the urn to the top of the hill that looks out over the resort, but, as ever on Benidorm, things don’t always go to plan and there are slapstick moments before Donald’s ashes eventually float majestically over his favourite resort.
“Because Kenny died it made the scenes very poignant to film, although in true Benidorm style there’s plenty of humour in there too,” said Janine. “It’s a nice mark of respect all round. The show’s writer Derren Litten does it brilliantly – it’s funny and poignant at the same time so not too maudlin.
“When we were filming, fans out in Benidorm knew about Kenny’s passing so I got a lot of condolences from them. I was there with my husband but lots of people said: ‘I’m so sorry about your husband!’ while my real one was right behind me! It’s sweet. They’re all very warm and sweet about it.”
Janine hopes widowed Jacqueline will soon be swinging and sexually adventurous again as Series 8 gets going…
“She certainly feels Donald would want her to carry on having a great time – Donald would find that perfectly acceptable!” says Janine. “I hope that might be the way it goes. You certainly see her having little flirtations! Her swinging also allows me to have such great one-liners and I get loads of them in this series.”
Janine now loves life in Benidorm so much, she’s even bought a property nearby where she stays during filming.
“I’ve bought a house in Spain! That’s why I’ve got to stay in the series!” she laughs. “It’s a villa which is a bit rustic. It’s a fisherman’s cottage about 20 minutes away from where we film. So that’s been really good fun. It means my family can come and stay – all the kids. It’s interesting because when I first started doing Benidorm my youngest was still at school so my husband had to stay back in the UK. Now my kids just come for holidays and my husband is out in Spain with me while I film. I used to nip home to Britain quite a lot during filming breaks but now I don’t have to!”
Benidorm series eight premieres on ITV at 9pm on Monday