EastEnders: Tamzin Outhwaite to return as Mel Owen in 2018

Last seen in 2002, Mel is heading back to Walford

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EastEnders has confirmed Tamzin Outhwaite is to reprise her role as Melanie Owen, almost 16 years after she last appeared.

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Feisty, glamorous Mel was forced to flee Walford in 2002 after the tragic death of her gangster husband Steve, who left her carrying the can for his dodgy drug dealing. Implicated in her other half’s crimes, Mel faced a prison sentence unless she escaped the country. Discovering her best friend Lisa Fowler had shot Phil, for which Steve had been blamed, and also learning she was pregnant by her dead husband, betrayed Mel left for Portugal – losing Phil the £30,000 bail money he’d put up for her.

So what brings her back after all this time? EastEnders are keeping quiet about the exact details of her return, but a spokesperson teased her comeback would “turn a few heads as well tear open old wounds. With so much history in Albert Square, when Mel returns the drama will not be far behind.”

Will Phil want his £30k back? Will Louise remember going to live with her mum’s mate when they lived with her in Portugal to get away from the Mitchells? Will she have it in for Kathy Beale for seducing her vicar brother Alex? And what about the kid she was pregnant with when she left? They’d be a teenager by now…

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Outhwaite joined EastEnders in 1998 and made Mel one of the most iconic characters of the time, largely thanks to her explosive on-screen partnership with Martin Kemp who played Steve.

Mel was involved in numerous high-profile storylines during her four years on the show including the ‘who shot Phil?’ mystery, for which she was a suspect, and her short-lived marriage to Ian Beale, who she famously dumped at their millennium wedding on New Year’s Eve 1999 after learning he’d lied his daughter Lucy had a terminal illness to stop her leaving him.

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Speaking about her surprise return, which had been teased heavily on EastEnders’ official social platforms in the last 24 hours, Outhwaite said: “When I got the call from John Yorke, the show’s creative director, I just couldn’t refuse. John created Mel’s most memorable storylines so it is an honour he has asked me to return.

“EastEnders is in my DNA and I always knew deep down that someday I would revisit Mel – she is a strong, independent woman with lots more stories to tell. To be stepping back into the character’s shoes nearly 20 years after I first stated feels perfect.”

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Yorke echoes Outhwaite’s delight at bringing back one of the biggest names from his original era at the helm. “It’s particularly exciting to welcome her back to Walford for an incredible storyline – one that will awaken a lot of old ghosts, some great memories, and whole new series of adventures.

“We’re thrilled and flattered to have Tamzin home and can’t wait to reveal where she’s been, and who Melanie Owen is now.”

Playing Melanie launched Outhwaite’s career. Since leaving she has continued to be one of the most in-demand actresses in British TV and theatre, appearing in the likes of New Tricks, Red Cap and the west end production of Sweet Charity.

She will begin filming in the coming weeks and appears on screen early in 2018.

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

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