EASTENDERS is finally back on our screens after its pandemic-induced hiatus that left fans devastated without their usual fix of cockney carnage.
Since launching in 1985, there have been many changes with only a few of the original cast still propping up the bar in the Old Vic.
As fans embark on the soap’s self-proclaimed ‘second series’, it felt right to take a stroll down Albert Square’s memory lane to find out where some of the original cast are now.
Adam Woodyatt – Ian Beale
Ian Beale has been in EastEnders since the beginning and Adam Woodyatt is the longest serving cast member.
Fans might as well chant “there’s only one Ian Beale!” because there is no chance bosses would ever replace Adam with another actor, unlike many other characters – *cough* Ben Mitchell *cough*.
The only star to have appeared continuously since the soap's inception, Ian has been a staple of Albert Square and been involved with many of its most memorable storylines.
Over the years he’s been married six times, lost two children, been shot by a hitman hired by his ex and left homeless.
In 2013 Adam was rewarded for his efforts and won the Lifetime Achievement trophy at the British Soap Awards after nearly 3,000 appearances on the soap.
Adam is still in EastEnders and it was recently revealed that he had split with his wife of 22 years.
Wendy Richard – Pauline Fowler
Queen of the platinum hairstyle and steely glare, Pauline Fowler was brought into the original EastEnders cast after finding fame on Are You Being Served?.
Legendary actress Wendy Richard played the feisty matriarch for an incredible 21 years until she decided to leave in 2006.
Her tragic on-screen death happened during the iconic Christmas episode when she was found dead in the snow in the middle of the Square.
The star was given a 'Special Achievement' award at the 2007 British Soap Awards and an MBE for her services.
Wendy sadly passed away from breast cancer in February 2009 with her husband John Burns at her bedside.
John Altman – Nick Cotton
Nasty Nick wasn’t just rotten but an absolute horror – hard to believe he was church-loving Dot’s son.
A villain from the start, he committed the soap's first murder in the opening episode and was causing regular trouble for his mum and the other residents over the years.
Played by actor John Altman, he had six separate stints in the show over the years and even tried to kill Dot at one point.
His final appearance came in 2015 when he overdosed on drugs supplied by his mother.
After slipping into unconsciousness, Dot cradled her boy as he admitted to having killed Reg Cox 30 years earlier.
Nick died in his mum’s arms and with a nod to nostalgia, his body was discovered by Stacey, Martin and Kush in the 30th anniversary live episode, as Stacey had the same line of dialogue spoken by Den Watts in the iconic opening scene three decades earlier: “Stinks in ‘ere…”
After finally hanging up his evil hat, John starred in musical Chicago, made pantomime appearances and starred in Daz adverts.
His autobiography, In The Nick of Time, was released in June 2016 and this year the 68-year-old appeared in The Real Marigold Hotel looking for love.
Ladies, form an orderly queue.
June Brown – Dot Cotton
The legend, the icon, the chain-smoking wonder of Walford, June joined EastEnders in 1985 as Nasty Nick's muvver’ Dorothy Cotton.
Apart from a break between 1993 and 1997, the actress has been a key member of the cast and even carried an entire episode single-handedly in 2008 as Dot looked back over her life.
June began to lose her eyesight in 2015 and this year it had deteriorated so much that the 93-year-old decided to leave the soap once and for all.
Dot left a voicemail to Sonia revealing she had moved to Ireland in her final scene.
Asked whether EastEnders had put her on a retainer, Brown replied: "I don't want a retainer. I've left. I've left for good.
"I've sent myself to Ireland and that's where she'll stay. I've left EastEnders."
Letitia Dean – Sharon Watts
Letitia joined the cast as Den and Angie Watt’s adopted daughter Sharon and stayed until 1995.
The actress then returned from 2001 until 2006 but the buxom blonde couldn't stay away from Albert Square and rejoined the cast in 2012.
Shazza is currently involved in a gripping storyline with Ian Beale, who confessed he was in love with her.
Despite letting him down gently (Ian was clearly hoping for wife number seven), the rejected businessman lashed out, raging at her: “I took pity on you, I tried to do something nice but it wasn’t enough. It is never enough.
“No more taking advantage. This is my business – every penny. And you are my employee.
“I’m going to set you some targets and if you can’t meet them I will get a manager who can.”
Leslie Grantham – Dirty Den Watts
Sharon’s adopted dad – Dirty Den Watts – was possibly EastEnders’ best villain.
Played by Leslie Grantham, the pub landlord got his daughter's best friend pregnant and shoved wife Angie around.
After getting shot dead and falling into a canal in 1989, Dirty Den came back from the grave in 2003.
In reality, Leslie's personal life contained as much drama as his characters. A convicted murderer, he served a 10 year prison sentence for killing a West German taxi driver in 1966.
Then in 2004, the actor was caught in a sex scandal when an undercover reporter got footage of him exposing himself on webcam.
The image of him sucking his finger is the stuff of legends – and nightmares.
Sadly, Leslie died from lung cancer in June 2018 at the age of 71.
