Danielle Harold as Lola Pearce (2011)
|Portrayed by||Danielle Harold|
|First appearance||12 July 2011|
|Introduced by||Bryan Kirkwood|
|Billy's Olympic Nightmare (2012)|
Chip shop worker
Lola Pearce (also known as Lola Mitchell) is a fictional character from the BBC soap opera EastEnders, played by Danielle Harold. She is introduced as the granddaughter of Billy Mitchell (Perry Fenwick) and Julie Perkins (Cathy Murphy), and an extension to the already established Mitchell family. Lola made her first appearance on 12 July 2011. Her storylines have mainly focused on her relationship with her family, a teenage pregnancy after a one-night-stand with her relative Ben Mitchell (Joshua Pascoe), fighting to keep newborn daughter Lexi out of care, her friendships with Abi Branning (Lorna Fitzgerald), Jay Brown (Jamie Borthwick) and Dexter Hartman (Khali Best) and a relationship with Peter Beale (Ben Hardy) despite their families' disagreements.
Some critics gave a positive response to Lola's introduction. Kate Woodward of Inside Soap said Lola's introduction had been a "revelation" and Tony Stewart from the Daily Mirror stated "in little less than a month on the Square, the spirited Lola has already created havoc." Other critics have been less positive towards Harold's acting skills. Metro's Christopher Hooton said that she has "kept her world record attempt for worst acting in a soap going strong", while Hooton's colleague Rachel Tarley called her acting "terrible".
On 23 July 2012, Lola gave birth to her daughter; Lexi Pearce during a seven-minute live segment, making her the first character to ever give birth live on EastEnders and the second character ever in soap opera.
When Billy and Julie decide to find their estranged son, Dan Pearce, they discover he has died but they have a granddaughter, Lola, who is in care. They visit Lola at the care home and think she has been beaten in a fight, before Lola admits that she started the fight. She tells Billy and Julie that Dan hated them, before Julie decides to leave. Billy hugs Lola before they go, and Lola uses this to steal his wallet. The next day she arrives in Walford and returns Billy's wallet. She flirts with several locals, including Jay Mitchell (Jamie Borthwick) and Fatboy (Ricky Norwood). Fatboy allows her to clean cars for him but she takes one, which she crashes into the front of Ian Beale's (Adam Woodyatt) chip shop. Billy sees this and tells her to run and Fatboy takes the blame, saying Lola was his passenger. Lola visits Billy again and meets members of his family. Julie tells Heather Trott (Cheryl Fergison) that she does not want Lola living with them, which Heather accidentally reveals to Lola. Julie feels that Lola is not their problem, and Lola tells Julie that if Billy is forced to choose between them, Lola will win. Julie then calls the police to have Lola returned to her care home, while Billy calls Lola "100% Mitchell". A week later, Julie finds Lola in the R&R nightclub and takes her back home, after Julie apologises for reporting Lola to the police, and tries to allow Lola into her life. Lola overhears Anthony Moon (Matt Lapinskas) and his brother Tyler Moon (Tony Discipline) insulting Billy, and in revenge, burns their father Eddie's (David Essex) stock. She gets a job at the local café and confesses to Eddie's friend Liam Butcher (James Forde) that she started the fire. Lola starts stealing from the till at the café and short-changing the customers and Phil Mitchell (Steve McFadden) sacks her. She begs Phil for her job back and offers her mobile phone but he takes the phone and refuses to give Lola her job back. She takes revenge by smashing up his garage and destroying a car, not realising Jay is under the car, and he is badly injured. She gets Julie and when the ambulance arrives, Julie takes the blame. She is released without charge, while Lola returns to the care home but is persuaded to come back and Julie leaves Walford.
