EastEnders delivers some blasts from the past on Tuesday 19 February when Mary ‘the punk’ Smith (Linda Davidson) returns to Albert Square more than 30 years after she left to attend the funeral of Dr Harold Legg (Leonard Fenton), along with fellow old face Lofty Holloway (Tom Watt).
Long-time fans will remember hard-faced northerner Mary was a single mum to a baby girl called Annie, who she battled to retain custody of when her parents threatened to take their granddaughter away from the dubious lifestyle she’d been subjected to in Walford.
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Troubled Mary had escaped her unhappy upbringing and fled to London but found herself caught in a self-destructive cycle of addiction, doomed relationships and prostitution, but her devotion for Annie remained the character’s constant motivation, despite the bad times.
Grown-up Annie, now 34, accompanies her mum when she visits her old haunts, and is played by Marilyn O’Brien, who Davidson praises as a “lovely, warm actress” – but a few years ago she reconnected with the original Annie, by way of a bizarre coincidence…
What happened to the actress that played baby Annie in 1985?
“Samantha Crown played the baby Annie and I sort of kept in touch with her mum. I volunteer for a charity that works with disadvantaged families living below the poverty threshold, and about four years ago I was after some information on the macro-economic effect of poverty and came across an organisation that could help me out – lo and behold Samantha works there! I saw her name on the website and instantly recognised her. How bonkers is that? So we went for a cup of tea.
“She’s this tiny woman, so beautiful. She got married about 18 months ago and has just had a baby of her own. Her mum sent me some pictures over Christmas. Samantha didn’t really remember being in EastEnders, but she used to say, ‘No more scenes, mummy, no more scenes!’ That was really sweet.
“And the other coincidence about all this was there were actually two baby Annies, Samantha was the main one but she and the other actress both did the same course at Leeds University and were in the same year! They became mates all that time later! Isn’t that brilliant?!”
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