Tonight is the night for EastEnders character, Billy Mitchell, as he is set to relay the Olympic Torch through the fictional borough of Walford and according to Perry Fenwick, who plays the spineless Mitchell in the award-winning BBC soap, he has trained so hard for the episode he thinks he could probably compete in the games now too!
According to the Sun newspaper, the 50-year-old actor says that he has put so much into his training for the once-in-a-lifetime event that if he should fall flat on his face during the live relay in tonight’s episode, it won’t be from lack of practice!
The Olympic buzz that has gripped our nation for the best part of the year is finally reaching Albert Square tonight, and although the episode has mainly been pre-recorded, there is a 7 minute live segment airing tonight to incorporate the relay of the torch as it is handed to Billy.
Also during the 7 minute live segment viewers will watch Billy’s granddaughter, Lola (Danielle Harold) giving birth live on air too, although, again, the lead up to this has been pre-recorded also.
Speaking to TV Biz, Perry said: “I’ve run at least 100 laps of the Square — I’ve been using a bit of washing line rope instead of the Olympic flame.
“Thank God I’ve been going running and cutting down on the beers.
“By the time I have to do it for real I’ll be breaking my personal best.
“I might even be fit enough to actually be in the Olympics. I’ve quite got into my runs.
“But as soon as this is over that will probably wear off and I’ll be back in the pub.”
Perry found out about this momentous storyline for his character 7 months ago, and since then it has been a back burning storyline running throughout the soap, with the suspense and pressure building by the day.
He said: “It’s been like waiting for seven months for the extra time in a football match — and knowing you have to take a penalty.
“The nightmares have been getting worse and I keep waking up in a cold sweat. The problem is that you can’t ignore the Olympics.
“Every time I turn on the telly or the radio, or pass a billboard, it’s there.
“Seeing the torch on TV freaks me out, so I always change the channel.
“But then other things creep up on you. I was watching an episode of the Simpsons the other day and Homer was nicking the Olympic torch.
“Then I was at a set of traffic lights and a recovery lorry pulled up next to me with one of the support cars for the torch relay on the back. As I turned around, the words ‘Your turn to shine’ were on the side of the car — I just can’t get away from it.”
The historic moment is due to be short lived for Billy though as he is forced to hand over the Torch in order to rush to be by Lola’s side as news of her labour reaches him on route.
Perry said: “I’ve got a lot of running to do in the live segment.
“The shortest gap between my scenes is just 12 or 13 seconds.
“That means I have a mad sprint to get from one set to the next — and the studio is huge. The producers have had a stopwatch on me in rehearsals.”
However, as nerve-racking as this live segment is, Perry says that he can’t wait to be carved into the Olympic history that is sweeping Great Britain throughout the London 2012 games, and he can’t wait to play his part.
He said: “It’s an incredible thing to do. The adrenaline will be kicking in tonight, but I’d be worried if I wasn’t nervous about it.
“It’s not just a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me, it’s a chance to make soap history. I think that will only sink in properly afterwards.”
In this extra special episode fans of the show will also be treated to some well-known celebrities who come to Billy’s aid, including Dame Kelly Holmes, Omid Djalili, Tessa Sanderson and the One Show’s Matt Baker and Alex Jones.
In some of the scenes due to air tonight Billy is forced to break into his flat to change into his torch-bearer outfit, and in another comedian Omid features as a cheeky cab driver, who whisks Billy across London.
You can watch all the drama unfold in tonight’s EastEnders at 8pm on BBC1/BBC1 HD.