SHE is only just past the legal drinking age but EastEnders actress Maisie Smith is already practising the famous line: “Get out of my pub!”
The youngster has her heart set on landing the soap’s most iconic role, landlord of the Queen Vic pub.
And she believes she shares the characteristics of two of the pub’s stalwarts — Barbara Windsor’s Peggy Mitchell and battleaxe Shirley Carter, played by Linda Henry.
Speaking exclusively to HOAR, Maisie says: “There would be a lot of pressure. All of the landlords are such iconic characters on the show and I’d have to live up to the hype.
“But I would love to give it a go and I think I’d do a good job. It’s a big aim for me. I’ve got the sass of Peggy and the roughness of Shirley. I’d be perfect.”
Maisie, 18, joined the show when she was just six years old as Tiffany Butcher, the on-screen daughter of Bianca Jackson and Ricky Butcher, played by Patsy Palmer and Sid Owen.
And despite many of the soap’s young actresses leaving to pursue dreams of cracking Hollywood or winning roles in serious dramas, Maisie sees her future very much in Walford.
She hopes to emulate soap legend June Brown, who played chain-smoking Dot Branning for more than 30 years, continuing well into her nineties.
She explains: “That would be quite cool, wouldn’t it? To have my entire life shown on EastEnders. If I started and ended my career like Dot, that’s pretty iconic. It’s definitely the goal.
“But I’m only young, you know — EastEnders might not even want me next year. Who knows? But if ever I did leave I’d want to come back because it’s a lovely show to be on.”
Maisie, a born-and-bred Essex girl who still lives near Southend, got her big acting break playing a young Queen Elizabeth in 2008 Hollywood movie The Other Boleyn Girl, starring Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson, when she was just four years old.
She remembers having the confidence even then to approach Scarlett, the highest-paid actress in the world last year, backstage for a chat.
Maisie says: “I remember saying to her that my sister was also called Scarlett — ‘I thought you might be interested’. But when you’re four years old you don’t know who these people are. I had no idea.
“I was just happy to be there, running through a field and having a good time. I didn’t see any of the characters as famous people because I didn’t know what the concept of fame was.”
BATTLE WITH BODY DYSMORPHIA
After being cast in EastEnders mainly thanks to her uncanny resemblance to Patsy, who many viewers still think is her real-life mum, she had a tutor off set teaching her maths and English, while she also attended school.
She says EastEnders was the perfect show for her to learn her trade, and that she was surrounded by positive female role models.
Maisie adds: “Working alongside Patsy and people like Charlie Brooks, who plays Janine Butcher, I’ve grown up with such strong, empowering women. And it’s not just about acting. They’ve also taught me so much about women and how strong we actually are.”
In 2014 Maisie took a two-year break from Albert Square to “knuckle down” for her GCSEs, then briefly attempted a pop career, releasing two singles.
Music is still a passion for the actress and she continues to write songs today, including one she recently showcased on social media during lockdown, which documented her battle with body dysmorphia.
She explains: “It’s a problem a lot of people have and it’s something you can never truly recover from. I’ve started feeling much happier within myself recently but since the lockdown has happened it’s definitely magnified my anxiety in a way — which is why I posted that song about body dysmorphia.
“I’m trying to share with people that it’s all right and normal right now to not feel OK. I’m not feeling 100 per cent and I don’t think anyone is because it’s a scary time for everyone. So I just thought I would highlight that.”
Maisie says the issue was a big problem during her early teens. She adds: “It’s fair to say that I’ve always struggled finding happiness within myself — especially in my early teen years because I didn’t understand.
“Sometimes I’d go out and I’d be so conscious of what I was wearing because I didn’t feel good in it and I think it’s a problem that a lot of people have.
“I wanted to address it because having such a big social media following like I do is such a useful tool to share these messages — especially right now there’s a lot of negativity in the world and it’s nice to share a bit of positivity.”
As well as promoting inner happiness to her half a million Instagram followers, Maisie is also a proud redhead and would never change the colour of her locks.
Indeed, she now sees herself as a ginger fashionista and fancies taking on Victoria Beckham by launching her own fitness clothing range.
She says: “I’m 100 per cent Team Ginger all the way — I’ll always be ginger — we’re taking over the world one by one, slowly but surely.
“But I’d love to bring out a fitness clothing line because I find it hard finding the right pieces that suit my body and that I feel comfortable in.
“I’ve got so many ideas for clothing that people say to me, ‘I’d love it if you brought out a line.’ I think that’s definitely something in the future I can see myself being interested in.”
Maisie is in the middle of a racism storyline involving on-screen husband Keegan Baker, played by Zack Morris, which comes to a head this week on the BBC One series.
But later this year, she is set to be reunited with fellow redhead Patsy as it is rumoured the EastEnders legend is poised to make another comeback.
Due to Patsy’s family commitments back in LA, she’s not been able to enjoy a long run on the soap alongside Maisie, who returned to EastEnders herself in 2018 after a brief hiatus. But the young star is hoping Bianca’s return could spark a full Jackson-Butcher family reunion.
She says: “It would be lovely because we’ve got such a nice chemistry on and off screen, and I think it would definitely be a waste if we didn’t show that. And Patsy is a brilliant actress and it would be sad if I didn’t get to explore my adult life with Bianca as well as my childhood with her.
“When I came back after my couple of years off, I did research on Patsy as a teenager on the show because I thought that would influence a lot of my character choices and so I’m hoping that has come across. And we might have to bring Ricky back as well. I’d love that — to have all the Jacksons back in the Square.”