Anita Dobson – Angie Watts
Over 30 million viewers tuned in on Christmas Day 1986 to see Den hand Angie her divorce papers – and no soap episode has beaten that total since.
Anita Dobson played the alcoholic landlady of the Queen Vic landlady until 1988 when she decided to leave.
During her time away from the square she released a rendition of the EastEnders theme tune called 'Anyone Can Fall In Love' that reached number four in the UK singles chart.
Although EastEnders bosses pleaded with Anita to return to Walford theyeventually gave up and Ang was killed off-screen of alcohol poisoning in 2002.
Anita got married to Queen guitarist Brian May in 2000 and has enjoyed a number of TV and stage roles including The Bill, Casualty and Holby City.
In 2018 she starred in the TV movie Torvill & Dean and in the series The Worst Witch in 2019.
Bill Treacher – Arthur Fowler
Bill Treacher played Arthur Fowler for 11 years through his character's nervous breakdown, two prison spells and affair.
Doctors told Bill that the job would kill him if he didn't leave soon due to the gruelling hours and stress, so in 1995 Arthur was killed off.
After his time on the soap, Bill starred in George and the Dragon with Patrick Swayze,and also had parts in The Bill and Casualty.
Bill is now 88, retired and living his best life in Suffolk – whether he has an allotment is unknown.
Roly and Willy
Ultimately the two best boys in EastEnders history – Roly was the Watts family's beloved poodle, and Willy was Ethel's adorable pug.
Roly met a horrible end when Grant Mitchell set fire to the Vic for the insurance money – justice for Roly!
Meanwhile, Willy was put down in heartbreaking scenes in 1992 and just two weeks later, the poor dog that played Willy also died.
Anna Wing – Lou Beale
Lou Beale was the original formidable mother and was head of the Beale family – keeping Pauline and Pete in check.
After leaving the soap she went on to work on the stage and had roles on Casualty, Doctors and The Bill, and even appeared in The Calcium Kid alongside Orlando Bloom in 2004 and 2007’s Son of Rambow.
The actress worked right up until her sad death in July 2013 at the ripe old age of 98.
Gretchen Franklin – Ethel Skinner
Gretchen Franklin played gossip queen Ethel Skinner until 1988 when her character was put into an old people's home.
She did make some brief returns over the years but in 1997 she left Walford for good to live in a retirement village.
The character was the centre of a controversial euthanasia storyline when Ethel asked best friend Dot to help her take her own life.
Gretchen retired from acting at the age of 89 and passed away in her sleep in July 2009 just four days after her 94th birthday.
Peter Dean – Pete Beale
Peter Dean played loveable cockney fruit and veg seller Peter Beale from 1985 until May 1993.
After the actor slammed EastEnders producers in public, his contract was reportedly terminated with irreconcilable differences being cited.
Pete Beale met a grisly end when he was killed in a car crash off-screen in December 1993
Dean is now a practising Buddhist and has worked as a security guard and at a furniture yard.
The actor also made guest appearances in Bo' Selecta and Little Britain, and in 2018, he took part in BBC series, The Real Marigold Hotel.
Nick Berry – Simon Wicks
Handsome Nick Berry played Simon Wicks for five years and quickly became the heart throb of the Square.
After leaving Walford in 1990, Nick traded London for the Yorkshire Dales and went on to play Heartbeat’s PC Nick Rowan.
He also recorded the title song which reached number two in the UK singles chart.
Nick retired from acting to run his own production company, Valentine Productions, until he resigned in October 2019.
Susan Tully – Michelle Fowler
Susan Tully cut her acting teeth in Grange Hill before making the leapto EastEnders as Pauline and Arthur's daughter, Michelle Fowler.
The character enjoyed some great storylines on the soap, including getting pregnant aged 16 after having an affair with best friend Sharon's dad, Den.
After 10 years, Susan left the Square and when the role of Michelle was recast to Jenna Russell in 2016, the star reportedly gave her blessing.
Since leaving Susan has switched to behind the camera and directed episodes of EastEnders, Tracy Beaker, The Bill, Lark Rise to Candleford and Silent Witness.
Her most recent directing credits were for Tim Roth's show Tin Star and Line of Duty in 2019.
Gillian Taylforth – Kathy Beale
Gillian starred as Kathy in the very first episode of EastEnders and was at the centre of some dramatic storylines, including being raped by the evil James Willmott-Brown.
The actress left in 1998 but made a brief return in 199 for Ross Kemp's exit storyline.
Gillian was upset when her character was killed off-screen in a car-crash in South Africa in 2006.
But Kathy was another EastEnders favourite who rose from the dead and shocked viewers by returning in 2015.
During her spell away from EastEnders, Gillian played Jackie Pascoe-Webb in Footballers' Wives and Sandy Roscoe in Hollyoaks.
As well as acting, Gillian was partnered with Anton du Beke on Strictly Come Dancing in 2008 and went into the Celebrity Big Brother house in January 2013.
Gillian is currently still working on EastEnders – with Kathy owning her own bar and running the cafe.
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