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EastEnders Jessica Plummer on Gray and Chantelle murder story backlash

Chantelle was murdered by Gray in scenes that aired last September (Picture: BBC)

It was one of the most harrowing soap moments of all time and the death of Chantelle Atkins at the hands of her evil husband Gray is still etched in the memories of EastEnders fans.

The shocking moment that saw Jessica Plummer exit the show in violent circumstances particularly hit home during a lockdown when domestic abuse statistics were on the rise and here, the actress talks to Metro.co.uk about the Bafta nominated episode and the bravery of EastEnders airing the tragic outcome.

She also addresses the ongoing debate on whether Gray becoming a serial killer undermines the original story, discusses her dream role as a superhero and shares her theory on who could be the one to bring down Gray.

What was your reaction when you heard you were up for a Bafta?  

So I found out because my friend sent me a WhatsApp saying their mum had told her ‘your friend Jess is up for a BAFTA for that scene she was in – it was just on Breakfast TV’. I just said ‘I think she’s got that wrong’ and didn’t pay it much thought until I went online and saw people speaking about it, it was a like ‘Oh my God, this actually is happening.’ It’s such an honour, a real pinch me moment.  

Do people still talk to you about Chantelle and the story? 

Yeah and do you know what, when I joined the cast, I knew what the story would be but I never thought it’d turn into this. What it became was such an honour to be a part of. Like now, people speak to me about it. Playing such a loveable character as well was lovely, people have nothing but  nice things to say. It feels, again, more pinch me moments that I was part of something much bigger than I ever imagined.  

Do you think it was a brave move of EastEnders to play out the outcome of the story that Chantelle died, which reflects the horrifying real life statistics? 

Yeah, as much as it was sad for me to play, it was so important to reflect how tragic reality can sometimes get to in those awful circumstances. We changed the storyline a bit, different things were meant to happen before to Chantelle so to come back on screen after being off air with this as the main focus was brave and really necessarily given the rise in statistics, particularly during lockdown.  

Do you still keep up with EastEnders? 

I was literally just saying that it’s almost been a year since we shot those scenes – I can’t believe we’re in May already! I dip in and out, I know that Nancy is back and Gray is still being very horrible! 

Some fans have commented that the storyline’s direction since Chantelle’s death has taken away the impact of the domestic abuse storyline due to Gray claiming more victims. Do you have any thoughts on this? 

I think the fact that it’s even a conversation shows how incredible and invested EastEnders fans are. At the time when we shot Chantelle dying, it was necessary and relevant and we achieved raising awareness at that point. EastEnders is a fictional show – the things that happen are sometimes reflective of reality and other times it goes beyond reality. It’s there to keep people on the edge of their seat and keep tuning in. I really hope that people who feel it has taken away from the domestic violence storyline will feel satisfied with the eventual outcome because I imagine Gray will definitely get his comeuppance.  

Do you have a theory on what his downfall might be? 

(jokingly) Well what ACTUALLY happened is the paramedics revived Chantelle and she is actually still alive! (laughs). I’m not sure – maybe Whitney will expose him, that’s a real possibility. I don’t know, what do you reckon? I really don’t know! Poor Whitney, that girl needs a holiday – she needs to get off that Square for a bit! 

Some speculated that as Gray’s guilt builds, he could be haunted by Chantelle in his head or see visions of her? If the opportunity arose, would you go back? 

The hard hitting scenes were an uncomfortable watch (Picture: BBC)

Yes, I could be a ghost, yeah! I’ve missed the Square – because of Covid, I haven’t seen anyone since my last day of work! I’m in full support of anything that means Gray will pay for his evil doings! 

Do you still keep in touch with your fellow I’m A Celebrity campmates? 

Oh yeah we still have our group WhatsApp. Let me check it right now. Mo messaged two hours ago with a video, the sun is out where he is. People are saying they miss him. I’m rubbish, I find it hard to keep up with them! 

You’re currently filming a new drama – how exciting is that? 

Super, super, excited – I am really looking forward to people seeing it all coming together soon! I feel incredibly lucky. 

Do you have any other ambitions on your acting bucket list? 

You know I’d love to do something more action based – I’d love to be a kick ass superhero, girl power and doing all my own stunts. Run around, fight and fly – that would be so much fun to film! I’ll have to think about a superhero name. Someone once asked me if I’d be a Bond Girl but no, I’d be Bond – the first female Bond! There’d be a Bond Boy.  

How would you feel if the must see moment in EastEnders won the Bafta, especially given the work gone in to filming it under Covid restrictions? 

It was in June, straight after we came back to work – it was so different for everyone using stunt doubles, perspex screens, dummies and green screens. To still achieve what we managed in those circumstances, the reactions from everyone and most importantly raising awareness – it would be a dream to win. There are some fantastic must see moments in that category so just to be nominated is a real honour.  

You can vote EastEnders for Bafta’s Must See TV Moment by following this link.

If you’ve got a soap or TV story, video or pictures get in touch by emailing us soaps@metro.co.uk – we’d love to hear from you.

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