Actress Jenna Russell made her EastEnders debut this Christmas when she became the second star to play Michelle Fowler.
But it was originally intended for her to portray a completely different character – back when the BBC1 soap started in the mid-1980s.
“I was asked to play Mary Smith in the show right in the beginning when it started in 1985,” said Russell, “but I was very young and it wasn’t the right fit for me then. I always felt I would cross paths with the show again at some point, and here we are 31 years later.”
Punk Mary was Walford’s original wild child and was played by Linda Davidson over a three-year stint from 1985 to 1988.
Having turned down the opportunity three decades ago, Russell admitted that she was still apprehensive about joining the cast in 2016, especially seeing as she was being asked to take on such a well-remembered character as Michelle:
“It felt like such a massive curveball – I was expecting it to be a new character and didn’t think for one moment it would be Michelle Fowler. And, honestly, it took me quite a few days to get how I felt about it.
“I know the audience loved her and even though she hasn’t been on our screens for over 20 years, she is still an iconic character in the fans’ psyche. That scared me but sometimes it’s good to be scared. I thought, ‘take a deep breath’ and I decided to jump up and go with it.”
You can watch a 60-second rundown of New Year on EastEnders below.
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