Hotel Babylon

Sadly for fans of Hotel Babylon the kittenish, foxy and oft-times infuriating head of reception, Anna Thornton Wilton, will be leaving the hotel for good this season as actress Emma Pierson leaves the show to concentrate on other projects.

“It’s heart-breaking in a way to be leaving Hotel Babylon as I have adored playing Anna but there comes a time when you have to move on from a show and this is my time. I can guarantee a great departure for her but all I’m prepared to say is that all her dreams come true.”

When episode one opens we meet a very pregnant Anna Thornton Wilton who appears to be weirdly in denial of her predicament. She refuses to tell her Babylon colleagues who the father is. In true Babylon style the staff resort to running a book and no one is safe from speculation.

“Anna is incredibly vulnerable and hasn’t really gotten over the departure of Charlie so has decided to ignore what is happening to her by going about her daily business – heels and all,” says Emma.

“When she finds out that her friends are running a bet on the identity of the father she is absolutely horrified and randomly picks out hotel waiter, Darren, from the staff canteen and tells them that he’s the dad. However, her confidence takes a serious knock when she is forced to look after the son of a guest couple and she begins to have serious doubts about her ability to bring up children alone,” she recalls.

“Meanwhile, poor innocent Darren has begun to fall hopelessly in love with Anna and it all becomes a bit much when he starts talking nappies and paternity leave,” she laughs

Emma Pierson has loved playing the part of the foxy and outspoken Anna mostly because she has been able to develop, contribute and create opportunities to take Anna to the extremes of comedy within the drama.

“I feel like I’ve created a character that audiences connect with and enjoy and I hope I’ve made people laugh with and at her,” she says. “I’ve played all of my own stunts throughout the series and there have been some interesting ones like hanging upside down from the ceiling last year.”

Anna has always loved her glamour and one can imagine her sitting at home in fluffy kitten-heel slippers, surrounded by Balenciaga and Gucci. However, in series three we saw a new dimension to Anna’s character as her role became more prominent and her character more central. Unfortunately, in series four audiences will see Anna depart Hotel Babylon for good in what promises to be a tear-jerker.

“Anna fell for quite a few handsome men during her time at the hotel but none more than Charlie Edwards, the hotel’s former General Manager played by my good friend Max Beesley,” she recalls.

“She definitely grew up a lot over the years and changed a little but she is still naughty and irreverent underneath. Despite being uncomfortably pregnant she still manages her witty one-liners and put-downs.”

“As an actor who is in a returning show with great ratings, the audience know what they want from the characters and they expect to see on screen what they know and love and have invested in,” she explains.

Emma went straight from the set of Hotel Babylon to play Fanny Dorrit in Andrew Davies’ adaptation of Little Dorrit on BBC One before heading off on a four-month trip travelling to Korea, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.

Series four of Hotel Babylon became a bit of a family affair for Dexter when his brother Graham came in to help out with some scenes.

“In episode four Tony gets to play two characters,” Dexter explains. “A guest checks into the hotel who is a doppelganger for Tony… and it is a bit of a prince and pauper tale. It’s a really fun idea because the guest is American who swaps places with Tony and they sort of unintentionally mess up each other’s lives.

“The guest who is called Bobby Mack is very different to Tony – he is a writer and an intellectual and not good with people whereas Tony is the complete opposite… and weirdly I play opposite myself which was tricky at times but our director and camera crew came up with all sorts of inventive ways of making the scenes work,” he says.

“My brother came in to help out because he looks so much like me which made things a bit easier but when you are filming scenes that you play two characters in everything takes twice as long anyway.”

Dexter began his TV career very early by going to a drama club in Islington two nights a week. He then got some small supporting parts in film and TV at the age of seven, before going on to do Steptoe And Son, playing Diana Dors’ son. He then landed a part in the cult transatlantic movie, Bugsy Malone.

“I played Babyface over 30 years ago in Bugsy Malone when I was nine years old, alongside Scott Baio and a very young Jodie Foster. I then went on to work on numerous films before joining the RSC full time at Stratford at the age of 16.”

Despite being best known in the UK for his role as Spike in the children’s drama Press Gang, Dexter has worked with some of the world’s greatest writers, directors and actors including Alan Rickman, Mel Gibson, Stephen Poliakoff, Hayley Mills, Derek Jarman, Laurence Olivier, Anthony Hopkins, Al Pacino, Jeff Goldblum, Kate Winslet, and Christopher Eccleston – and the list doesn’t stop there!

