Former EastEnder Kellie Shirley opens up about her eye-popping makeover in the new series of Eighties sitcom In The Long Run, and life with her twins

Croydon-born Kellie Shirley, actress and mum to twins, Louie and Pearl, four, with her husband of seven years, playwright Phil Davies, is gracing the small screen in the third series of Eighties sitcom In The Long Run. Starring and created by Hackney boy-turned-Hollywood star, Idris Elba, it is based loosely on Idris's tough upbringing. Here, 39-year-old Kellie – who used to play Carly Wicks (Shirley Carter's daughter) on EastEnders – talks about how she's been spending quality time with her twins and what it's really like hanging out with Idris…

So, what can we expect from the new series of In The Long Run?

Well, it's back to 1986, and my character Kirsty De La Croix is married to Bagpipes – played by Bill Bailey.

She's trying to reignite their non-existent sex life – but Bagpipes won't have it. He's worried about his health – and quotes all these statistics about what activities can give you heart attacks! There's also beef about a big regeneration in their block, and Kirsty goes head-to-head with her friend, Agnes (Madeline Appiah). Kirsty and Bagpipes have this dream of living in their own house in Essex, with a garden – instead of on top of each other in a council estate. But where they live, there's a real sense of community, and vibrant cultures mix together.

The show has a ridiculously cool soundtrack and some killer outfits…

Doesn't it?! The Eighties were incredible. Everything's neon, big earrings, shoulder pads, Lycra, bum bags. I've got a perm in this show that would make Kevin Keegan's eyes water. I wear a bright pink lipstick and my wardrobe is yellow, purple, sparkles – clashing patterns.

Sounds like the perfect antidote to what we've all been going through.

It's coming at the right time, I think. Life in 1986 was sometimes bleak, it wasn't always easy, under Thatcher, but there was such a brilliant sense of community – and no Covid-19! And it's so funny, and heart-warming. It's just what we all need.

Comedian Bill Bailey plays your on-screen hubby – what's he like?

He's a gentleman – the last of a dying breed, I think! Bill's sweet and ridiculously bright. When we're filming, he tells me about all the different birds there are, as you can imagine! He tells the best anecdotes, too – he can hold a room. I wish I could be like that, I need to up my game. It's so funny he's playing my fella – he's so different to my fella in real life! It's nice that I get two husbands. Phil is much quieter.

And the question on all our lips – what's it like to work with Idris Elba?

What can I say?! Idris is gorgeous and a talented human being. He is charismatic, but very natural – very down-to-earth. Filming in Peckham, which is quite near where I live – we'd go out to get food. We'd go down the high street, and people would just stop and do proper double-takes when they saw him – they were seriously star-struck. I love the stuff he does for charity. When we were finishing the third series, he was working on this campaign, 'Don't Stab Your Future'. He's a do-er.

And how's life with your twins?

It's good. They're still little – they just know there's a 'nasty virus' in the air and shouldn't touch people. But kids are so bright, they pick up on everything. Pearl's having nightmares about people dying. But we've had brilliant days, where you get cuddles and the sun comes out. I've loved the quality time I've had with them, while they're small. They don't start school until September, so I'm at home, and we're coming up with creative ideas every 15 minutes, listening into their hilarious little conversations.

Have you been in touch with your old EastEnders pals?

I've checked in with Scott Mitchell (Barbara Windsor's husband) who I ran the London Marathon with for Barbara's Revolutionaries. Tanya Franks as well – before EastEnders started filming again, we had a laugh, imagining everyone shouting to each other across the Square! Emma Barton, too – my twins are obsessed with her, as she looks like a Disney princess. They're always grabbing my phone and leaving her little voice messages.

As we move towards a new normal, how are you feeling?

Over the past few months, I have had mixed feelings. I lost my lovely nan to Covid, during lockdown. She went into hospital for a hip replacement – which was successful, but then she contracted Coronavirus being transferred to a nursing home. So, it's been very 'real' – this has affected our family personally. We still need to take this very seriously. People can go out, but the virus hasn't just disappeared. But I'm hopeful, and looking to the future!

Original article published in best magazine