EastEnders produced a dramatic twist when Phil Mitchell and Ian Beale saw Paul Coker lying dead in hospital instead of the man they thought had died – Ben Mitchell. Actor Jonny Labey talks about leaving the BBC1 soap
Fans of EastEnders were left reeling tonight when, in a shock twist, Phil Mitchell and Ian Beale saw Paul Coker lying dead in hospital instead of Ben Mitchell.
Actor Jonny Labey, who's now left EastEnders, told us what playing Paul has meant, and his thoughts on Paul's dramatic death...
Revealing more about Paul Coker's death, Jonny said: "When I heard all the details I was shocked at first as it was my exit storyline. But the storyline is beautifully written and the build up to it is great. So much happens with his mum, Jenny, coming into Walford and with Paul and Ben taking over the funeral business, it’s all looking very hopeful for them as a couple. It’s incredible to have a week dedicated to your character.
"It's been hard to keep what happened to Paul secret! I knew about the exit ages ago so had to stay quiet. A lot of the really emotional stuff happens after I leave EastEnders and all of my last scenes are very happy.
"It was quite strange because Lin and Roger (who play Paul's grandparents Pam and Les Coker) were filming a lot of the reactive parts and then coming back to film all the upbeat stuff with me. It was quite odd! But watching Lin and Roger do their scenes was really hard."
Jonny revealed he was in bits during his last day on the EastEnders set in Elstree.
"I was a mess. It was nice to have this experience, but to say goodbye to everyone, especially Harry Reid who plays Ben, plus Roger and Lin, was really tough.
"I will miss finding out new things about my character. When you do a play or a movie you know the story, but what’s unique about a soap is that you’ve always got something new. Whenever you get a new script it’s: 'What’s going to happen to me?' I’ll miss that constant change, it’s nice to have that."
The death of Paul Coker is another chilling EastEnders plot, which began when Ian answered Kathy’s phone to discover his half-brother Ben had been involved in a fight and was lying in hospital with critical injuries.
With Ben's mum Kathy nowhere to be found, he rushed to Phil’s and the pair made a frantic dash to the hospital. After an agonising wait, Ian and Phil realised the worst when the doctors insisted they come to the dreaded 'relatives room'. The doctor broke the devastating news to Ian, Phil and Steven that Ben had died just minutes before they'd arrived.
Meanwhile when Kathy, who’d been away at a hotel with her secret lover Buster, returned to Albert Square, she was horrified to be met by Shirley who broke the news that Ben was in a critical condition.
However, Kathy’s world later fell apart when Steven called from the hospital to break the news her son had died! She was left sobbing in Shirley's arms, despite having just done the dirty on Shirley by sleeping with Buster.
Back at the hospital a distraught Phil and Ian braced themselves to identify Ben’s body. However, in a shocking twist, as the two men prepared for the very worst, it wasn’t Ben’s lifeless body they saw lying before them, but rather Ben’s boyfriend Paul Coker!
How did such a terrible case of mistaken identity happen? Was it down to Paul carrying Ben's phone? Remember the lovers also had each other's names tattooed on their fingers last Friday. Was it that?
Now viewers are left wondering if Ben is still alive or whether he's been caught up in the deadly incident as well. Also, how will Paul’s doting grandparents Pam and Les Coker react when they learn the tragic truth, that their grandson has been killed?
Having been tortured for months at the hands of blackmailer Aunt Babe, not to mention having to cope with the death of their son – Paul’s dad, Laurie – years ago, how will the Cokers deal with yet another devastating blow?
The couple were poised to retire and leave Walford for a fresh start in Worthing and had already paved the way for Paul and Ben to take over their funeral business.
Paul’s sudden death leaves florist Pam not only totally heartbroken but also tortured by her guilty secret about his mum Jenny who she prevented from seeing her son.Viewers recently saw Jenny turn up in Walford and speak to Paul, who was unaware of her true identity and later mistook her for the Cokers' blackmailer.
Now Paul is dead, Pam will have to live with the fact that she ensured her grandson’s mum was never part of his too-short life.
Meanwhile undertaker Les will have to grapple with the heartbreaking decision about what to do with his own grandson’s funeral. Will he be strong enough to deal with the arrangements himself?
With his health still fragile following his recent heart attack, brought on by Babe’s evil blackmail campaign about his cross-dressing secret, will Les cope with turmoil of preparing a coffin for his own flesh and blood?
With such an ordeal ahead of them, will the Cokers pick up their plan to leave Walford once Paul’s been laid to rest? The couple have been through so much recently, it’s hard to see how they will get through this latest tragedy…
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