EastEnders: Who is Colin Russell?

The character’s backstory explained

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Colin Russell, played by actor-turned-politician Lord Michael Cashman, is set to return to EastEnders for a brief period next Thursday but what do we know about the character?

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Colin was a middle-class graphic designer who arrived in Walford in August 1986. He was a regular for a little under three years before leaving in 1989 and a highly popular early character. His time on the show encompassed some memorable storylines, with most long-time viewers remembering him for being part of the first ever gay kiss on a British soap opera.

Colin, EastEnders’ first gay character, initially kept his sexuality a secret. He then started seeing boyfriend Barry Clark, with whom he shared the iconic first gay kiss in January 1989, a watershed moment for British television. Dot was horrified to learn of their relationship and later spread malicious rumours that Colin had AIDS, causing some locals to treat him like a pariah. 

However, when it was revealed that Dot’s husband Charlie was a bigamist Colin supported her through it and they became firm friends.

Colin’s health began to deteriorate in 1988 and he feared he may have AIDS. Tests confirmed that he was, in fact, suffering from multiple sclerosis but his doctor decided to keep that information from him (fearing it would provoke another attack) and instead told him he was anaemic. He then met fellow ‘yuppie’ Guido Smith at a party and they began seeing each other. 

The following year Colin’s condition deteriorated further and his doctor decided it was time to tell him the truth. Colin was, understandably, furious but came to terms with his diagnosis. Beginning to fear that Guido was only staying with him out of pity, Colin left the Square in February 1989 to go and live with his brother in Bristol.

The actor Lord Michael Cashman, who plays Colin, has had a high-profile political career as a politician since leaving EastEnders, and is also a champion of LGBT rights. He is a founding member of the charity Stonewall, was Labour’s LGBT Global Envoy from 2013-16 and is a Labour peer. He was appointed CBE in 2013 for public and political service.

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It seems he is taking a brief break from politics to appear in two episodes of EastEnders next week, and although Colin’s storyline is under wraps we do know that his visit will raise a big question for Dot. How will their past relationship relate to the present? And what news will Colin bring about what he’s been up to for the past 27 years?

You can watch a 60-second rundown of next week’s episodes of EastEnders below.

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And visit our dedicated EastEnders page for all the latest news, interviews and spoilers.