Weeks later, Ian oversleeps and Lola tells him that she has been waiting outside the chip shop. Mandy Salter (Nicola Stapleton) tells Ian to fire her, which he does. Lola says she will not tell anybody about Mandy staying as long as Ian gives her job back, which he does. She takes a liking to Jay's friend, Duncan Willis (Steven France). She later vandalises Grace Olubunmi's (Ellen Thomas) flowers. She decides to take up self-defence classes after Abi Branning (Lorna Fitzgerald) is mugged. Lola steals towels from the Booty beauty salon and tries to sell them. She is caught by Roxy Mitchell (Rita Simons), who threatens to report her to the police. However, Lola convinces Roxy that she has shown ingenuity, and gains a job at the salon. Lola asks her third cousin-once-removed, Ben Mitchell (Joshua Pascoe) how he knows he is gay if he is still a virgin. Subsequently, they kiss and Lola sleeps with Ben before confirming his sexuality; he is gay. Shortly after, Lola discovers she is pregnant and tells Billy, who is angry. Lola refuses to name the father but tells Billy that she plans to keep the baby and wants him to bring it up with her. She later tells Ben that he is not the father. Billy then takes Lola to see Pat Evans (Pam St. Clement) about help, but Pat gets the wrong idea and advises Lola to have an abortion, angering Lola. In December, Phil confronts Lola about a mystery file, believing that it is Lola who has been stalking him, when it is in fact his son Ben. Phil interrogates Lola, to the point where she steps backwards and falls down the steps to her basement flat. She is then rushed to hospital, where she is told that the baby is fine.
Lola receives a call to say Social Services want to visit, as there is a new social worker. Lola goes missing when the social worker, Harpreet (Danny Rahim) arrives, so Billy asks Abi to pretend to be Lola. Billy assumes Harpreet is there about the pregnancy, so reveals it to Harpreet, who is impressed with Abi's speech about motherhood. However, as he is about to leave, Lola arrives and the lie is revealed, so Harpreet says the trust has been lost and Lola may not be able to keep the child. Lola later suffers a fall but is relieved that the baby is fine. The incident makes her realise how much the baby means to her and she later finds out the baby is a girl. Lola begins working for Janine Butcher (Charlie Brooks) as a cleaner and continues working at the chip shop, until Ian's daughter, Lucy Beale (Hetti Bywater), sacks her as she can no longer afford to employ her. Lola takes revenge on Lucy by stealing chip fat from the shop and pouring it over cars at the car lot, leaving Lucy a suspect. When Lucy discovers Lola is responsible, she calls the police and Lola is arrested. The next day, on her 16th birthday, she receives community service and a curfew, and has to wear an electronic ankle tag. Lola and Jay break into The Queen Victoria public house and get locked in after hiding in the back room. There, Lola opens up to Jay saying she will be a bad mother. Lola gets home just in time for her curfew, then runs back out and shares an illicit kiss with Jay, who is actually still dating Abi. She makes an enemy of Cora Cross (Ann Mitchell), after vandalising her stock at the charity shop, she later prepares for Billy carrying the Olympic Torch but realises she is in labour in McClunkeys, where Cora delivers Lola's baby daughter, whom she later names Lexi Billie Pearce, she chose the name after her friend Alexa Smith (Saffron Coomber) from when they were in a care home together; Billy witnesses the birth after successfully carrying the torch. When it is revealed, that Jay helped to cover up Heather's murder, Lola is at first wary of him, although she eventually forgives him. However, Billy is unhappy about them spending time together, especially when Jay is forced to hide when a social worker turns up. Lola appears heartbroken when Jay says they should stop seeing each other.
