EastEnders legends Jessie Wallace and Shane Richie are back as Kat and Alfie Moon – looking for her long-lost son in Dunmore East
S hane Richie claims he and his former EastEnders co-star Jessie Wallace are so close they share secrets they’ll take to their graves. ‘It’s part of the bond between us,’ he says. ‘We watch each other’s backs when it comes to our personal lives and we never betray each other. Some of what’s happened to us has been well documented. Thankfully some hasn’t – and hopefully never will be!’
The same can’t be said of the couple’s famous characters, Albert Square’s Kat and Alfie Moon. For 14 years their scandal-filled lives were played out in front of millions of fans before they won £1 million on the Lottery and upped sticks to start a new life in Spain at the beginning of 2016 with their son Tommy. A baby swap, infidelity, arson, a miscarriage, divorce, remarriage and financial disaster... you name it, when it came to the staples of soap opera married life, Kat and Alfie ticked every box.
There was, however, one story that remained untold. The fate of Kat’s baby son Luke, who was adopted at birth by an Irish couple when she was a teenager. Only now, in new drama series
Kat & Alfie: Redwater, which starts tonight on RTÉ One, will the truth emerge. ‘Kat’s been piecing together what happened – from what she was told before she left Albert Square to a postcard she received from the Irish village of Redwater in the 1980s that said he was safe,’ explains Jessie. ‘She and Alfie visit Redwater, where they believe Luke might be living, and ruffle feathers, especially among two prominent families, the Kellys and the Dolans.’ Redwater isn’t a soap spin-off, the kind EastEnders have made over the years featuring characters such as Dot Cotton and Frank Butcher, but a stand-alone drama over six hour-long episodes that makes no mention of Albert Square at any point. Jesper W Nielsen, the award-winning director of Danish drama Borgen, has been drafted in to oversee the series, which was filmed in Dunmore East, County Waterford. ‘It’s a classy show, with lots of trouble being taken over the filming,’ says Shane, sipping tea in The Strand Inn, the beautiful hotel on the seafront in Dunmore East. ‘We’d get through 20-odd scenes a day on EastEnders, on this we’re only getting through two or three. It’s taken me and Jessie a bit of getting used to. We film one scene, then it takes an hour or two to set up the next to make sure it’s all perfect.’
The drama opens at the hillside house that Kat and Alfie have rented on the cliff overlooking Redwater. It’s from here that Kat sets out to find Luke. She’s convinced she’s found him almost instantly when a handsome, darkhaired man in his 30s called Andy Kelly, part of the family that owns a nearby cattle farm, looms into view during the village’s boozy Spring Festival. ‘She starts taking pictures of him and visiting him on the farm,’ explains Jessie. ‘This desire to track down the son she had to give up all those years ago burns within her. She sees this as her big chance and she’s determined to take it.’
When Kat is befriended by pub landlord Peter Dolan, who they’re renting from, her meddling opens up new rifts between the Kellys and the Dolans, who all seem to be hiding secrets. Meanwhile, could the brain tumour Alfie was diagnosed with before the Moons left for Spain be causing him to see things that might not be there?
Kat and Alfie’s survival as a married cou-
ple has been key to their popularity with viewers. ‘People like the fact they’ve stayed together despite the challenges they’ve faced,’ says Shane. ‘We’ve noticed that particularly in Ireland. The Irish are very big on family so when they see a couple who’ve gone the distance, they admire that.’
Jessie agrees. ‘Irish people like the fact our characters are just like any other married couple. They bicker and fight but love each other very much. A bit like Shane and me really!’
Despite many rumours, Shane and Jessie have never been a couple, although much has been written about their respective love lives. In his autobiography Rags To Richie: The Story So Far, Shane admitted to an affair with dancer Claire Taylor while married to first wife Coleen Nolan, by whom he has two sons, Shane Junior and Jake, who are now in their 20s. And Alison Hall, the president of Shane’s fan club, claimed she had an affair with him in the early days of his relationship with second and current wife Christie Goddard, with whom he has three more children.
Jessie was dating Mallorca-based former criminal Paul Whitworth when she joined
EastEnders in 2000, before a liaison with policeman Dave Morgan, by whom she has a 12-year-old daughter, Tallulah. The couple parted soon after Jessie gave birth. ‘Me and Jessie have been there for each other through good times and bad,’ says Shane. ‘Our friendship has lasted longer than my first marriage and longer, to date, than my second so it’s based on something solid.’
‘There’s a shorthand between us and a lot of mutual respect,’ adds Jessie. ‘Even when we row we still feel comfortable with each other.’
Some of their fallouts have been spectacular. They didn’t speak to each other for five years while they were in EastEnders, as each thought the other was spilling dressing room secrets to tabloid newspapers. And when they were on tour together with the Peter James play The Perfect Murder in Edinburgh last year, Jessie wouldn’t talk to Shane after he called her an idiot. ‘She couldn’t find her passport,’ says Shane. ‘I said, “Why did you bring it? We’ve only come to Scotland,” and she said she thought she had to.’
‘He called me an idiot so I wouldn’t talk to him for a week,’ says Jessie.
Let the bickering begin again!
In the frame: Irish stars in the cast include, from left, Angeline Ball as Eileen; Maria Doyle Kennedy as Roisin Kelly; and Fionnula Flanagan as Agnes
Dunmore EastEnders: Shane and Jessie in the new show