After a break from screen acting to concentrate on theatre again in his twenties, Fletcher returned to film in his early thirties when he landed a part in what became a Nineties cult movie – Guy Ritchie’s Lock Stock And Two Smoking Barrels.

The HBO/BBC hit drama Band Of Brothers was next followed by Mike Leigh’s Topsy Turvy. Films Tristan And Isolde, with Mark Strong, and Doom, with The Rock, were both released in 2006, and his most recent film, Stardust, with Robert De Niro, was released last year.

“Working with De Niro was nerve-wracking! I went out for dinner with friends the night before I was due on set for the first time and I remember saying how ill I felt. My wife turned to me and reminded me who I was meeting the next day and announced that it was pure nerves at work,” he laughs.

“And then there was the problem of what to call him Bob, Bobby, Rob – I couldn’t decide so I just called him Captain all the time because I thought it was the safest bet… that was the character he played.”

Despite having worked with some of the world’s biggest names in Hollywood and on one of the most iconic young people’s programmes – Press Gang – there is one role he would love to play that still eludes him.

“There is a lot of talk about Press Gang coming back but I don’t know what sort of cameo I could play. I was 22 when I was in Press Gang so it would be a new generation of computer-literate kids… we used typewriters whereas nowadays its all Apple Macs, Facebook and Bebo and whatever else young people are into… but we will have to wait and see. The original Press Gang writer Stephen Moffatt, is currently writing for Doctor Who – now I’d love to play the Doctor… wouldn’t that be fun,” he muses.

Since the last series of Hotel Babylon Dexter has been busy writing with his friend and fellow actor and Primeval star, Jason Flemyng.

“I’m writing a thriller film script and working with Jason. However, the project has taken a bit of a back seat for the minute since Jason has just got married and is off filming in Russia. But regardless, Jason and I know a lot of lovely people and some great actors and we really want to pull them all together in a project.”

Hotel Babylon isn’t the first time Dexter has worked with new leading man Nigel Harman although a gap of almost 25 years separates that performance from this.

“I remember seeing Nigel at a film premiere party and I recognised him and asked if he was that guy Nigel from the Lyric Hammersmith play we did. Astonishingly he remembered me straight away so I obviously made a lasting impression on him,” he laughs.

“Despite that infamous motorbike ride, when I took Nigel as a pillion passenger, I no longer ride them because you fall off and do silly things, but back then when we were kids in the show I said, ‘C’mon Nigel I’ll take you for a spin on the back of my bike’, and off we went down the back of the Lyric Hammersmith. He has told me that ever since he loves motorbikes.”

“It’s been brilliant to have him here on set. Nigel and Max play two very different characters so it’s impossible to compare them,” he explains. “Charlie was the manager and had worked his way up from being a whipper-snapper whereas Sam is a ‘fly by the seat of your pants’ type of millionaire who will buy a hotel on a whim,” says Dexter.

Tony is a really solid character and he has mixed feelings about Sam… he thinks he likes Sam but nevertheless he remains suspicious of him.

Despite having reservations about him, Tony gives Sam brownie points for saving the hotel and, whilst he recognises he is a complete disaster at running the place, he can’t help but find him incredibly charming.

“Tony backs his player… but is reticent at first until he knows how the changes are going to affect everyone, but he likes what Sam does which is to shake it all up… and we all know Tony loves it when things get interesting.”

In episode one Tony gets to star in his own Bollywood movie – well almost! When an Asian family come to the hotel to have the daughter’s arranged marriage blessed, Tony is put in charge of watching over the proceedings. But when his own exhaustion gets the better of him, we see a very different side to Tony.

“The Bollywood episode is a lovely story,” he says. “Tony is fatigued and starts to imagine he is a Bollywood character in a movie. We hired in professional dancers for the day and at one stage the whole of the cast were dancing in a Bollywood number, which has to be seen to be believed… it’s hilarious and was absolutely great fun to make. I have two left feet and found the dancing difficult but the rest of the gang were fab… and it should look very funny,” he laughs.

For Dexter, Hotel Babylon crosses a lot of boundaries and appeals to a wide and varied cross-section of the audience, from grandmothers to teenagers, but what makes the show for him is the calibre of guest artists that queue up to get in.