When Lola gets a new social worker, Trish Barnes (Tessa Churchard), she becomes increasingly agitated after Trish criticises her care of Lexi. She later bumps into Alexa and pretends to live a party lifestyle. Alexa and her gang spend time with Lola, but when Alexa picks on Abi, Lola states her loyalty towards Abi and rejects her old friend. Lola later reveals she has a baby, named Lexi after Alexa, shocking her. Lola celebrates her tag being removed and her curfew ending, but is threatened by Alexa and her gang, who attack Abi and threaten Lexi, resulting in Lola punching Alexa. The police are informed and Lola is arrested while Trish takes Lexi into care. Lola begs Trish not to and asks Phil for help, telling him that he is Lexi's grandfather as Ben is her father. Lexi is taken regardless and Trish tells her that Lexi could be away for up to eight weeks. Lola gets angry so Trish tells her she could lose Lexi for good if she does not control her behaviour. Phil decides to go for custody of Lexi, and tells Lola that he will get her back where she belongs. Lola is happy until she discovers that Phil wants custody, but when she sees a photo of Lexi, she agrees to Phil's plan. Phil comes up with a plan for Lola to marry Ben and conspires with Billy, who is against the idea. Lola refuses to marry Ben and Phil plans to tell Ben the truth about Lexi, against Lola's wishes. Phil does not tell Ben but agrees to help Lola so asks Sharon Rickman (Letitia Dean) to pretend to be his partner to help get Lexi. She refuses at first but agrees until she finds out that Lola does not know about the plan, and Lola is angry, but Phil explains his reasons to her. Alexa drops the assault charge but Lola is devastated to learn that she will not get Lexi back. Lola worries that Phil's plan will fail after Phil tells Social Services that he and Sharon are no longer engaged, but Phil does win custody of Lexi being her foster carer. Lola is devastated to learn that she will still only have three access visits a week, and Phil starts being controlling, calling Lexi "his" baby and not allowing Lola to provide for her. Phil also starts telling Lola who she cannot be friends with after she meets Dexter Hartman (Khali Best). Phil decides to take Lexi on holiday, so Lola seeks legal advice but then decides to allow Lexi to go. Lola makes an appeal in court to increase her access visits with Lexi, and Trish states that Lola has made good progress, but Lola is devastated when Phil's lawyer tells the court that Lola is often late, brings age-inappropriate toys and is unable to handle Lexi's tears. The judge rules that Lexi continues to live with Phil as kinship foster carer. Billy decides to speak to Phil, while Lola listens in, hearing Phil say Lola will never get Lexi back if it is down to him. Lola snatches Lexi and leaves the house. Phil, Billy and Sharon spend the rest of the day looking for her, eventually finding her at a playground. Lola returns home, and Phil asks her to meet him later at his house. Trish is there, who says she needs to know if the relationship between Phil and Lola has broken down, but Phil insists he is responsible for Lola's running away and blames his solicitor for what happened in court. Phil agrees to work together to make the transition for Lexi to return to living with Lola as easy as possible. When Trish leaves, Phil allows Lola to look after Lexi, and starts giving her increased access. Phil is impressed when Lola acts calmly when Lexi is taken ill with suspected meningitis, though she is fine.
Lola notices that Sharon is acting strangely and finds her passed out when she should have been with Lexi. When Sharon regains consciousness, Lola discovers she is addicted to painkillers. Sharon tells Lola that if she reveals this to Phil, Lexi will go back into care. Phil discovers Sharon's addiction and throws her out. Before Lola's final hearing to regain custody of Lexi, Phil discovers that Lola knew about Sharon's addiction and calls her a bad mother, however, Billy convinces him to do the right thing, and Lola is successful in getting Lexi back.
Lola develops feelings for Peter Beale (Ben Hardy), but the feud between his family, the Beales, and her family, the Mitchells, make them anxious about being together. However, they eventually force Phil and Peter's father Ian (Adam Woodyatt) to accept their relationship. Peter moves in with Lola, Lexi and Billy and pressures her to start a career in childcare when she loses her job at the local salon. Despite agreeing to do the course, Lola starts her own business doing the locals manicures and pedicures and loves it. She becomes closer to Jay and admits how Peter makes her feel that she is not good enough for him. After an argument with Peter, Lola turns to Jay for support and he tries to kiss her. Horrified, she goes to run off but as she steps out into the road she is accidentally run over by Ronnie Mitchell (Samantha Womack). She is immediately rushed to hospital, where she is told she has concussion, but is discharged the following day.
Following the death of Peter's sister Lucy (Hetti Bywater), Lola struggles to support him as he in turn is struggling to support Ian and the rest of his family. When Lucy's memory is tarnished in a Walford Gazette article, Lola approaches them and gives them an article of content of what she believes will paint Lucy in a much better light. However, her words are twisted and the square, and Peter, believe that Lola did it for the money. Peter puts his relationship with her on hold and moves back in with Ian, leaving her devastated. In her upset, she becomes drunk and as a result does not understand when Phil talks about Ben's release from prison, despite the possible consequences it could have for her and Lexi.
