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Have a Butchers at this

EastEnders actress Pam St Clement reveals all about her gripping new Albert Square storyline and tells of her upset over the recent death of friend and colleague Mike Reid

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Just when you think things can't get any crazier for Pat Evans - formerly Butcher - the EastEnders writers have gone and cooked up another humdinger for her.

It sees Pat - actress Pam St Clement - venture out of Albert Square to Worthing after receiving a mysterious letter from someone she thought was in her past.

"It's a bolt from the blue," reveals Pam, who has played the legendary Pat since 1986. "It has come from a point in her past that is even shadowy to her."

In fact, the message appears to be from her long-lost sister, which spurs Pat to try and seek out the sibling she thought had died many years ago in an asylum.

"Pat's sister was sent to an institution when she was a young child," Pam explains. "She had Down's Syndrome and the family sent her away. Pat was very young at the time. Pat has actually once referred obliquely to someone she knew with Down's Syndrome when Billy and Honey had their baby, so it was seeded as a back story already."

The moving plot was partly filmed in an abandoned mental facility, which Pam admits brought a pretty sombre mood to proceedings.

"There were long corridors, very Victorian," she remembers. " You would see these old iron bedsteads in rooms and it was all very forbidding. It was impersonal and harsh."

So how does Pat herself react?

"I think she is initially very shocked when she sees the conditions of the institution and realises what it must have been like to have been a young girl and put in there," says Pam.

To find out just what happens when Pat is confronted with her family history, you'll have to watch the show, but fans of the battleaxe will be pleased to know that a new man may be coming into her life.

Pat initially leaves the Square with Shirley and Heather, who are headed to Brighton, but they ditch her at the first opportunity, leaving Pat stranded at a service station. However, help is at hand in the form of a gentleman called Len, played by ex-Bill star Chris Ellison, who offers to take Pat the rest of the way to Worthing - and there are definitely sparks.

"Pat doesn't immediately trust Len," admits Pam. "She is always so defensive but circumstance means they are thrown together as he has unwittingly helped Heather and Shirley drive off in the car Kevin lent to Pat, so he offers to give her a lift and that is how it all begins."

But after the romantic turmoil Pat has endured with Frank and Roy, is she really ready to love again?

"I think she probably is," says Pam. "But I think really she would like to have an equal partner, a companion. She will always hold a candle for Frank - and yet she had a happy and eventful life with Roy, well, until the later years. I think her marriage to Roy was in a sense a compromise - it was comfortable. She was getting older and I think she did a very sensible thing in marrying him. But I'm sure she's ready for a new person in her life."

Of course, Frank was a major part of Pat's life, as the actor Mike Reid was a huge part of Pam's life. She says the recent death of Mike has been hard to cope with.

"I have to say it's been extraordinarily difficult after the tragic news about Mike," she says. "Barbara (Windsor) and I were filming first thing the next morning and it was very strange. I did feel sorry for the first assistant director and the director who had to keep the day moving. It affected everybody - it just sort of seeped through. It brought everyone slightly down."

Pam worked with Mike for many years and she says she enjoyed every bit of it.

"It was all a joy," she recalls. "He made us laugh and he was a great support as a friend. He was generous to a fault. In every way brilliant, wonderful."

EastEnders has had a hard time for the past couple of years, what with struggling ratings and criticism from the press. However, Pam says the cast remains upbeat.

"The mood is very good to be quite honest," she says. "I think the show has been in quite a good state for a while, but the press has been so busy knocking us, they didn't notice.

"With all the on-demand viewing, it is becoming more and more difficult to quantify the audience. We know what goes on by going into the street and finding out what is going on. We are the first to hear if we are getting something wrong or right in the show."

While Emmerdale and Coronation Street may be fairing slightly better, Pam says she doesn't watch any of the competition.

"I'm afraid I don't watch many ongoing dramas," she laughs. " I tend to use my TV, DVD and video mainly for watching movies and documentaries. I fight the temptation to get hooked into an ongoing drama!"

And judging by her continued love of her iconic character she plans to stay at EastEnders for the foreseeable future.

"Pat has a lot of strands," she says. "She's got a rich history that stories can tap into and a deep connection to the Square

"Where else as an actor would one get the chance to explore so much of a character in such depth over such a long length of time? The character evolves as she is maturing alongside me."

› Pam St Clement's EastEnders character Pat Evans goes on an emotional journey to Worthing on BBC One from tomorrow.

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