“Jules and Jamie Oliver would love to be in the show and Kylie is rumoured to be interested in checking in, which would please my dad no end – he is a huge fan of hers, ever since I was in one of her pop videos years ago – Some Kind Of Bliss. I played a gangster who had come out of jail and she is waiting to pick me up – it’s my dad’s favourite piece of work… never mind the RSC, working with De Niro and Pacino, my dad loves Kylie. And I’ve had a word with Robert De Niro – he wants to come next year!”

“I think the real success of the show is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s glamorous, it’s sexy, lots of people watch it, enjoy it and it is the ultimate guilty pleasure.”

Like co-star Nigel Harman, Anna Wilson-Jones’ first day on set was nerve-wracking to say the least. She had long serious passages of dialogue to wade through, not to mention cast and crew to meet.

Having watched Hotel Babylon before, Anna had an idea that she would be thrown in amongst a great crowd of actors, despite not having worked directly with any of them before. However, her first day was not quite what she expected.

“The first day of filming can be daunting at the best of times but when you are joining a show that has been running for three years with a very tight ensemble cast then it can be even more nerve-wracking,” she explains.

“It was great to have Nigel joining as a newbie as well… we were shaking, holding hands together in a corner on our first day,” she laughs.

“But we both had these big chunks of dialogue that we had to get through which made us even more nervous.”

“There is a lot to learn on this show,” she adds.

“Like the freezing technique which I honestly didn’t know about despite having watched the show. And I really thought they were playing a trick on the new girl – the director will shout freeze and the entire floor has to stop mid-sentence or stride. I had no idea what was going on.”

Having worked constantly for the last 14 years on projects as diverse as Ashes To Ashes (BBC), Waterloo Road (BBC), The Time Of Your Life (ITV), Midsomer Murders (ITV) and Sugar Rush (Channel 4), Anna was delighted to join the cast of the glossy Hotel Babylon.

“It was a great atmosphere on set and from the off I felt I fitted in and was made to feel very welcome by everyone. I play a no-nonsense trouble-shooter whose job is to go into hotels and close them down when they aren’t profitable,” she says.

“When she arrives at Babylon she is already a very unpopular person. Potentially she could be closing down Hotel Babylon and everyone might be losing their jobs.”

“However she isn’t a horrible person. This is her job and this is what she has to do. She is basically very good at her job but her first task is to face the staff at their morning meeting and she is met with a very frosty reception. But that goes with the territory,” she explains.

However, her first day doesn’t go too well as Juliet spills coffee down her blouse and ends up dressed in a grotty old sweatshirt facing her ex-husband for the first time in four years.

“I am told there is someone who is demanding to see me so I walk outside to reception to discover it’s my ex. I run back into the office in a tizz and Sam follows me in. Once there, I do a very poor job of trying to be cool but I’m clearly flustered.”

For Juliet, being in control is part of her make-up but coming face-to-face with her past brings all sorts of feelings and pain to the surface.

“Having been married once, Juliet and Sam were at one time in love and even if you think something is over, it still must throw up old feelings of some kind or other. It comes as a real shock throwing her right off kilter,” she adds.

“Sam and Juliet have never worked together. She was the anchor in the relationship and Sam was too flighty, yet without the other to level them out they would have been all over the place.”

Despite her initial apprehension, Juliet soon succumbs to Sam’s charms and powers of persuasion. Before the end of episode one she finds herself accepting his job offer to be General Manager of Hotel Babylon, much to the disgust of the rest of the staff.

“Juliet can’t quite believe she has been sucked in again by her ex-husband’s charms,” says Anna. “But charmed she is and try as she might she can’t help but cast sidelong glances at him.”

“There is still something between them but Juliet can’t quite work out what that is yet. She is determined not to let him get under her skin again and yet… she can’t help herself,” she says.

Nigel’s first day on the set of Hotel Babylon was a reunion of sorts between him, Dexter Fletcher and Ray Coulthard who plays James, Food & Beverages Manager.

“Dexter and I did a show together called Abracadabra at the Lyric Hammersmith and he will kill me for saying this but I was 10 and he was a much older 17 or so… we were three school kids in detention – me, Dexter and Jenna Russell who is Ray Coulthard’s partner,” he reminisces.

“And Jenna and I later worked together in Guys And Dolls in the West End which is when I met Ray.”

However, it was a random ride on Dexter’s motorbike that ignited Nigel’s passion for bikes.