Creation and development
The character of Lola was announced on 7 June 2011 and she was created as an extension of the established Mitchell family. The Sun reported that Billy and Julie would be shocked to learn of Lola's existence, not knowing the son they once gave up for adoption had a daughter, but would decide to track her down and find her living in a care home. Lola was said to have "a sharp, cocky but likeable attitude." As she meets her grandparents for the first time, Lola quickly forms a bond with them as she has been deserted by everyone else in her life. 18 year old Harold was cast in the role and she said "I am so excited to be joining EastEnders. I have watched the show all my life and I never thought that one day I could be in Albert Square. It feels strange to be walking round Walford with people I have grown up watching—I still have to pinch myself.". EastEnders is Harold's first acting job and she was given the role following her first audition, which shocked her. Harold told Daybreak, "It was my first audition that I'd ever had, so I was really nervous and I was thinking, 'I'm never going to get it - I'm just going to have fun while I'm there'. I was just shocked to even get the casting for it, so I was over the moon when I actually got the part." Harold previously starred in Jamie Oliver's Channel 4 reality show Jamie's Dream School and got into an acting school because of the show. Harold said she had always wanted to be an actress and was grateful to be given a great character in Lola. Lola made her first appearance on 12 July 2011.
Characterisation and style
In an interview with Inside Soap, Harold said she was grateful for the complex nature of her character, saying, "Lola's not out-and-out evil but she's not very nice. She's got so many sides and I am having a great time exploring them." Lola is described as "a stroppy little 15-year-old, prone to fighting, tea-leafing and gobbing off." She is also "sharp, cocky but likeable." Of Lola's personality, the official EastEnders website said "Bright as a button but with a mouth that runs away with her, Lola is wild and definitely Walford bound. A self-reliant person who does what she has to do in order to get what she wants, she's not to be messed with."
|“||Lola learnt a few valuable life skills in care - none of them strictly legal. But though she has an eye for mischief, Lola's always been too wary to get into really big trouble. Though Lola has a hard edge, she's loyal and loving to those she can trust. She loves her 'pops', Billy Mitchell, ferociously. Now pregnant, we wonder what motherhood will do to Lola? And exactly how much childcare her friends and family are going to be forced into...||”|
—The official EastEnders website's description of Lola (2012)
Harold described her character as "feisty" and said she has got a lot of attitude. Daniel Kilkelly from Digital Spy, labelled Lola "rebellious", while the BBC said she is "a troublesome teen" and a "petite bombshell." BT described the character as "EastEnders' new tearaway and Billy's wayward granddaughter" and said "It seems Lola isn't exactly the butter-wouldn't-melt type. Surprise, surprise. Billy and Julie leave when Lola tells Billy she's not interested in the fact that he's her granddad, or that her dad's dead. What a lovely young lady." Virgin Media also branded Lola a troublemaking, teen tearaway and said she was "a chip off the Mitchell block." They added that she is a "blonde babe." Chris Hooton from the Metro branded Lola as "mischievous."
Lola usually wears a tracksuit and trainers, and Harold described Lola's style in an interview with The Sun as "a typical look" calling it "so comfy" and stating she is pleased that she does not have to wear high heels.
When Lola arrives she becomes embroiled in a love triangle with Jay Mitchell and Abi Branning. The storyline was summed up in Inside Soap by Kate Woodward who commented "Although I love Abi and Jay together, it's great to see them face serious obstacles thanks to her meddling. Lola is big trouble and has Jay is firmly in her sights. But he's in love with Abi. It was a brilliant idea to team moody Jay with good girl Abi. They work well as a couple, but with the interference of Lola their story has got even more interesting." When Phil Mitchell (Steve McFadden) begins to be stalked, the BBC named Lola one of the many suspects. However, the stalker is later revealed to be Ben Mitchell (Joshua Pascoe).
