Soap stars who came back from the brink as Danny Dyer says EastEnders ‘saved me’ – £1m debt, brain ops & booze addiction | The Sun

A REGULAR role in a soap means rare stability and a steady wage to an actor – but for many it's also a lifeline.

As Danny Dyer bows out of EastEnders, after a decade, he has credited the BBC soap with rescuing him from the abyss and “saving my life.”

“When I came into this show I was a f***ing car crash,” he told The Sun.

“My career was on its f***ing arse… I had made a lot of bad decisions and I was in a bad place.”

Danny – who played Mick Carter – is not alone in thanking soaps for turning their life around.

From the star given a second chance after debilitating brain surgery to battles with depression and addiction, we look at the big names who were saved by soaps.


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My life was a car crash – EastEnders saved me, says Danny Dyer ahead of exit

Martin Kemp

The Spandau Ballet star’s life was far from easy when he landed the role of EastEnders bad boy Steven Owen in 1998.

He had battled two brain tumours and been through a series of life-saving surgeries, having a metal plate inserted in his head, before a long recovery process.

But the trauma left him suffering from a deep depression and the Albert Square role helped boost his mental health. 

He told The Sun: "When I went into that show, my confidence and my charisma after what I’d been through was on the floor.

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"I was still suffering from depression. My brain wasn’t even working properly. If I wanted to walk one way, I’d walk the other.

“I couldn’t remember lines properly. But the character has this incredible confidence and charisma that kind of gave me my life back.

"I spent three and a half years as him and it made me forget about what I’d been through."

Richard Blackwood

The former MTV star was riding high in the late 1990s, with his own comedy show and a hit single, Mamma Who Da Man. 

But he suffered from depression and became suicidal when work dried up and he was declared bankrupt.

"When I was made bankrupt, it was hard because I was one of the first young guys from the MTV era to be deemed to have it all and then to lose it all," he told The Mirror.

''I don't drink or smoke. I never have. I've never taken a drug in my life. But I was depressed, I was even suicidal.

''It was very real for me back then. Every time I walked out of the house, I was reminded by people that I had failed."

He said ex-girlfriend Samia Stokes stopped him from taking his own life, adding: “It was a very dark time.” 

The actor broke down in tears after being offered the role of Vincent Hubbard by EastEnders executive producer Dominic Treadwell-Collins.

“When the audition came for EastEnders, I didn't think I would get it. I felt disheartened and was planning to go to America,” he said.

“When I got the role, I went back to my car and I started to cry. I couldn't believe it. Dominic has changed my life.''

Duncan James

Blue singer Duncan struggled to get his solo career off the ground when Blue split in 2005 and, after investing in property before the housing crash of 2008, was left “drowning” in debt.

Declared bankrupt in 2013, he suffered from anxiety and depression and became hooked on antidepressants. 

But being offered the role of Ryan Knight in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks, in 2016, pulled him out of his financial hole.

"It's nice to get a regular pay cheque!" he said at the time.

He also thanked the soap and his fans for support after his Hollyoaks debut was postponed when complications from back surgery left him almost paralysed. 

Barbara Windsor

The Carry On star was already a national treasure when the role of Peggy Mitchell, in EastEnders, came her way in 1994.

But after her tragic death, in December 2020, widower Scott Mitchell revealed she had “lost confidence” in her acting and was £1million in debt.

He said: “When people go through that phase when let's say, between the Carry On phase and EastEnders, there may be a dip in your career, I think it's very natural for artists to lose confidence as well, and I think Barbara lost her confidence.”

Scott, who wed the star in 2000, said the lack of work in the middle of her career meant she was heavily in debt. 

“At first, a lot of people called me a gold digger,” Scott said.

“What they didn’t know behind the scenes is that Barbara had a million pound debt.”

Shane Richie 

Shane has played cheeky chappy Alfie Moon in EastEnders, on and off, since 2002.

But he later revealed he had been turned down for the first role he auditioned for – only to have the character of Alfie created for him.

And he says the offer lifted him out of bankruptcy. 

“We go on holiday, I’m bankrupt because of this film I’d invested in, I’ve got nothing, I’m selling the house, no work,” he told his campmates on I’m A Celeb in 2020. 

“The phone goes and it’s my manager and he goes ‘EastEnders want you’. 

“I started getting teary and he told me about this character called Alfie Moon and in my first episode I’d be coming in and taking over the Queen Vic, I started crying.”

Kevin Kennedy 

For Coronation Street star Kevin, life-saving help came from the soap a few years after he began playing the iconic role of Curly Watts, in 1983. 

The actor credits producers on the soap for rescuing him from a crippling alcohol addiction, in the 1990s, by sending him to rehab.

Before they intervened, Kevin was downing a bottle of vodka on his way to work every day, followed by up to three bottles of wine a night.

"I was totally dependent on alcohol. My whole life revolved around where the next drink was coming from," he told The Sun.

"Often I was drinking in secret. I wasn't living, I was merely existing, drink to drink.

"When [Corrie] finally got involved and packed me off to rehab, I started my long hard road to recovery. In retrospect, they played a massive part in not only saving my life, but changing my life."

Rosie Bentham 

Emmerdale star Rosie has played Gabby in the soap since the age of 15 and lost screen dad Ashley (John Middleton) in an emotional storyline in 2017.

She says the experience helped her cope with the sudden death of her own dad John, from a pulmonary aneurysm, shortly after her 18th birthday, two years later. 

"I was doing the whole playing grief and then the next minute I’m actually grieving,” said Rosie,now 21.. 

“Everyone was there for me and I had some time off. I had a text from the cast seeing how I was.

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“Work was a saving grace in the sense there was something I still loved to do and was passionate about. You think life is so unfair, I don’t know why I am here any more. 

“I knew I had work – something I loved and was passionate about and I got to work every day. Emmerdale 100 per cent gave me stability.”

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