“Dexter was the first person to give me a ride on a motorbike and one night after the show we razzed up and down an alleyway behind the Lyric Hammersmith. So it’s kind of weird that we have come full circle when the irony is, at my age, I should know better,” he laughs.

Nigel’s first day was somewhat daunting, not least because he was joining an established cast and a popular prime-time show but also because he had great swathes of dialogue to deliver.

“I was really nervous on my first day because the show is really established now but the cast and crew were fantastically warm and welcoming and what you see on screen is how it is on set,” he says.

“There are two kinds of Babylon lovers – the out-and-out fans who unashamedly love it and the closet fans for whom the show is a guilty pleasure. I got a really warm reaction to coming into it from my friends and family; and when a show is as established as this is, with a strong fan-base, then make no mistake, the pressure is on.”

“Add to that the great chunks of dialogue that Anna and I had to deliver on day one and believe me I was nervous.”

Despite not having worked with Anna Wilson-Jones before they immediately established a rapport from their first reading together.

“You can’t force chemistry and you can see what on paper should be great husband-and-wife teams but if the camera doesn’t pick it up then it is over. Hopefully, Juliet and Sam have that chemistry. It’s not front and centre with those two – it very much bubbles under the surface and by the end of the series hopefully it becomes more prevalent. However, you can’t go and have chemistry workshops… but Anna is a brilliant actor and the chemistry feels very natural for us.”

“Furthermore, you can’t rush it because it’s that usual phenomenon in television – we want them to get together but as soon as they do it’s all over… just like in EastEnders, if you got given a baby in the script that was it – all over! That would always make me laugh.”

When he finds himself in the midst of a terror alert with the airports shut down he goes in search of a hotel for him and his fellow passengers.

“He is stranded in the hotel purely by accident in the middle of a terror alert and when his flight is grounded he takes people from his cancelled flight and offers to get them all a hotel room for the night – Babylon is about the fourth hotel he tries,” he explains.

“He turns up at Babylon to get everyone a room and finds that there are none available. He then tries to schmooze the manager but discovers that the person in charge is in fact his ex-wife, Juliet. So that’s how events transpire and over the course of the episode various things happen and he falls in love with the hotel and staff and begins to question his position with Juliet.”

Following Sam’s natural lead the staff soon adopt the spirit of the Blitz and muck in to make the best of the situation. Having experienced the camaraderie of the hotel team, Sam makes a rash decision and buys the hotel.

“With the terror threat over, Sam wakes in the morning to find that the stock market has crashed and he has lost all his money. The only asset he has left is Hotel Babylon. He urges Juliet to stay on as General Manager of the hotel, promises to be a ‘hands off’ owner and they end up being thrown together, which Sam secretly likes.”

“In the deep recesses of his heart seeing her again re-kindles some emotions and he likes being around her. He isn’t necessarily trying to woo her again at this stage certainly, but there is chemistry between them and she is clearly flustered at his arrival,” he comments.

Juliet initially declines Sam’s offer of a job running the hotel. She doesn’t think they can work under the same roof but he begs her to stay and she eventually agrees.

“Sam has never had a proper job in his life and when he and Juliet were together he was always losing all their money – going off and investing in some weird scheme somewhere. After they split up, Sam hit the jackpot and did well in business which is another bugbear of Juliet’s.”

The directorial style of the show means that, at various points during a take, the director will shout freeze and the cast and crew have to stop mid-expression and freeze on the spot for around ten seconds while a steadycam operator moves through the set, something Nigel had some initial problems with.

“In my very first scene I had to come striding through the revolving door and freeze everything from my expression to my briefcase which believe me is hard to do when you come swinging through a revolving door. Objects have their own momentum and I felt like a real plonker,” he laughs.

“I had to hold position for about eight seconds which doesn’t sound like a long time but in telly terms is quite substantial because the steadycam is tracking around the lobby and around you and it is hard not to blink and keep your balance. My motto now is ‘don’t try to be too ambitious in your first freeze!'”

When he started filming on Babylon, Nigel was working in theatre and had just finished a long shoot on Plus One, a new series for Channel 4.

“When I started this job I did six weeks filming Babylon where I would finish at 4.00pm, get home around sixish and start work at 7.00pm on stage. I was absolutely knackered in the beginning but I’m not complaining. What actor can complain about being in work?”

Having spent a number of years working in theatre Nigel was pleased at the reaction of his friends when he told them he was joining the cast of Babylon.

