The big moments in soap operas always resonate. We still talk about who shot JR, fondly remember the Deidre/Ken/Mike love triangle in Corrie and we’ve only just found out who killed Lucy in EastEnders. But what’s it like for the actors? And what affect does it have on them personally?
One person who knows better than anyone is Pam St Clement, famous as Pat Butcher in BBC’s long-running soap opera EastEnders. In 2012, after 25 years in Albert Square, her character died after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Creating those moving scenes was, Pam says, one of the hardest things she’s had to do as an actor.
“[Pat’s] death scenes were one of the biggest challenges I’ve have working on EastEnders. I was dying but I had to hold the story together for the whole episode. There was a Macmillan nurse by my side for the whole of that shoot just so I could ask ‘can I do that?’
“Without her I wouldn’t have been able to do it.
After leaving the soap, which has just celebrated its 30th birthday, Pam joined the team at ITV’s daytime show This Morning.
“They specifically wanted me to do an animal slot, which was lovely. I also did some drama like Loose Women,” she says. “I’m also heavily involved in EastEnders 30th anniversary.”
She spoke with Xn when she came to Waterstones’ Broad Street Reading branch on Friday, February 13, so she could meet fans and sign copies of her new autobiography, The End of an Earring. It was a poignant moment for the star, as in the queue was an old schoolfriend – they hadn’t seen each other since the 1950s.
Pam started writing down thoughts about her life when she left EastEnders after 25 ½ years, something that has come as bit of a culture shock for the actor.
“It had been a long time since I’d been me totally,” she says. “When you’re in an ongoing series you’re living alongside a character. I think because I was so involved in the show I forget me a bit.
“When I came out I thought I’d like to look back and reflect on my life. Not for any sort of soul searching or anything like that.
“My life felt like some sort of jigsaw puzzle that a recalcitrant child had thrown upon the floor and all the pieces were scattered and I needed to put all those pieces together.
“So that’s what I started doing. Writing notebooks about what I could remember about the past. When I re-read what I had written about a couple of periods of my life I realised there was a story to be told.
“Sometimes people feel that you have to blame the world for what happens to you. You don’t. Get out there! You are dealt a deck and the cards you play, that’s up to you.”
The End of an Earring, by Pam St Clement is published by Headline, £16.99. ISBN: 9781472222138.