My career as a script writer for hire and UK script consultant goes back to the early 90s and includes writing for Ewan McGregor, selling screenplays to Miramax, getting a script optioned by Universal, and of course, writing Emmerdale, Hollyoaks, Family Affairs and EastEnders.
There’s a hell of a lot of other screenwriting work I’ve done that has gone under the radar too – including co-creating a kids’ TV show, and working on various feature films.
I can say, without doubt – I get asked the most about ONE thing.
The scripts for Alfie and Kat
I wrote the episode where ‘Alfie’ told ‘Kat’ he loved her, for the first time in EastEnders (all the way back in June 2003). Younger people ask me a lot about the McQueen’s in Hollyoaks or Warren Fox in Hollyoaks) but I get asked more overall about Alfie and Kat than anything else.
The viewing figures for that episode of EastEnders where the highest I ever had in my career – and even EastEnders themselves were excited about how many people watched the episode I wrote.
Believe it or not – the popularity of the romance between the two characters even seemed to take the producers of EastEnders by surprise. Indeed, when I was commissioned to write the famous episode – Alfie hadn’t even appeared on screen.
EastEnders ‘on screen’ is about nine months ahead of the show as written (at least it was when I worked on it). So, when I was commissioned the episode – viewers had yet to see Shane Ritche’s Alfie in action, and neither had I, the writer of the episode where he professed his love for Kat. Indeed, there had been about five months worth of scripts (not yet broadcast).
To help me with the episode – the EastEnders production team sent me a series of videos of material already shot (but not yet broadcast) showing Alfie in action – and his growing admiration / love for Kat Slater – a well established character.
Richie was really good on screen – a kind of cross between Del Boy and Eastenders writer Tony Jordan – he had the gift of the gab, was funny, cool and endearing – he was a cheerful upbeat guy (unusual for an Eastenders character) and a perfect fit for a romance with unlucky in love Kat.
So, once I was commissioned to write the episode I leaned heavily on the material already shot and edited – and followed on from the work done by the writers already. However, there was a problem with the episode prior to mine. The problem the EastEnders producers had, was that they didn’t yet know – how the episode prior to mine ended. All I was told was that Alfie had got a bang on the head and ended up in hospital.
So, I did two drafts of my episode and the producers felt the episode worked well – it was funny and romantic. However, the pick up from the episode prior to mine kept changing – and it each time it changed I had to rewrite my episode – eventually I ended up doing 14 drafts (and my agent at the time asked for money).
The problem wasn’t my ep – it was the ever changing pick up from the episode before. Writing an EastEnders episode is done over a period of three months. Finally after the 14th draft – I asked what the problem was in the previous episode? – and was told – by the script editor – that the issue was the episode prior to mine, hadn’t been written yet.
Not only hadn’t it been written – the producers weren’t even sure what was going to happen exactly – and had almost no idea how the episode prior to mine would end. So, for 14 drafts – my pick up from the last episode had been guess work.
The writer of the ep before me was Tony Jordan – Tony was the best EastEnders writer on the team– and his episode had been dubbed internally as ‘Raiders of the Last Condom’.
Finally, when Tony delivered his script – it was one of the funniest and most outrageous episodes of EastEnders ever. And at least, we knew where Tony’s ep finished and mine started – once we did – the producers reverted to my second draft – written nearly two months earlier – and that is what they shot.
It was a big ask to follow one of the best EastEnders episodes ever – but I managed to pull off. The reviews were great – and my episode worked well with Tony’s. And, of course, Alfie and Kat got together in my episode.
It was an exciting episode to be involved in (but the process was frustrating as hell) seeing the episode on screen made up for all the messing about though.
I was also asked, like a few other writers, to pick a ‘SONG’ for Alfie and Kat – I choose ‘You do Something to Me’ by Paul Weller – which was the song the producers used for Alfie and Kat– and still sometime use to this day – it was their SONG.
The viewing figures for the episode were above 15 million – something unheard of today for a soap episode. And yes, I still get asked a lot about it.
Matthew Cooper has been a script writer for hire and UK script consultant for over 20 years. He’s written for most of the UK soaps, including writing award-winning episodes of Emmerdale, EastEnders, Hollyoaks and Family Affairs and has been BAFTA shortlisted and Royal Television Society nominated as a script writer.
His directorial debut, the rubber reality horror thriller ‘Markham’ was released in 2020, his second feature film as director ‘At The Mountains Of Madness’ hit the screen in 2021. You can find out more about Matthew’s work as a director here.