“It wasn’t a conscious decision to come back to television. But when Babylon came around and I started watching and falling in love with it I couldn’t say no. I was offered quite a bit of work in TV over the years that didn’t really tick any boxes for me. Plus I loved being on the stage and working in musical theatre and I really enjoyed doing something different” he explains.

“I spent so much time in theatre and learnt so much from it that I was happy challenging myself in that respect. And when you come back to television you bring those skills with you, plus I got to wear lovely suits and great clothes on Babylon.”

Nigel’s most famous role to date remains Denis Watts in EastEnders.

“Most people still recognise me from Eastenders but they tend to call me Nigel now instead of Denis which is a breakthrough,” he laughs.

“I don’t mind it that much and I’m really proud of my time in it. It’s part of my life and it presented me with so many great opportunities – I wouldn’t be here now if it wasn’t for EastEnders, but I don’t think I’m ready to sit down and watch it back just yet. I will do at some point,” he adds.

“When I think back to the storylines I was really fortunate and had a lot of opportunities. I was a ‘mockney’ for a while and during and afterwards I think I did talk like Denis. I remember taxi drivers were really upset when I told them I was from Surrey… they’d always ask me whereabouts in the East End I was from.”

Working on long-running shows inevitably means the cast spend a lot of time hanging around the sets and green room but the Babylon boys found various ways to keep themselves amused.

“Dexter and I played poker a lot and he took quite a wad of money off me. He’s got that cherubic little grin but he is a lethal poker player. We were also madly into Scrabble and played Risk now and again. You have never seen four grown men [Dexter Fletcher, Ray Coulthard and Martin Marquez] fight so vehemently over bits of territory but Ray generally emerged victorious!”

Between filming Babylon and going into theatre in January Nigel plans to take time off for some well-earned R&R.

“I’m hopefully going to get a holiday in, then hit the golf course after this… I’m trying not to answer the phone at the moment to any work offers and obviously we are hoping Hotel Babylon goes again next year. We’d all love to come back and do another series but we have to wait and see. I’m looking at a few stage plays and I’m on stage in the New Year.”

Having performed in Guys And Dolls and the stage version of the hit musical Mamma Mia!, Nigel has definite leanings towards musical theatre.

“I would definitely go back to musical theatre… I have an un-nerving desire to sing and every couple of years I feel the urge to get up on stage and sing something.”

Nigel didn’t leave his nerves behind him on the first day of the shoot. “I will be really nervous on the first transmission night of Babylon and I’ll have to watch it three or four times before I get used to seeing myself again on screen,” he explains.

“And I will always find fault with my performance in some way or other but then nothing is ever perfect. If audiences enjoy the show that will make me happy.”

Nigel Harman and Anna Wilson-Jones join the cast of Hotel Babylon in series four of the hit BBC One show which takes a tantalizing and seductive insight into the sexy world of the luxury five-star hotel industry.

Regular cast members Dexter Fletcher, Emma Pierson, Michael Obiora, Martin Marquez, Ray Coulthard, Danira Govic and Alexandra Moen are joined by Nigel Harman as the hotel’s new charismatic owner, Sam Franklin. His ex-wife and Babylon’s General Manager, Juliet, is played by Anna Wilson-Jones.

When Sam Franklin attempts to check into Hotel Babylon in episode one, little does he know that his ex-wife, Juliet, has been appointed as a trouble-shooter to either shut down or save the hotel. As the day unfolds some disturbing events threaten the hotel’s equilibrium and Sam decides to take matters into his own hands. Several phone calls later and Sam Franklin is the new owner of Hotel Babylon much to his ex-wife’s annoyance.

With a Bollywood-style wedding, celebrity magazine shoot, mafia gangsters, and lots of guest stars checking in, series four will, in true Hotel Babylon-style, keep audiences entertained throughout the summer.

Inspired by Imogen Edwards-Jones’ expose of life behind the scenes of the luxury hotel industry in London, Hotel Babylon takes us on a journey beyond the glamour and facade of the smiling faces and glittering chandeliers and into the frenetic, non-stop world of the staff.

The regular cast include the charismatic Tony (Dexter Fletcher) the colourful and discreet concierge; the delectable-but-catty head receptionist Anna (Emma Pierson); Gino (Martin Marquez), Babylon’s flamboyant head barman and even more flamboyant receptionist, Ben (Michael Obiora), who continues to camp it up front of house. Tanya (Danira Govic) is promoted to head of housekeeping following Jackie’s departure in series three.

