EastEnders star Bonnie Langford has opened up about seeing the real-world impact of the soap’s powerful knife crime storyline first-hand.
Fans of the BBC One soap have called Langford to win all of the top awards next year for her moving performances as Carmel Kazemi throughout a hard-hitting storyline that started with the murder of her son Shakil.
As part of the story, EastEnders broke from its traditional format this past summer by intercutting testimonials from the families of real-life knife-crime victims with fictional scenes of Shakil’s funeral.
On Wednesday (September 19), Bonnie took a break from starring in 42nd Street in the West End to share with The One Show how moved she’d been to meet the real-life families on set.
“That day that we were filming this was just the most extraordinary day,” she remembered. “It was very calm. It was very peaceful, but very, very emotional.
“I went over to the one of the ladies who was breaking down. I just wondered if this was too much, actually. I went over and I gave her a hug, and I said, ‘Are you okay?’. She was bursting into tears. She said, ‘It’s so funny. I didn’t cry for my own son’s funeral, yet I’m crying now’.
“It was almost as if she’d been given permission… It was almost as if everybody there understood that they had that [same tragedy] in common. An awful [tragedy].”
Bonnie later touched on why the knife crime story was “so important” to show on telly: “When we see something awful happening, when you see a press call or people outside a court saying ‘I want justice. I want this never to happen to anybody else. This needs to stop’.
“With something like a soap, you’re able to go behind closed doors and see how it actually affects people. For me, it was Carmel’s grief, it was a mother’s grief.”
Shortly after the funeral scenes aired, it was announced that Bonnie will be leaving EastEnders. The stage and screen legend confirmed on The One Show that she had finished filming, but stopped short of tipping whether a return as Carmel would be possible down the road.
“I can’t say,” she teased.
EastEnders continues on Thursday (September 20) at 7.30pm on BBC One.
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