Pregnancy, live birth and motherhood
On 15 July 2012, it was revealed that Harold would become only the second actress to act out a birth during a live episode of a soap opera, following Coronation Street's Jennie McAlpine (Fiz Brown) in the live 50th anniversary episode broadcast in December 2010. An insider from the Daily Mirror stated "No-one has tried anything like this on EastEnders live before so it is a real challenge to get the emotion of the situation right. It will be the toughest thing Danielle has done in her acting career." The episode broadcast on 23 July 2012 and centred around Lola's grandfather Billy carrying the Olympic Torch across Walford. A seven-minute live segment at the end of episode showed Lola giving birth to her daughter, while Billy rushed to witness the birth.
Harold said of the rehearsals for the live section: "I have known about this live episode for such a long time but all of a sudden it has crept up on us. I am really nervous but now we have started rehearsing, I am feeling equally excited. It will definitely be an experience and I hope Perry runs smoothly!" She also said she was "terrified" of acting out the birth, saying she would prefer to give birth in real life. She said that filming the pre-recorded labour scenes meant she "was knackered after screaming and crying and pretending to push all day." In an interview with Digital Spy, she said that she was "really, really nervous" and that the prospect of acting the birth was "very scary", but added, "I really appreciate that they've given me the opportunity, especially considering that I haven't been here at EastEnders for that long. It's really nice that they've trusted me with it, so hopefully I'll do it justice! It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it'll go well." To help prepare, she asked several women for advice, including her mother, and was told "It's the worst pain you can ever imagine!" She found it "quite difficult" to imagine what it would be live to act out as she has no children, but had watched Channel 4 show One Born Every Minute to help, as she did not want to "overdo the scene or make it look really fake."
Afterwards, she said she found the birth difficult because she found it difficult to imagine the pain, so just thought of the "worst pain imaginable". She went on to say, "I love playing a mum now and working with the two babies who play Lexi, they are so cute. Playing someone who was pregnant did make me a bit broody. I found myself walking around the canteen rubbing my bump. Then I'd get on the train and think, 'Aren't you gonna let a pregnant woman sit down?' because I'd forget I wasn't really pregnant. But I don't think I'm ready for one yet. It's nice to give the baby back when she cries."
In October 2012, Lola's daughter Lexi is taken into care. Harold said she did a lot of research into care and people in care, as she wanted to see how people felt about it. She added, "When it came to Lola's baby getting taken away I could easily imagine how horrible that is. It's the same sort of pain as someone dying. The worst pain you could possibly feel as a young girl would be having your baby taken away. So I just let it play out and the emotions came." She called it her "dream storyline" because of the "different levels", which she called "happy bits, sad bits, angry bits, [...] everything you want. It's a great storyline to play and fun to act out." She also said she found that the storyline has made her cry, even if the script did not call for it.
Harold's debut episode was watched by 7.68m viewers. Harold said that because of her performance as Lola she had received letters from children who had grown up in care homes, saying how much they love her character. Kate Woodward of Inside Soap said Lola's introduction had been a revelation. Woodward also commented on Harold's performance saying "In actress Danielle Harold, EastEnders have found a young star with enormous charisma, so you like Lola even though she's a nightmare! In the coming weeks, we'll see her really hold her own with the other Mitchells – which is no mean feat when you consider that most of them have been in this show for years." Woodward's colleague, Sarah, said she liked what she saw, after Lola's debut and described the character saying "She's got a surly attitude, and acts like she's tough as old boots. But something tells me that underneath that hard exterior is a lost little girl just waiting for someone to finally take her into the heart of their family."
Tony Stewart writing for the Daily Mirror described Lola as "a walking 15-year-old Asbo", he added "in little less than a month on the Square, the spirited Lola has already created havoc. [...] With Danielle Harold already tipped as a best newcomer in the next round of soap awards, stroppy Lola is either brave or stupid in taking on Phil." Metro's Christopher Hooton commented negatively on Harold's performance as Lola saying "Lola kept her world record attempt for worst acting in a soap going strong". Hooton's fellow writer, Rachel Tarley, said Harold's acting skills were "terrible" when Julie departed. During the love triangle storyline, Tarley said Lola was an "inept teenage seductresses." Co-star Perry Fenwick said that Harold is an "amazing" actress. A writer for Bang Showbiz branded Lola a "blonde babe".