As well as the regular cast, Hotel Babylon welcomes former Emmerdale star and new employee Amy Nuttall as Melanie Hughes who joins the cast in episode seven. Max Beesley makes a guest appearance as Charlie Edwards and gets more than he bargains for when he sees old flame Anna.

Hotel Babylon is facing a takeover by Donovan Credo (John Sessions) who is infamous in the hotel trade for ousting the staff and bringing in his own clones. Rebecca is to be kept on but Donovan allows her to keep only two members of her staff. Rebecca chooses Charlie but makes him decide upon the other, dangling the managerial career carrot in front of him. Starting with Ben, Rebecca and Charlie tell the staff individually the bad news. Tony learns he is the other member of staff to be kept. However, he throws it back in their faces and walks out. When Charlie also decides to resign, Rebecca is forced to reveal to him that the Babylon Group is finding an alternative buyer (a Japanese company). Firing the staff was a stalling technique to give the Japanese more time to gather relevant information. Rebecca and Charlie work through the night ensuring the Japanese have everything they need to achieve a successful bid and, at the very last minute, they win the buy-out. As Donovan walks out with his tail between his legs Charlie reassembles the team for a celebratory meeting – however, they feel that Rebecca has betrayed them. When Rebecca leaves the hotel we realise it is for good. Charlie receives notification that he is to be made General Manager at Rebecca’s recommendation.

Wanting to remain professional, Rebecca and Charlie agree to meet later to continue their new relationship. Seeing them together reignites feelings of jealousy in Jackie and she shows an interest again in Charlie. In the middle of balancing both women Charlie’s younger brother Dan (Chris Coghill) arrives. He is in trouble over forged artwork and needs Charlie’s help. The situation seems harmless until the police arrive looking for Dan. They tell Charlie the truth about what has happened – Dan’s business partner is in a coma following a beating and the police believe that Dan is to blame. Not wanting to get dragged into the situation, Charlie wants his brother out of the hotel, but the pressure mounts for him when Dan’s disgruntled customer sends his heavies to the hotel. Charlie realises the danger Dan is in and is forced to criminalise himself by securing a fake passport for his brother. The situation with Dan gets in the way of Charlie’s relationship with Rebecca and he is forced to lie to her. Rebecca takes this to mean rejection. Charlie feels he can talk to Jackie and, although their relationship is not rekindled, she helps him smuggle Dan out of the hotel just as the police arrive with a search warrant.

Meanwhile, front of house, the restaurant’s wine list is looking worryingly short of top vintages so when wealthy Mrs Klein (Jerry Hall) holds a wine taste-off at the hotel to win a case of very expensive Petrus ’61, James feels he has no option but to comply. Ben is shocked when James confesses that he has lied to his friends, he has a rubbish nose and will not win the taste-off. To make matters worse, James’ arch rival Neville Bellingham Jones (Guy Henry) will be the other contestant at the taste-off and is bound to win. When it is discovered that Ben has an excellent nose, the two conspire to help James win the wine whilst at the same time maintaining his reputation.

Fed up with having his stock stolen by hotel staff, Gino refuses to give them any more free drinks. In revenge, Anna and Tony play a trick on Gino making him believe he is being haunted. But Gino uncovers the trick and turns the tables on his friends.

Tony loses out on the Concierge of the Year award because his services are deemed old-fashioned. Riled because Gino is crowing at winning Barman of the Year, Tony resorts to getting help from the Russians (below stairs staff). Things seem to go well at first but Tony quickly starts to regret their intervention when he receives complaints from customers. Tony tells the Russians to leave and they do so – but not before asking him to put up one of their friends for the night. Unable to refuse, Tony agrees. The friend turns out to be a drug dealer who starts dealing out of the hotel. Jackie discovers this and tells Tony who ousts the dealer, knowing it will lead to trouble for him.

The team are shocked when Rebecca cancels their Christmas party so, in revenge, they work to rule. Charlie tries to make Rebecca reinstate the party but she brushes off the staff’s petty attitude. It is only when they refuse to attend the morning meeting that she realises the situation has grown into a full-blown mutiny and reinstates the party. Rebecca is coerced into cooking the meal and tells Charlie he has to help. The friction between Charlie and Rebecca is heightened by the fact that Rebecca is a useless cook and he is brilliant. Matters come to a head and the atmosphere lightens with the help of some cheap brandy. Whilst the staff get merry, Charlie and Rebecca are found in an embrace in the store cupboard by Jackie as she wonders in with the dishy new potwasher. Whilst the rest of the staff celebrate the Christmas party Tony gets a beating from the Russians in retaliation.

