Kristin Scott Thomas on filming Talking Heads on EastEnders set

The BBC has revisited Alan Bennett's famous monologues, with the addition of two new ones.

Kristin Scott Thomas has said it was a “thrill” to film her latest project on the set of EastEnders.

The actress, 60, is one of the upcoming names to feature in new productions of Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads monologues.

Due to the nature of the monologues, filming took place during the coronavirus outbreak on existing sets at BBC’s Elstree Studios – with cast and crew following safe working practices.

Scott Thomas, who will be reprising 1998’s The Hand Of God and plays an antiques dealer named Celia, said: “First I had to get over the excitement that we were filming at Elstree on the set of EastEnders. That was such a thrill for me.

“I haven’t watched in years, but it was fascinating to see this place which is so rooted in British culture, so much part of the backdrop of our lives. I found it extraordinary to be on that set and know that it’s a permanent fixture.

“I didn’t get to visit the Queen Vic, but we were in the hairdressing salon which was transformed into Celia’s antiques shop. I don’t think filming under social distancing affected my performance because it is a monologue, but it made it quite a lonely experience.

Talking Heads director Nicholas Hytner on set with Rochenda Sandall (Stolen Picture/Screen Grab/BBC)

“It’s also tiresome having to wipe everything down every time you’ve touched it, and having no-one allowed near you. It’s not easy or something I would like to see happen all the time.”

Killing Eve’s Jodie Comer, Martin Freeman, Sarah Lancashire and Maxine Peake are also among the stars who will be appearing in Bennett’s monologues.

Martin Freeman on set (London Theatre Company/Zac Nicholson/BBC)

Other names in the star-studded line-up include Monica Dolan, Tamsin Greig, Lesley Manville, Lucian Msamati, Rochenda Sandall, Imelda Staunton and Dame Harriet Walter who appear in re-tellings of the 10 original pieces, as well as two new ones written by Bennett last year.

Creator and writer Bennett said he was delighted when producer and director Nicholas Hytner said the BBC wanted to remake the monologues.

He said: “I was delighted to hear about Talking Heads, though I didn’t have any idea how Nick was to do them… and I still don’t, though I much look forward to them. I’ve had to refresh my memory of some of them and have even found myself laughing.”

The two new monologues are An Ordinary Woman, featuring Happy Valley star Lancashire, and The Shrine, which sees Dolan playing a character called Lorna, who is newly widowed.

The Talking Heads monologues first aired on the BBC in 1988 and 1998.

The original cast list included Dame Patricia Routledge, Dame Maggie Smith, Stephanie Cole, Dame Julie Walters, Dame Thora Hird, Dame Eileen Atkins, David Haig and Dame Penelope Wilton, alongside Bennett himself.

Talking Heads airs with a double bill on BBC One from 9pm on June 23.

All 12 films will then be available to stream on BBC iPlayer from the same date, with the series continuing on BBC One across the following weeks.

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