After EastEnders live episode - Stacey Slater disappears!
Well, I'll settle for that! A near faultless performance from cast and crew alike, and a brilliant actress delivering the killer cliffhanger to 16.6m stunned viewers. It was everything I could possibly have hoped for - a truly memorable event to mark 25 great years of EastEnders. I'm very proud of everyone involved.
Forty eight hours after EastEnders Live, I'm trying to put things in perspective. I said in my earlier blog that all the best EastEnders moments of the last 25 years involved some kind of creative risk. Going live was a massive risk, but seeing it pay off so successfully, getting us our highest ratings in seven years, has made all the stresses worthwhile.
The biggest burden for me has been keeping the secret. I've been reading the comments on my blog and I can reassure Bridget, sweet alternative, Jon and others, that the cast and crew really didn't know until the night.
The moment I told Lacey Turner (Stacey) that she was the killer, with less than an hour to go before the performance, was very exciting. She was shocked, and momentarily disorientated, but went with it immediately. We'd talked before about how it could be her, and she knew what she needed to do. I also told Jake Wood (Max), not that he was the killer, but that he would be supporting Lacey in the final scene in which she would be revealed as the killer. Watch it here:
I never told Charlie (Bradley) - he, along with the rest of the cast, learnt it as the episode progressed. We've always managed this story on a need-to-know basis.
So how did we film all the episodes after the 'reveal' without them knowing? Peter - you've pretty much worked it out. Well done! Here's my more detailed explanation, although I have a feeling that Peter probably puts it better:
By the end of Friday only two characters are in on the secret - Stacey and her confidante Max - and it seems that Bradley is assumed to be the true killer of Archie. Monday's episode (22 February) picks up with Stacey and Max both distraught at the loss of Bradley, and to some extent blaming themselves for what's happened.
But the audience now know something more than the actors did when playing those scenes - that Stacey is the killer and Max knows it. Here's where it gets tricky! With the greatest respect to those two brilliant actors, their sadness and guilt plays both ways. Upset at their loss and at encouraging Bradley to run, or upset at their loss and the fact that Stacey's actions may have led to it - these two sets of feelings and emotions more or less look the same.
It's this kind of split intention (where we've given an actor an intention to play which could mean one thing or another) which we have used heavily during this period with a number of characters. With Stacey and Max, it's all helped by the fact that Stacey mysteriously disappears quite soon too.
We won't be filming new scenes on Monday (although we are doing some sound editing), but we will be dropping some quickly shot material in before too long. So I can assure viewers that the story doesn't become conveniently forgotten about, but rather stays active.
None of the writers, directors or actors working on the episodes that have been filmed up to now (about two months' worth) have known the truth. It's made it very tricky, as we've asked them to follow and work on our storylines without every being truly able to explain to them what's going on. But they've gone along with it, trusting our assurances that it would all make sense in the end. Another big risk! But I think this one will pay off too.
To Elizabeth - I do hope you don't abandon us. There's plenty of warmth and hope in the months ahead in EastEnders, and not too many tragedies. Although something rather unpleasant does happen to Sugar the dog, now I think about it... Oh, what is it with this programme and death?
Thanks for reading, and thanks so much to those of you who took the time and trouble to comment.
Diederick Santer is executive producer of EastEnders