Gary Hailes, who played Barry Clark on the long-running BBC soap EastEnders, has claimed that the series’ first depiction of a gay relationship was cut short due to Conservative government legislation.
The character’s love affair with Colin Russell was abandoned in December 1987.
Hailes said BBC producers probably wanted to avoid trouble with Margaret Thatcher’s government, which enacted the homophobic Section 28 clause in May 1988, prohibiting “the promotion of homosexuality” by schools and councils.
“We built towards them and they were cut because of Section 28,” the actor told the Distinct Nostalgia podcast. “The BBC found themselves in a difficult position.”
He continued: “They had to be seen to be doing right by the law. There was stuff we shot of Barry coming out to his dad and the backlash.”
“They changed it and that helped put the brakes on what they could do with the characters.”
Section 28 was not repealed until 2003, under the Labour government of Tony Blair.
Hailes likened the aborted on-screen romance to Shakespeare, saying: “Like Romeo and Juliet they were not allowed to be together.”