EastEnders favourite Tony Clay has gut us all excited and started us on the hat shopping as he has pitched a wedding for his character Callum Highway and partner Ben Mitchell (Max Bowden) as an ideal next step, while suggesting that the couple could be long term.
We caught up with him to discuss Callum’s journey, the special Pride episode and the importance of representation.
How was filming the Pride episode? It’s a real turning point for Callum in his journey with coming to terms with his sexuality….
It was a big few weeks definitely! We really wanted to get it right and make it brilliant. I hope that we did that – it seemed to get a great response. To be trusted with such an important storyline was a real blessing and I feel really thankful to Kate and Jon.
I try to make every part of Callum’s journey believable and true so that people can relate to it. I had a lots of messages over that particular episode – people saying ‘this was my story’, ‘I’ve been through something similar’ or a simple ‘thank you so much’. It feels like we are doing our job properly because that’s such an important thing – portraying real stories that are meaningful… it’s why we do it.
Favourite LGBTQ+ character from the series over the years?
It’s got to be Christian and Syed! They were iconic when I was growing up. It was a big thing back then for the soap to do – it shouldn’t have been – but it was a real moment of portraying how these characters are and rightly so. It was lovely to see two gay men going about their lives and being taken on that journey of acceptance and I feel like I’m part of something similar now.
What do you think it is about Ballum that makes them so popular?
It’s two working class boys who have found each other. It was very important not to do something very stereotypical that’s been done before over the years – it’s a really lovely thing to play the truth as an actor. I think they’re relatable to a lot of people, granted some of the things they get involved with is a bit extreme, but at its core it’s two people coming from similar backgrounds who’ve found love in this mad world. I think they’re quite exciting as well – there’s a lot to them as characters and you never know where the relationship is going to go next!
Are you looking forward to being back filming?
I can’t wait! Just to be getting back to it and telling stories. I think it might be a bit like going back to the sort of episodes from right at the start because of restrictions and safety. I doubt we will be doing any big heists or huge stunts so it’ll be about conversations between families about something that’s going on right now in society and how we deal with it in every walk of life. I’m really looking forward to getting back and telling that story.
Anything you’d love to see Ben and Callum do in the future?
Obviously a wedding in the future! That’d be lovely and I think that would go down pretty well. To have longevity between the two of them, seeing them have their ups and downs and how they deal with it together. Continuing to do exciting storylines too, we’ve been very lucky with the stuff we’ve been given and I really hope it continues.
Was it fun to be reunited with Max and be back on set for Secrets From The Square and can you give a teaser of what fans can expect from your episode?
It was really lovely to come back and to see Max and Stacey Dooley too. She was so great. It was also really nice to look back at all the things we’ve done. It’s easy to forget sometimes because you’re doing so much that you don’t really have time to take it all in and to process it all. So it was really nice to be able to look back and talk it through with Max. It was a such good laugh!
We look back on our first days on set, how we built up a rapport over time and I think it shows that we gelled very quickly. There’s a real trust between Max and I… a real confidence in each other and it’s a really lovely thing to have. Now he’s one of my close pals too!
How important is it to have LGBTQ+ representation in soap?
I think it’s so important that soaps represent the LGBTQ+ community & I think Eastenders has been incredible with the storylines & it’s refusal to play against a stereotype that we’ve seen on tv through the years. I’m so proud to be a part of a show that champions every community & I hope it continues long in to the future!
Do you feel any pressure playing an LGBTQ+ character?
I do feel pressure to play Callum truthfully, as it’s such an important story to tell & one that I know has affected so many people across the world, so to be able to play a character like Callum with all those layers & to portray it truthfully is very very important to me & I hope that his stories continue to resonate with people.
What has been your proudest moment of Callum’s journey?
I think my proudest moment was seeing the reaction to Callum coming out & in particular the Pride week, as I really got to see it resonating with the viewers at home & that means the world to me. If Callum’s story has helped even just one person to become who they really are then that means everything to me
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