EastEnders will ensure that autumn on Albert Square goes with a bang, thanks to a fire that will endanger the lives of several residents, among them Walford returnee Janine Butcher.
Conniving Janine was seen on screen for the first time since 2014 in a doof-doof broadcast on BBC1 last night. But it won’t be long before she’ll be feeling the heat, thanks to a blaze that breaks out in next week’s high-profile episodes.
“It was so hot! We were filming in a heatwave,” says Charlie Brooks of her experience shooting the pivotal scenes over the summer.
“Big episodes like that are always challenging, but in the most brilliant way. It’s like EastEnders goes on tour a little bit. There was a real sense of excitement because we’re creating a really big story.”
The catalyst for the conflagration will be an argument that breaks out at the Mitchells’ house between Janine, her daughter Scarlett (Tabitha Byron) and young Tommy Moon (Sonny Kendall). During the scuffle, Scarlett’s jumper will be seen — by viewers at least — being chucked onto a lit hob.
Read more: Next week on EastEnders
But by the time, the three quarrellers smell the smoke, they’ll be upstairs in Tommy’s bedroom – and trapped behind a locked door.
“When they get trapped, this vicious snake tongue comes out of Janine’s mouth and, unfortunately, little Tommy is on the receiving end,” continues Brooks. “Janine is panicking because she realises that there’s a fire. Underneath it all, she does have a heart and her maternal instincts kick in, for sure. Her only concern is getting those kids out.”
Whether she achieves this is, however, another matter, with EastEnders yet to reveal the outcome of its latest stunt. What we can say for sure is that an explosion at the house is set to intensify the drama and that characters including Phil Mitchell (Steve McFadden), Gray Atkins (Toby-Alexander Smith) and Kheerat Panesar (Jaz Deol) will also find themselves caught up in the mayhem.
As for Brooks, she’s just happy that her venomous alter-ego is back and at the forefront of the action: “Wherever Janine goes, drama follows. My time playing her over the last 20 years has always been exciting and it’s always a challenge for me to explore what she’s capable of. I’m looking forward to more of that. And to come back with a big bang is amazing.”
On the subject of what the future will hold, we need look no further than Kate Oates, the BBC’s current Head of Continuing Drama, who was instrumental in bringing Brooks home to E20. Teasing what lies ahead for Janine, Oates says:
“One of the most interesting to watch out for will be how Janine fares as a mother. Janine always loved her dad Frank and saw him through rose-tinted glasses. But she often found herself put to the back of the line while Frank had his own adventures with Pat and Peggy.
“When she returns, Janine makes it clear that she’ll do anything for Scarlett – including taking on Kat Slater. But even when she’s trying to be a great mother, Janine will always end up putting herself first. She’s more like Frank than she thinks. But can another resident of Albert Square make her realise that before it’s too late?”
Let’s just hope that Walford’s devious schemer survives this fiery week on the Square and gets the chance to be redeemed…
Watch: Charlie Brooks talks about Janine on White Wine Question Time