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EastEnders announces ‘powerful, ruthless and Machiavellian’ new character arriving in the New Year

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Watch out, Walford has a new matriarch…

EastEnders is to get a feisty new female for 2020 in the shape of Suki Panesar, mother of Kheerat, Jags, Vinny and Ash.

The character, played by Balvinder Sopal, is set to arrive in Albert Square in early January, and will be harbouring a number of secrets from her past.

Balvinder Sopal as Suki Panesar

Suki Panesar (Balvinder Sopal) will arrive in Walford in January (Picture: BBC)

“The boys and Ash have talked about their mother, and live under the shadow of her power,” says the soap’s executive producer Jon Sen.

“There is a sense that she is a force to be reckoned with and, in the classic tradition of EastEnders matriarchs, she comes in and gives shape to that family. You suddenly see why these boys and Ash are like they are.

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“Kheerat, Vinny and Jags arrived as men, and you suddenly see that they are, in fact, little boys who need their mum.

"Suki is powerful and ruthless, and yet you wouldn’t think she’d say boo to a goose. So she’s got this kind of fantastic Machiavellian narcissism, and it’s just wonderful to watch.’

The Panesar brothers

Suki's sons Vinny, Kheerat and Jags arrived in the Autumn, and were revealed to be the brothers of Iqra Ahmed's partner, Ash (Picture: BBC)

Adds an EastEnders spokesperson: “Suki’s turbulent relationship with daughter Ash has already been hinted on screen, as Ash is adamant she wants nothing to do with her mother – but the question is, why?

“Suki thrives off attention, is fiercely protective of her family and has an ability to draw people in. However, Walford residents should not be fooled by her larger than life persona, because Suki always knows best and she is not one to be reckoned with.”

Balvinder Sopal is no stranger to soap, and has previously had small roles in Doctors, Hollyoaks, Coronation Street and Emmerdale. Back in 2018, she was the Dales’ DC Khan, who arrested Debbie Dingle over her involvement in the acid attack on Ross Barton.

In the same year, she also played Liz, a social worker assigned to Hollyoaks’ Courtney Campbell after she gave birth to daughter Iona.

She tells us: “I grew up watching EastEnders religiously, so to be joining the show and playing matriarch Suki Panesar is a dream come true – I am still pinching myself! I’m excited to see what’s in store for Suki as she joins her family on Albert Square.”

EastEnders airs Monday and Friday at 8pm and Tuesday and Thursday at 7.30pm on BBC One.

Alison Slade
Alison Slade

Alison Slade has over 20 years of experience as a TV journalist and has spent the vast majority of that time as Soap Editor of TV Times magazine. 

She is passionate about the ability of soaps to change the world by presenting important, issue-based stories about real people in a relatable way.

There are few soap actors that she hasn’t interviewed over the years, and her expertise in the genre means she has been called upon as a judge numerous times for The British Soap Awards and the BAFTA TV Awards.

When she is not writing about soaps, watching soaps, or interviewing people who are in soaps, she loves going to the theatre, taking a long walk or pottering about at home, obsessing over Farrow and Ball paint.