Sylvie Carter died in an accident on EastEnders tonight, but actress Linda Marlowe says she's exiting the BBC1 soap with nothing but happy memories of her role
Sylvie Carter left a big hole in the Carter family's world when she expired on EastEnders tonight. But her tragic dementia storyline wasn't without its lighter moments and actress Linda Marlowe explained what she's going to miss about her...
How have you found playing Sylvie? "It has been a wonderful role. It’s a gift for an actress to get a role like that, with so much depth of different behaviour at different times. Also to have done it for two and half years, I’ve never played the same character for so long. There were so many layers and that was a really great role to play."
Had you done any research into dementia to help you play the part? "I had done some research back before I got the role of Sylvie because there was a one-woman show I had intended to do about somebody with dementia, and I visited this beautiful home down in Cornwall. I was there for three days spending time with the residents. It was a wonderful bit of research I’d done, not knowing that later I was going to be playing Sylvie."
"I also had a friend with vascular dementia and he died while I was actually filming EastEnders. He was a dear friend of mine and for many years of his illness he used to fiddle with things, touch a piece of cloth or a blanket, and his hands were constantly moving. So there were lots of things I had observed from people with dementia."
What was it like filming your final scenes? "Well for Sylvie she was happy at the end. She was with the dog, singing to the music and having a bath. So for me to film them they were probably the happiest moments for Sylvie that I’ve had to film."
What sort of reaction have you had from viewers to your portrayal of Sylvie? "The unbelievably extraordinary thing I’ve had is the huge amount of people that stop me in the street, and just how young they are, more so than adults. Girls and boys tell me they absolutely love the character and have rushed after me to say I’ve helped them because their nan is like Sylvie, and they love their nan so much and it makes them feel all right because it’s done so beautifully. They say Sylvie makes them understand because it reminds them of their own life."
How will Tina cope with Sylvie’s death? "I think Tina will be devastated, she will feel completely guilty because she was trying to deal with her mum and look after her. She didn’t have any help and she was having to leave Sylvie alone, and that’s what she was avoiding. Tina finally knew she had to get her into a home, but left it just that bit too late. I think it’ll have a tremendous impact on Tina."
What have been your fondest memories from filming? "I loved the day Linda (Henry, plays Shirley Carter), Luisa and I were stuck on the tube together recently. We had such fun, but the supporting artists were looking at us in astonishment – we were only doing what was in the scene, but they didn’t quite know what was happening. That will go down as a really happy experience.
"Another lovely memory is working with Annette Badland (plays Babe), back when Sylvie was in the home and she thought Babe was her mother. Babe slapped her and Sylvie bit her back, and you could see all the pain in Babe and the pain of being her sister. They were good scenes to film.
"Also, a fond memory will be overall how immensely friendly and supportive the rest of the other actors around me have been. It can be strange when you’re a recurring character as you’re not there all the time, but they always made me feel incredibly welcome and were pleased to see me.
"The whole process of playing Sylvie and being in that environment will be very much missed by me, and very much a happy memory in my career."
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Patrick McLennan is a London-based journalist and documentary maker who has worked as a writer, sub-editor, digital editor and TV producer in the UK and New Zealand. His CV includes spells as a news producer at the BBC and TVNZ, as well as web editor for Time Inc UK. He has produced TV news and entertainment features on personalities as diverse as Nick Cave, Tom Hardy, Clive James, Jodie Marsh and Kevin Bacon and he co-produced and directed The Ponds, which has screened in UK cinemas, BBC Four and is currently available on Netflix.
An entertainment writer with a diverse taste in TV and film, he lists Seinfeld, The Sopranos, The Chase, The Thick of It and Detectorists among his favourite shows, but steers well clear of most sci-fi.