There’s a familiar face pitching up in EastEnders next week as Ross Boatman - perhaps best known for playing firefighter Kevin Medhurst in ITV drama London’s Burning and Derek in BBC2 sitcom Mum - joins the cast as Harvey Monroe, father of Bobby Beale’s girlfriend, Dana.
Harvey turns up to Bobby’s surprise 18th birthday party, much to the shock of both Dana and Bobby, and is keen to get to know the lad who has stolen his daughter’s heart.
He has no idea that Bobby is a convicted killer, having accidentally claimed the life of his sister Lucy back in 2014.
Here, Ross, 57, talks about his latest TV alter-ego, and why landing the part was a dream come true...
Ross, how did you get the part? Did you have to audition over zoom?
Yes I did, kind of. I was sent two cracking scenes for me to self tape. I must have recorded them twenty times each; I really wanted the job. It’s always been an ambition of mine to have a role in EastEnders, and I knew as soon as I read the scenes that this was going to be a fantastic part to play.
After that, I had a meeting on zoom with Jon Sen (EastEnders’ executive producer) and Julia Crampsie (head of casting). We had a long, very relaxed chat about EastEnders and Harvey, and what his journey in the show might be. I still hadn’t actually had an offer at this point, so I was a little nervous but quietly confident. After the meeting, I held my breath and waited for what seemed like forever. I think it was actually just a couple of days. When I finally got the call saying it was an offer, I couldn’t believe my luck.
Tell us about Harvey…
He turns up on the square to see his daughter, Dana. He's a single dad and very protective of her. He's a kind, loving father - he's not perfect; a little over protective maybe, but he's a good guy. He's a salt-of-the-earth guy who wants to do the best by his family, but there will be more to Harvey than just being a dad, of course.
How have you found filming so far?
I'm no spring chicken. I’ve been around in the business for quite some time and I’ve got enough experience under my belt to give me all the confidence I need to take on most new jobs and situations with relative ease - but I have to say, just the idea of coming into a show as big and iconic as EastEnders turned my legs to jelly! All those familiar faces, all those characters that I know so well. It felt a bit like I was about to walk into some kind of surreal dream. I didn’t know what to expect or how I’d be received. I've been watching the show forever and now I’m actually here and a part of it. Unbelievable!
What was it like being on set for the first time?
The first scene I shot was in Walford East. I was a little bit nervous, of course, but I was made to feel at home immediately. Brian (Conley) was the first of the cast to introduce himself and welcome me. He remembered me from London’s Burning. It’s always nice to be remembered, especially by someone as legendary as Brian. And two or three of the crew came over and said “Remember me? We worked together on this or that.” There was Gillian (Kathy), Clay (Bobby), Natalie (Sonia), Dale (Peter), Shona (Whitney), and Barbara, who plays my daughter Dana, and every one of them gave me the warmest of welcomes.
Viewers all know Bobby’s secret and so, now, does Dana. How do you think Harvey would feel if he knew that Bobby had killed his sister?
I think like any caring parent, he'd be extremely alarmed and deeply concerned about his daughter and her safety. I have a daughter not too far from Dana's age, and if she told me that her boyfriend had bumped off his sister, I can't say I'd be all too happy about it! If she really loved him, then for the sake of her happiness I would try to understand what, why, how, etc, but I’m not sure Harvey would be so understanding.
What’s it like working with Barbara Smith, who plays Dana?
Barbara is lovely - she's a fantastic actor! I'm always amazed when I meet actors as young as Barbara who are so accomplished and confident. We’ve got some really lovely stuff to play together, and I’m confident we’re going to make a great team.
And what’s it been like working with the actors in the Beale family?
Gillian Taylforth (Kathy) is wonderful! I've shot a few scenes with her already, and she’s amazing. She's such a lovely person - I feel so relaxed in her company. She’s warm and funny. She's very easy to work with and she's brilliant as Kathy. I can't think of anybody that I could have started with who would have made me feel more at ease than Gillian has. I’ve been working a fair bit with Clay (Bobby), too. What a smashing kid and so talented; so natural in his delivery. He’s bright and engaging, always chilled, and in a good mood. A pleasure to be around and to work with.
Can you tease what’s coming up for Harvey?
I can't give too much away, but Harvey is a cabbie by trade and, as luck would have it, there's a new cab office on the square, so maybe if Harvey's very lucky, he might find himself a bit of work!
EastEnders airs Mondays at 8.05pm, Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7.35pm and Fridays at 8.30pm on BBC One - see our TV Guide for full listings. You can also watch all of this week’s episodes on BBC iPlayer now.
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