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EastEnders brings back Whitney Carter’s love interest Callum ‘Halfway’ Highway next week, as he returns to Albert Square with a secret.
Whitney (Shona McGarty) is delighted when she sees that Halfway is back from the army, but picking up where they left off proves more tricky than expected when he seems distracted and hesitant around her. What is Halfway hiding?
Digital Spy recently caught up with Tony Clay, who plays Halfway, for a chat about his character’s comeback.
How does it feel to be back on Albert Square again?
“It feels amazing to be back. It’s really lovely to be back with the cast and crew of EastEnders. It’s been really, really nice to do more and learn more about the characters in the story as well.”
Was it always the plan for you to come back, or were the producers influenced by the positive reaction to your character?
“I think there was quite a nice reaction online and from people who watched it, from what I was told. Initially when I signed up, I only signed for two months. But then I got a phone call asking if I’d be willing to come back. I was just really privileged. It’s just like with any job – you step in and do your best. To be asked back, you obviously start to feel like: ‘Yeah, cool. Hopefully I’m doing something right’.
“Again, I’m just really privileged to be asked – and really proud to be a part of the history of the show now. I think that’s a real, lovely thing that I can always have. No-one can take that away from you. So it’s brilliant, really brilliant.”
It must also be a vote of confidence that EastEnders are bringing in Halfway’s brother Stuart as well?
“I think it is. They obviously want to add that dynamic to the character by bringing in his brother. I think it’s great they’ve brought him in. Like most brothers are, I think their relationship can be quite Marmite at times. You start to see it unravel. You start to see little glimpses where you go: ‘Ooh, I’m not sure. I don’t know what’s going on here!’
“You get a sense that something isn’t right between them, but you do also get a sense that they’re brothers quite quickly. You get the feeling that Stuart is the brother that wears the trousers, for definite. Halfway looks up to his brother in some ways, but also in other ways, he thinks: ‘I don’t know. I don’t know about him’.”
Where Halfway is a little dopey, is Stuart a bit more switched on?
“He’s a lot more clued up and manipulative than Halfway is and I think you really see the difference between them. I think Stuart has that in him – he thinks he is doing right, but other people might find it not to be. So we’ll find out.”
Did you get recognised in the street after your first stint?
“I did when it first aired after New Years. I think because Danny Dyer’s got such a following as well, when people thought that I’d shot Mick, I just got a few looks in the street!
“The first time I got recognised, I was in Greenwich. This guy chatted to me across the bar and he had a picture. I thought: ‘That’s quite surreal’. It was quite an odd moment. But everyone’s always polite. Everyone’s always lovely. If anyone notices me, it’s always been really nice.”
It was definitely a risk coming in to shoot Mick in your first scene!
“Yeah, it was! (Laughs.) Danny’s got such a following of fans. Everyone loves him. So obviously, initially when they first saw that episode, they thought: ‘Oh my God, they’re going to kill Mick off. Is this the end?’ My Twitter was absolutely flooded with messages saying: ‘Dude, what have you done?’
“But then it was established that Halfway hadn’t killed Mick and that they went way back, so people realised they were friends.”
Do you think your character will have darker and more dramatic storylines as time goes on?
“I think there’s always the potential. On any show, there always should be drama – especially on the Square. Halfway has got that lovely quality to him, where he’s quite jokey.
“As with any character, it’s always interesting to explore the various different parts of him, and that’s a thing for the future. It’ll be really exciting to explore that, definitely.”
Would you like the writers to keep pursuing the relationship between Halfway and Whitney? Do they make a good match?
“You never know what makes a good pairing. I think everyone connects in different ways. Halfway isn’t someone who Whitney would probably go for in the grand scheme of things, but I think the effort that he puts in, and the charm that he has about him, wins her over. A lot of the time, I think that’s more important than just how he looks.
“It’s the loveliness of him, even going back to when Halfway took Whitney up on the rooftop to serenade her up there. It’s that kind of thing that you fall in love with. That’s what makes them a good pairing – it’s the love.”
How do you feel about your character cruelly being branded ‘Halfwit’ by Shirley?
“Again, it’s brilliant. It’s so lovely. I’ve got a lovely thing with Linda Henry, who plays Shirley, where her character is obviously asking: ‘What is he? Just what is he talking about?’ You know, calling him Halfwit and stuff like that. In many ways, he sort of is, at points!
“But I think, again, he takes it all in his stride. He sort of goes: ‘Oh, okay, I can take that. It’s not my nickname, but I’m not going to argue too much with you, because you’re quite scary!’ He doesn’t want to push his luck too much.”
What kind of mood is Halfway in when he comes back?
“Obviously we know that something’s happened. Something’s changed in him. I think that you start to see Halfway unravel a little bit about what’s happened. Again, he plays it up, where he’s quite jokey and happy. But you get a sense that there’s something not right here.”
Is Halfway the sort of guy who can keep a secret, or is he likely to let it slip?
“What eats him up the most is that he wants to share because he’s a good person. He wants to tell all and he wants to say everything. He’s met this girl, and he’s thinking: ‘Wow I’ve never been in this situation’. I think when you do fall in love with someone, you do want to tell them everything. That’s a major part of this character.”
Does Halfway find it hard to resist Whitney when she gets frisky with him?
“This will be something again that shows another side to him. He does struggle with the intimacy and connecting with people in terms of opening up. He misses so much stuff and you just go: ‘Why? How did he miss that signal?’ And he says things at the wrong time and I think that is the biggest thing of his. He loves to put his foot in it!”
Whitney’s ex Woody is on the Square, so can we expect some comedy scenes between the two of you?
“There’s a couple of little looks and you feel it a little bit – but again with Halfway, I don’t think he cares about that sort of stuff. He’s not nervous or scared of ex-partners, and obviously this goes back to Lee. who is one of his childhood friends.
“So with Woody, I think Halfway just accepts it. He doesn’t mind that Whitney has had other partners. He is oblivious because he is so besotted with Whitney and he has the Carters behind him as well.”
Where do you hope the character will be in a year’s time?
“I’d love to see him stay with the Carters and develop that relationship more, and develop the relationship with my brother more. With Whitney, that would be brilliant – it’d be really nice to see where that goes.
“I’d like to just see him quite happy, but with a lot of stuff going on, a lot of fingers in different pies.”
Halfway is a friend of Lee Carter’s, so do you hope they bring him back?
“I actually took drama at ArtsEd at the same time as Danny-Boy Hatchard as well. If they did bring Danny-Boy back, it would be amazing, obviously. Lee was such a strong character on the show and I think anyone who’s like that, the door should always be open for them. But it’s not my decision, of course!
“I would be up for that, definitely, to see where that would go. It would be amazing.”
Who’s on your wish list of EastEnders icons to share scenes with?
“Obviously June Brown, who plays Dot. I think she’s definitely up there for me. Working with the Carters has been amazing. I’d love to do some stuff with the Slaters, absolutely. Working with Tameka [Empson], who plays Kim – I’ve done that a couple of times and that was really lovely. I’ve also worked with Perry Fenwick, who plays Billy.
“I’ve kind of done the rounds now a little bit. I’m quite happy. I’m quite content with who I’ve worked with. But definitely June Brown!”
EastEnders airs Halfway’s return on Monday, April 30 at 8pm on BBC One.
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