Kellie Shirley, who played Carly Wicks on EastEnders, talks Babs, BAFTA and going back to the ’80s.
How was lockdown for you?
I have four-year-old twins so it was lovely to spend more time with them. As an actress, I’m always chasing jobs, so it’s been nice not having FOMO (fear of missing out), as there’s nothing to miss out on. I was about to start on Benediction, a film about war poet Siegfried Sassoon, but it’s been pushed back.
What’s it like working with Idris Elba in his ’80s-set comedy, In The Long Run?
Idris is one of the nicest guys, a very kind person and when he says he’s going to do something, he does it. I like that. Everyone on the show gets on so well and we put on ’80s tunes in the make-up bus to get us into the vibe. It’s the best job ever.
What do you remember about the ’80s?
The series is set in 1986, when I was four, so I don’t remember things like the miners’ strike or the Brixton riots but my mum does. I remember the fashion – the ra-ra skirts, my mum having pink punk hair. I recall it visually but not the political climate.
What about the shell suits?
I remember getting my first one and then being told not to go to bonfire night with it on. We were all given a shell suit by Idris at the end of season one, which I wore to an online ’80s and ’90s dance class recently. The catering on the show is really good, so it’s great to wear baggy clothes then stuff our faces!
What does it mean to you to be part of BAFTA’s Elevate scheme this year?
It was someone at Idris’ company that said I should apply. It looks at people who are progressing in their careers but for whatever reason can’t break through the glass ceiling. Becoming a mum and being form a working-class background, it has sometimes been difficult to move on in my career. There are 21 of us from underrepresented groups in our industry – I’m ticking the box for the mature, white, working-class female and mum. We have lots of conversations with amazing people – it’s been so good.
How did you feel running the London Marathon last year?
To run 26.2 miles is just wrong – every time I see a similar distance when I’m driving, it seems so far, then I think, I actually ran it! Last year I ran for Alzheimer’s Society and Barbara Windsor, who has been my mentor since EastEnders and continues to give me pearls of wisdom. One of the best things about being an actor or performer is having a voice and using it in a positive way, especially when so many charities aren’t currently receiving the money they need.
In The Long Run, Sky One, Thursday, 10pm. Also available to view on NOW TV
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