For more than 50 years, Bonnie Langford has been a fixture of stage and screen. The self-dubbed “diminutive redhead”, was the British Shirley Temple, who grew up to be a household name, with roles in beloved favourites from Just William to Dancing on Ice.
Last month, she shocked fans with a surprise comeback in Doctor Who and now, as she prepares to star in a West End show, Bonnie, 58, is teasing another possible return.
Having just filmed EastEnders’ online quiz show Albert Squared earlier this week, Bonnie is starting to think she may not have left Walford for good after all.
Her character Carmel Kazemi was in the show from 2015 to 2018 and was last seen fleeing E20 after her son Kush (Davood Ghadami) was stabbed to death by a London gang member.
But having been reunited with Davood for the quiz, Bonnie insists we haven’t seen the last of Carmel.
“I think I’m still in the black taxi making my way to Dubai,” says Bonnie, laughing. “They killed off the rest of my family in the show except my grandson who apparently is still there.
“I enjoyed my time on EastEnders and I’d never say never.”
She would certainly be welcome back, having scooped best newcomer at the British Soap Awards 2016. “Maybe I’ll come back in a taxi and say, ‘I’m here!’” she adds. “Carmel is not gone, that’s for sure.”
In the meantime her fans have been relishing her cameo in last month’s The Power of the Doctor, the first of three specials to mark the hit show’s 60th anniversary.
Bonnie returned as the Doctor’s companion Mel Bush, who she first played in 1986 and 1987 alongside Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy.
And the star even bought the colourful jacket and leather-look trousers Mel wore in the new scenes herself.
“The costume designer rang me up asking me what I thought Mel would wear,” says Bonnie.
“Because I’d been doing the Doctor Who audio dramas, I have grown up with her a little bit. When I did it [on TV], it was the 80s with the huge shoulder pads.
“I thought Mel would have moved on a bit, so I went for something more muted but fun.”
Another difference is how the female characters are now treated.
Bonnie says: “In my time, you were there to ask the questions to further the story. It always felt a bit like you were surplus to requirements.
“But ever since it came back in the new incarnation, the companions have had a very different trajectory. But it’s fine. No matter what, you will always be part of the Doctor Who family.”
Bonnie came third as Squirrel in last year’s Masked Dancer, and was a finalist in the first ever Dancing on Ice in 2006.
But tonight she is focusing on a different role: a one-off Judy Garland charity concert at London’s Lyric Theatre. She will join the likes of Mica Paris, Lisa Maxwell and Tamzin Outhwaite to raise funds for youth homelessness charity Centrepoint.
Bonnie explains: “It felt important to able to do something for Centrepoint, with the cost of living crisis and young people struggling to keep a roof over their heads, and some don’t have a roof at all, as we get closer to winter.
“There’s also a link with Judy’s own life. She had so many troubles herself and was actually homeless, which seems inconceivable but shows it can happen to anybody.”
Surrey-born Bonnie first shot to fame aged just six when she won TV talent show Opportunity Knocks.
But while many child stars have battled with alcohol, drugs and mental health problems, Bonnie has lived to tell the tale.
“Judy started out [in showbusiness] as a young person like me,” she says. “That story wasn’t necessarily a happy one, but I am still here and still doing it.”
So what’s Bonnie’s secret?
“I have amazing family and friends, and never allowed my job to take over my life completely,” she says. “It doesn’t mean to say I haven’t had ups and downs, I have, but somehow I’ve always had this sense of blind hope and always tell myself I will get through anything challenging.”
- Centrepoint presents Judy – No Place Like Home at Lyric Theatre on Monday night: nimaxtheatres.com/shows/judy-no-place-like-home