A famous British actor, and renowned sex addict, Aiden Spencer (Alexander Armstrong) is using the hotel for a press junket to promote his latest film. He’s obnoxious and his PA Elizabeth Scott (Sally Bretton) is terrified of him. Anna bonds with Elizabeth and finds out more than she bargained for. Pretending to be a journalist, Anna gets the truth out of Aiden about his problem and, having recorded the whole thing, gives the tape to Elizabeth rather than selling the scoop.

Former shop assistant turned reality show celebrity Carrie Cottan (Jennifer Ellison) is the object of Gino’s desires. Carrie is famous for having an affair with a TV presenter (Marcus Walker) and is enjoying her 15 minutes of fame. Gino finds he is unable to resist exploring Carrie’s room but is surprised when Luke appears. Revealing his true colours, Luke tells Gino he is stealing some explicit photos of Carrie and Marcus to sell to the press. Carrie is distraught to discover the photos have been taken. Eaten up with guilt, Gino tells Rebecca the truth – fully expecting to get the sack. In the end, Rebecca lets Gino keep his job but sacks Luke. Tony is disappointed in Luke and Charlie punches him. Carrie learns that all publicity is good publicity and gets a fabulous underwear contract as a result of her photos making the front page of The Sun.

Jackie is delighted when a novelist she admires, Francis Levington (Angus Wright), stays at the hotel prior to his latest book launch. Jackie makes an excuse to see Francis and the two get on well. In a moment of passion Jackie moves in to kiss Francis. However the situation gets out of hand and begins to turn nasty. Jackie frees herself by hitting Francis with one of his books. When Charlie finds out he tells Francis politely, but firmly, to leave the hotel – right in the middle of his book launch.

Mrs Dickinson is a board member’s wife and lumbers Anna with the task of looking after Petal, her little dog. Despite Mrs Dickinson (Maria McErlane) giving Anna strict instructions on where she is to walk Petal, Anna dumps her in the laundry room and leaves. When Anna returns she is horrified to learn that Petal is in a washing cycle. Together with Ben, she saves Petal just as the water level starts to rise. Frantically blow-drying Petal, Anna returns her, albeit slightly warm, to Mrs Dickinson.

Robert Kane (Mark Heap) – a seemingly high flying businessman – proposes to his girlfriend Lisa (Sian Brooke) in the restaurant. Initially, she seems delighted; until she learns he lost his job six months previously and his money is running out. Lisa dumps Robert and Charlie saves him from throwing himself off the balcony in despair. The next day, Robert asks Charlie for the vacant position of bellboy. Charlie agrees and makes a bet with Tony that he will last a week. Things start off well but slowly deteriorate as it becomes clear Robert is in denial about his split with Lisa. The situation reaches a head when Robert sees Lisa check in with her new man. He storms into their room and Charlie has no option but to fire him. Charlie is shocked to later discover Robert holding Rebecca’s friend Estelle (Emily Joyce) hostage. He manages to resolve the situation and Robert is led away by the police. Tony and Charlie feel it only right to give the wager from their bet to charity – £1.

Elsewhere Rebecca receives her decree absolute and decides to hold a divorce party/reunion with her best friends. She invites three old school friends – Estelle (Emily Joyce), Louise (Beatie Edney) and Carolyn (Rachel Fielding) – to enjoy the luxuries of the five-star hotel. Rebecca is really excited about seeing her friends. However, chinks in their friendship begin to show when it’s made clear that Rebecca has been a useless friend since leaving school. Carolyn sleeps with Luke as a way of de-stressing herself, only to have the incident backfire on her. Matters get worse when it is revealed that Estelle is seeing Rebecca’s ex-husband Mark. After a showdown Estelle makes to leave and encounters Robert, who, due to his fragile state, takes her hostage. Charlie saves the day, freeing her from Robert’s grip. Rebecca realises her friendship with Estelle needs time to heal but vows to make more of an effort in the future.

Meanwhile, below stairs, Jackie discovers that James (Ray Coulthard) has been living way beyond his means, and has been losing large sums of money in late night poker games, primarily to Tony. With a few lessons in body language Jackie helps him to beat Tony at his own game in the staff’s monthly poker game.

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