The scenes where Trish Barnes takes Lexi from Lola were criticised by the charity The Who Cares? Trust on Twitter, who called the storyline an "unhelpful portrayal" and said it had already received calls from members of the public who were "distressed about the EastEnders scene where a social worker snatches a baby from its mother's arms". The scenes were also condemned by the British Association of Social Workers (BASW), calling the BBC "too lazy and arrogant" to get correctly portray the child protection process, and saying that the baby was taken "without sufficient grounds to do so". Bridget Robb, acting chief of the BASW, said the storyline provoked "real anger among a profession well used to a less than accurate public and media perception of their jobs". She stated:
"It is disgraceful to see a publicly funded broadcaster deliberately spreading misinformation about the child protection process because it is too lazy and arrogant to get it right. We regularly give advice to programmes about social work storylines; we would like to know who advised EastEnders so badly. Social workers have a difficult enough job as it is. Unlike the writers and actors on EastEnders, they have to step through those front doors that no one else wants to step through, and they do it on a daily basis, to protect children, not to target families. EastEnders' shabby portrayal of an entire profession has made a tough job even tougher."
Another social worker said "Accurate procedures were not followed [when a character's baby was taken away]. Was it police protection, section 20? Where was the immediate risk to the baby? As a social worker, I was in tears, as was a colleague of mine, watching how our profession was portrayed on television." The BBC responded to BASW by saying:
" • We understand you're unhappy with the current storyline concerning Lexi and Lola as you feel it portrays social workers inaccurately. We consulted with the programme's production team in writing our response and we'd like to assure you our intention is not to portray social workers in a negative light.
• Whilst the audience has seen how much Lola loves Lexi and how responsible she can be with her baby, we were careful to ensure that when the social worker was visiting, she generally saw only more worrying behaviour. Lola was often abrasive when speaking to the social worker and casual—sometimes even flippant in her responses to the social worker's suggestions.
• Given that Lola is a young mother, who has been, until this episode, wearing an electronic tag (for criminal damage to the car lot), with a history of getting into trouble with the police, and is known to have had a difficult childhood herself (indeed, three generations of the family have been through the care system), it was clearly important for social services to be involved with the family in order to ensure that Lola could cope with having a baby. In the last few weeks the social worker witnessed a series of unfortunate incidents, including Lexi wearing a tea-towel as a makeshift nappy, reports of Lola not taking Lexi to the mother and baby group, a messy and unclean flat, and the discovery that Billy had lied to her about having a job.
• Under the circumstances, we believe the audience will have understood why she had to act to remove Lexi quickly when the allegation of assault is made against Lola by Alexa. There was no suggestion that the social worker's actions were anything other than a genuine desire to protect Lexi, or that her concerns about Lola were unreasonable, given the picture she and the previous social worker had formed over a substantial period of time. There was certainly no inference that her actions were anything personal against Lola or her family."
A social worker who received the BBC's statement commented:
"I don't think I need to spell out the ridiculousness of this response from the BBC and whether the grounds they claim, such as wearing a tea towel as a nappy, would constitute grounds for emergency removal in real life. I work in a long-term care team and take great offence at the suggestion that because Lola was in care there is an assumption that social services should be involved in her care of her child. Not that I am suggesting she doesn't need some support, but where is her aftercare worker? I am always disappointed at how social workers are portrayed in EastEnders, but this was the last resort. I do not agree that the public will think that this was reasonable and it just makes our job harder."
In November 2012, Irish politician Robert Troy expressed concerns that the storyline could influence the result of an upcoming referendum on children's rights. Troy said, "Quite a few times I have been asked about a storyline on EastEnders where a young mother has had her child taken into care and has faced a very difficult battle to get access to the child. People have been emotionally affected by the story and have a real concern about the sort of heavy-handed state intervention that's portrayed."
Kate White from Inside Soap praised the storyline, saying, "Here you are teasing us all with endless mystery secrets and secret mysteries, yet the best storyline you have is hiding nothing at all! The simple tail of a young mum's love for her baby is heart-breaking and dramatic. All credit to actress Danielle Harold for being so brilliant as Lola. [...] Keep on keeping it simple."
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