EastEnders has tonight made the controversial move of recasting Michelle Fowler, one of the BBC1 soap’s original characters.
Michelle – who was played for a decade by Susan Tully – resurfaced in Albert Square tonight, now portrayed by actress Jenna Russell.
Tully had long resisted requests from EastEnders to make a return to Walford following Michelle’s exit in 1995. The character was last seen headed to America with daughter Vicki, having discovered that she was pregnant with Grant Mitchell’s baby.
But Michelle was glimpsed making a surprise return in this evening’s Christmas Eve episode, stepping out from a black cab before reuniting with best mate Sharon (Letitia Dean).
Show bosses are now promising that the reasons for Michelle’s return will unfold in a storyline set to air in early January. In a special episode focusing on her and Sharon, fans will learn why Michelle is back in Walford after all these years.
Executive producer Sean O’Connor – who in his previous role as editor of The Archers recast both Tom and Pip Archer – said of his latest signing: “I am thrilled to have secured Jenna Russell to play Michelle Fowler, one of the show’s most celebrated characters.
The Square really has missed her over the past twenty years. Having worked with her before, Jenna was always in mind when I first started planning for Michelle’s return.
“I think the audience are going to take Michelle back into their hearts: still flawed, complicated and infuriating after two decades away, but still loveable all the same. It’s going to be appointment TV watching Michelle’s car crash of a life unravel all over again.”
Jenna Russell – whose previous screen credits include Call the Midwife, Holby City and Born and Bred – said of taking on the role of Michelle: “It is a great honour to play such an iconic character. I know the audience loved Michelle Fowler so much, and even though she hasn’t been on our screen for 20 years, she’s very much in the fans’ psyche.
“When I used to watch EastEnders all those years ago, she was one of my favourite characters. I’m extremely excited for what is in store for Michelle.”
You can watch a 60-second rundown of New Year on EastEnders below.
And visit our dedicated EastEnders page for all the latest news, interviews and spoilers.