EastEnders star Jessica Plummer calls for Gray Atkins downfall

·7-min read

Eight months have passed since EastEnders aired tragic exit scenes for Chantelle Atkins, who was killed by her abusive husband Gray while trying to escape from him once and for all.

The heartbreaking episode has now been nominated for Virgin Media's Must-See Moment BAFTA – the only award voted for by the public at next month's ceremony.

On-screen in EastEnders, Gray continues to get away with his crimes and has since killed twice more by claiming the lives of Tina Carter and Kush Kazemi.

In real life, Jessica Plummer – who played Chantelle – went on to compete in I'm A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! after filming her final scenes last year. She was also recently cast in the new thriller The Girl Before, where she'll be starring alongside another former EastEnders star, Ben Hardy.

Digital Spy recently caught up with Jessica for an exclusive chat about the BAFTA nod, Chantelle's storyline, and Gray's inevitable downfall.

Photo credit: Kieron McCarron - BBC
Photo credit: Kieron McCarron - BBC

How are you feeling about the BAFTA recognition?

"It was definitely one of those 'pinch me' moments. I actually didn't believe it when I found out. My friend said that their mum had called them and mentioned it. I said: 'Well your mum's got it wrong, I don't think that's the case!' When I found out it was true, I thought it was incredible."

It's a public vote, so do you think the show is in with a strong chance?

"I hope so. I feel like EastEnders fans are really involved in this kind of thing. They're really loyal and dedicated to the show.

"It would be absolutely incredible to win, but at the same time, we're in a category with really phenomenal moments so it's just an honour to have been nominated in the first place, I think."

What was the reaction on social media when Chantelle was killed?

"Oh my goodness, whenever I think back to this moment, it was the weirdest weekend for me ever! It was my birthday two days before, then Chantelle's death aired on the Friday.

"It was weird, because I'd watched the episode maybe about five times before it aired. But watching it live, knowing that everybody else had also watched it and now it really was the end, I think I went into a bit of mourning for Chantelle.

"Social media was a bit of a weird place. The support was incredible and lovely. People said really complimentary things, which was great. But people were also saying things like: 'Rest in peace!'

"I don't know how to say this without sounding really dramatic, but because I was so attached to the character, it almost felt like a part of me had died!

"I actually came off social media for a little bit and wasn't so heavily on there for a while. I even remember tuning in to watch EastEnders on the Monday after the weekend. As soon as I heard the theme tune, I thought: 'I can't do this, I can't watch it right now, I think I need a bit of a break to get it out of my system!'"

Photo credit: Kieron McCarron/Jack Barnes - BBC
Photo credit: Kieron McCarron/Jack Barnes - BBC

Did you like that Chantelle's exit episode was so different, with unique filming techniques used?

"Yes, and also the time that was given to it all. We had rehearsals and that was the first rehearsal that I'd ever had at EastEnders. We also had a great team working on it.

"How it worked when we came back after [the] lockdown was that we were still socially distanced, but bubbled within the cast and crew so nobody would ever mix.

"Usually on EastEnders, you're always hopping over to different blocks so you don't spend too much time with one person that often. It was just so lovely to get to know everybody.

"The effort, energy, love, care, and time that went into the build-up to that moment was what made it what it was. It was an honour to be part of it."

Have you started watching the show again?

"I dip in and out. I still follow EastEnders on Instagram and slide in their DMs every so often! I know it's all been kicking off with Gray."

When you left, did you know that Gray would become a serial killer?

"No, I didn't! He's so much more evil. I don't even think Toby knew at that time either."

What would be your preferred outcome for Gray? Prison or death seems likely...

"I feel like Gray dying would be too easy. I think he deserves to go and rot in jail, but I want him to realise why that's his punishment. I want him to know – in some sort of way – that it's not okay. I'd love to watch Toby act that as well because I know that he would do that brilliantly."

Photo credit: Kieron McCarron/Jack Barnes - BBC
Photo credit: Kieron McCarron/Jack Barnes - BBC

Would you tune in especially to see justice for Chantelle?

"Yeah, I'd get it projected across my whole wall! I'd invite everyone I know to watch it with me!"

Are you still in touch with Toby and does he ever share any spoilers with you?

"No, he's so good at keeping it a secret – he doesn't tell me anything! But it's good because if he did tell me something, with me and my blabbermouth I'd probably tell you and it'd be out in the press by the weekend!

"When you're at EastEnders, it's sometimes better to see things in the short-term anyway, rather than knowing what's going to happen after that. Because who knows, this could continue up until Christmas. So as an actor it's probably best to just concentrate on what's right in front of you."

Some fans have commented that Gray becoming a serial killer has taken something away from Chantelle's death and the domestic abuse, because the focus has shifted so much. Do you have any thoughts on that?

"I think the fact that is a conversation is keeping the conversation about Chantelle going. The main point of that storyline was to raise awareness. Regardless of how that's happening – if people are getting more upset with Toby's character and things that he does – the conversation is happening and it just means that more awareness can be brought to the topic.

"I feel like it's a good thing. When we filmed Chantelle's death after the first lockdown and cases had risen so high for cases of domestic violence, we achieved what we set out to achieve and then some.

"Maybe the fact that it's taking a long time for Chantelle to get her justice is a good thing, because it keeps the conversation going and it's not like she's forgotten about."

Photo credit: Kieron McCarron/Jack Barnes - BBC
Photo credit: Kieron McCarron/Jack Barnes - BBC

You've since been cast in The Girl Before. How is that going?

"I feel really lucky to be working right now. I am so excited and really proud to be part of it, to be honest. I'm obviously biased but I'm really excited about it and for people to see it."

Is it fun working with Ben Hardy, as you both have that EastEnders connection?

"I think a lot of people think we know each other because of that! People think if you've been on EastEnders, you know everybody else who's been on the show. But Ben's great – he's wonderful."

Voting for the Must See Moment award is open via the Virgin Media website.

We would encourage any readers who are affected by the issues raised in this story to contact Refuge (www.refuge.org.uk) or Women's Aid (www.womensaid.org.uk). The 24-hour, freephone National Domestic Abuse Helpline is 0808 2000 247. The US National Domestic Violence Hotline is 1-800-799-SAFE (7233), or text LOVEIS to 22522.

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