Super-soap-stars: Who are the greatest TV serial defectors?

Following Sue Johnston's return in Coronation Street, we cast an eye over the nation's favourite soap hoppers - from EastEnders and Emmerdale to The Bill, Hollyoaks and beyond...

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Super-soap-stars: Who are the greatest TV serial defectors?
Written By
Susanna Lazarus and Barnaby Walter

Coronation Street's Sue Johnston is a dab old hand at this soap malarkey, having been in Corrie before and paid her dues as Brookside staple Sheila Grant between 1982-90. She has since gone on to light up our screens in Waking the Dead and The Royle Family, but last night saw her treading the cobbles of Weatherfield again.

Stella PriceSue plays Gloria Price - the mother of pint-pulling Stella (right), played by fellow soap-hopper Michelle Collins, who you may know better as Cindy Beale – the scheming wife of Ian who hired a hit man to have him shot. Phew. 

In honour of their demonstrated soap versatility, we've scanned the archives and dug up some of the best-known soap transfers in history...

Remember Tricky Dicky? You know, Richard Cole, Walford's answer to Casanova...he slept with a 17-year old Bianca... Yep, that's the one. Ian Reddington played the lothario between 1992 and 1994, but EastEnders was not enough for the actor it seemed, as 11 years later he turned up on Coronation Street as Vernon Tomlin, Liz McDonald's on-off musician boyfriend. 

But Reddington's not the only defector - Jill Halfpenny went the other way. At the turn of the century her Corrie character Rebecca Hopkins was happily having it away with Martin Platt behind Gail's back. She scarpered, leaving the Platts' marriage irreversibly damaged in 2000, only to surface again in 2002 as Kate Mitchell - one of several seemingly sane women foolish enough to marry EastEnd egghead Phil. Jill enjoyed a three-year tenure in Walford before her character slept with Dirty Den and ran away to rejoin the police in Brighton. 

Veteran soap actor Todd Carty cut his teeth as Tucker in Grange Hill before graduating to EastEnders which he departed in 2002 after 13 years playing HIV sufferer Mark Fowler, only to be miraculously restored to full health months later playing evil copper PC Gabriel Kent in The Bill.

In its prime the now-retired cop drama served as something of a nesting ground for soap stars past, present and future. A who’s who of Walford, Weatherfield and Hollyoaks has passed through the doors of Sun Hill…

Jack BranningScott Maslen’s promotion from DS Phil Hunter to Albert Square’s brooding man candy Jack Branning (left) earned him multiple plaudits as Soap’s Sexiest Male – but his character has since suffered a gunshot wound, divorce and the death of his baby son. Never mind, he's still ploughing on and was recently seen snogging buxom blonde Sharon. 

The Bill has welcomed many a soap cast-off  into its arms, embracing former 'Enders Louisa Lytton, Lucy Speed and Gillian Taylforth, as well as Hollyoaks veterans Ali Bastian and Gary Lucy. Apparently a life spent bending the law in various dodgy dealings is a pre-requisite for Sun Hill’s crimefighters…

Chris Fountain first caught our attention as 'Oaks bad boy Justin Burton, wreaking havoc in Chester between 2003-2009, before swapping The Loft for The Rovers – via a brief spell in Dancing on Ice – in 2011. His move to Corrie marked the return of long-running (but absent) character Tommy Duckworth – son of Terry and grandson of Jack and Vera. Two words: transferrable skills. Justin Burton’s womanizing ways gave Chris plenty of ammo to make a play for the lovely ladies of Weatherfield.

Actor and former-Australian Idol finalist Daniel O’Connor survived car crashes and fires in Neighbours playing loveable Ned Parker before crossing the seas to become former army medic Ally Gorman in Hollyoaks. Arriving in the British soap in February, he became one of the show’s many heartthrobs, but a dark past and failed relationship with murdered Lynsey Nolan has left him under a gloomy cloud of suspicion.

Dot CottonNow, many of you may assume June Brown and Dot Branning (right) are the same person - but wait, there was life before the launderette for June. Long before EastEnders was even a twinkle in Julia Smith or Tony Holland's eye, Ms Brown was strutting her stuff on the Manchester cobbles (albeit for a short time) as Mrs Parsons.

In fact, her on-screen husband, Jim, has done just the same thing. Veteran British actor John Bardon played Ernie Lumsden for two episodes of Corrie in 1990 before heading down south to play the Branning patriarch from 1996 until 2011. 

Veteran Michael French has been appearing in soaps for decades… In 1993 he headed to Albert Square to play car dealer David Wicks sending many a female fan’s heart a-thumping. But three years later they were shedding tears as he departed to Milan’s exotic climes (or in soap language, reincarnated himself as a medical man). Since then he has popped in and out of Casualty and Holby City as dashing Dr Nick Jordan more times than Dot Cotton’s exclaimed “Ooh I say”. He was last seen strolling the Casualty corridors on Saturday nights, interspersed by a fleeting reappearance in EastEnders this year at the bedside of ailing mother Pat Evans (she of over-sized earrings). 

Phew, that's rather a lot of soap defectors, but here at RadioTimes.com we have a sneaky suspicion there are many, many more. So get your detective hats on and your magnifying glasses out (who doesn't get a kick out of dressing up as Sherlock Holmes?) and post your favourite soap hopper discoveries in the comments section below... 

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