She only waltzed into Walford three months ago but Molly Rainford is already at the heart of the action in EastEnders. Strictly Come Dancing 2022 finalist Molly, 22, arrived in Walford in June as big-hearted Anna Knight, when her dad George (Colin Salmon) moved into The Queen Vic with his wife Elaine Peacock (Harriet Thorpe).
A bombshell storyline saw her hire a private detective to find her long lost mum Rose only to discover Rose started life as Cindy Beale (Michelle Williams) and met their dad in witness protection. Now she’s living as Cindy again with her previous family.
On top of that she’s watched her sister Gina (Francesca Henry) suffer a drugs overdose and is embroiled in a love triangle with Freddie Slater ( Bobby Brazier ) and Bobby Beale (Clay Milner Russell).
It’s heavy going, but as a born and bred Cockney it means the world to Molly to be on the show. “It’s pretty iconic – especially for me, I’m from the East End so it feels very special to me – and my family as well,” says Molly. “Walking out on that Square for the first time and seeing it all in the flesh was very crazy.”
When she told her family she’d landed a role in EastEnders – they were thrilled and have become devoted watchers of the soap.
“Everyone was like, ‘EastEnders?! We’re going to have to catch up!’” says Molly. “It was really lovely.”
Michelle Collins ’ resurrection as Cindy was front page news – but even Molly had no idea she would be working so closely with the soap legend. “I had no idea until the week she aired,” shares Anna. “It’s pretty iconic to be part of the Beale family as well as the Knight’s and Cindy is such an edition. She’s such a legend in Walford so it feels very much an honour.”
Incredibly, this is Molly’s first acting role – and with huge storylines, she’s been hurled into the action. “It’s heavy, which is exciting,” says Molly. “It’s nice to build some depth. I feel so lucky to be in a soap because with soaps you get to go through so many emotions and you’re always changing and there’s always something happening. If you’re on a series, you kind of know what’s going to happen at the end, whereas this, you never know!”
Being on EastEnders is a great training ground for an aspiring young actress and when Anna is asked if she’s in it for the long haul, she replies. “I hope so. It’s such a nice place to be and everyone’s so family orientated and it feels like a really good place.”
Molly’s fame skyrocketed when she appeared on Strictly last year and made it to the final with professional dancer Carlos Gu. Now she’s helping her co-star Bobby prepare to take his turn this year. “There’s been a few tips,” says Molly. “But I’m going to let him feel it out for himself. It’s very different with boys as their part is so different to ours, so I’ll let his partner coach him.”
Molly found love with fellow celebrity contestant Tyler West, 27, and she’s hoping the same could happen for Bobby. “It did happen to me and I was very lucky,” says Molly. “
But you’ll have to wait and see.”
Bobby and Molly recently filmed scenes where their characters Anna and Freddie had a one-night stand but Molly says TV presenter Tyler doesn’t mind seeing her in the arms of another man on TV. In fact she says Bobby – who is the son of late Jade Goody and Jeff Brazier – has met Tyler and they are now friends.
“It is strange to do, but it’s so nice – especially with Tyler – to be with someone who is also in this industry and understands that it’s a job and that’s all it is,” explains Molly. “They’ve all met, which is good, and they all know each other, which is nice.”
Molly couldn’t be happier with Tyler but says they’re not moving in together just yet. “He’s amazing,” she gushes. “We’re just seeing how things go. We’re both very busy and there’s still a lot of stuff to do. So we’ll see.”
Molly is looking forward to watching Strictly Come Dancing this year, but admits she’ll struggle to watch Carlos tangoing with a new partner every Saturday night. “I’m going to get major FOMO (fear of missing out),” she laughs. “But I’m excited to watch my partner Carlos and support him. He’s my partner and I’m always going to have that.”
So will she be voting for Carlos and his partner, or her co-star Bobby and his partner? “I am going to be so torn,” she grimaces. “Secretly I’m team Carlos, because I feel like I’m dancing with whoever he’s dancing with.”
Strictly Come Dancing and EastEnders are two of the nation’s biggest shows and Molly is now a household name – something she finds incredible. “It’s been mad,” admits Molly. “You forget how many people’s houses you’re in every evening when they’re watching it. It’s been very different – especially when you’re playing a character, as people see all versions of you. But it’s been really lovely and supportive so I feel really grateful for that.”
EastEnders airs on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at 19.30 on BBC One.
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