Comedian Brian Conley has always made the nation chuckle, but what his EastEnders character Rocky Cotton has done is no laughing matter.
Desperate to clear his huge gambling debt, Rocky set fire to his wife’s café hoping to claim on insurance. However, his plan backfired as the blaze had huge repercussions for the Beale family and this week Kathy (Gillian Taylforth) gets arrested for arson.
“It’s awful,” agrees Brian, “but Rocky is hanging on to the fact Kathy will be released – he wants to give it a bit longer before confessing because he might be able to get away with it and live happily ever after."
“But Harvey [Monroe, played by Ross Boatman] is putting pressure on Rocky quite literally, he has him against the wall – he threatens him. Harvey wants to smack Rocky around the head and say, ‘Look mate, you’ve got to take the rap for this.’”
It’s not a big surprise that Rocky wants to get the cash through illegal means. After all, he arrived in Walford under the alias of Terry Cant to con Sonia Fowler (Natalie Cassidy), and ended up a bigamist when he married Kathy in July.
“I’m surprised Rocky’s still hanging around,” says Brian. “He would be treated like mud if the truth were to ever come out. And it’s affected everyone, they all love that café. [But] he only wanted a little fire, Rocky never wanted it to explode!"
“And the whole situation goes from bad to worse because after the fire, Rocky’s seen as a hero because he ran back inside. And that makes him feel so much worse. Rocky’s in such an awful position, but he does play along with it.”
Brian reveals the blast storyline was a shock for him as well as Rocky when the secret came out in the scripts.
“It was a big moment when I found that out, and the café is so iconic – it’s like blowing up The Vic. Since then, it’s left a horrible burnt-out building and every time Rocky walks by, it reminds him of what he’s done.
“But he still always tries to defuse anything with a bit of comedy – which I have to say is exactly like me. It’s always been a great tool to help me in certain situations, making people laugh.”
With Brian leaving the show soon, the fire will be his one and only stunt in the soap, and it lived up to his expectations.
“I must admit, I felt like Tom Cruise,” confesses Brian. “It was scary when we were in there, we genuinely could not see anything. The firemen were real, from the armed forces. I’ve never done anything like it before, apart from fire-eating on my own show – I told the firemen that.”
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