Pop stars trying their hand at acting is not a new phenomenon, as the announcement UK soul star Mica Paris is joining EastEnders proves. Switching from singing to soap can be tough, as the gruelling schedule of continuing dramas will quickly prove whether performers have got what it takes.
So which hitmakers made a big impression in the world of soap? RadioTimes.com brings you the 10 most memorable job swaps from pop star to soap sensation.
Martin Kemp (EastEnders)
The Spandau Ballet bassist was actually a professional child actor before joining the 1980s new wave group, and the plum part of Walford’s sharp-suited gangster Steve Owen fitted him like a love. The highlight of charismatic Kemp’s memorable four-year stint from 1998 was murdering bunny boiler ex Saskia Duncan with an ashtray in the night club back office.
Rachel Adedeji (Hollyoaks)
Having been booted out at the boot camp stage in The X Factor the year before, Adedeji made the live shows in 2009 and finished in ninth place (Joe McElderry was victorious). In 2016 she sashayed into Hollyoaks as Lisa Loveday, long-lost daughter of Karl and Simone who had been abducted as a child. Adedeji was a natural and brought real sass to her troubled alter ego. She quit the soap earlier this year, later speaking out on racism she had experienced behind the scenes, and her final scenes air in September 2020.
Kym Marsh (Coronation Street)
Plucked from obscurity for ITV’s reality talent search Popstars in 2001, Marsh silenced her critics when she joined Coronation Street in 2006 as Michelle Connor, turning a guest role into a fully-fledged fan favourite who went on to run the Rovers, marry Steve McDonald (who didn’t?) and had an entire family built around her. Marsh left in 2019 but the door remains open.
Richard Blackwood (EastEnders/Hollyoaks)
Rapper, singer, presenter, actor – Blackwood was a British Will Smith in the making at the turn of the millennium and had a string of R&B hits. He made his soap debut during EastEnders’ 30th anniversary live episode in 2015 and stayed for three years as bad boy Vincent Hubbard, and started a long-term stint in Hollyoaks in 2020 as charmer Felix Westwood, long-lost father to triplets of terror Mitchell Deveraux, Toby Faroe and Celeste Faroe. His on-screen squeeze is played by another fellow ex-popstrel, Kelle Bryan from girl band Eternal.
Duncan James (Hollyoaks)
Hollyoaks loves a pop star – Duncan from Blue was introduced as dreamy cop Ryan Knight in 2016, who seemed like the perfect police officer, husband and father until he turned into a murdering closeted cheat who bumped off his wife to keep his true sexuality a secret. He was killed off in 2018 after drowning during a showdown with the man he framed for his spouse’s murder. Now that’s how you make an impact.
Lee Ryan (EastEnders)
Dunc’s fellow Blue boy channelled his pop heart-throb cheeky chappy cockney charm to Woody the Queen Vic barman in 2017. He hung around for a year, was given a backstory of history with the Carters and had a serious romance with Whitney Dean, but despite Ryan’s authenticity the character was written out before he fulfilled his full potential. Does Sharon need new staff at the relaunched Vic this autumn? Give Woody a call.
Keith Duffy (Coronation Street)
A twinkle in the eye, that seductive Irish lilt – Corrie utilised the Boyzone star’s natural charms when they signed him up as Ciaran McCarthy, Peter Barlow’s old mate from the navy. Lothario Ciaran’s first appearance was in 2002 and he remained in the show on and off until 2011, bedding Michelle Connor and Tracy Barlow among others along the way. Duffy more than earned his acting stripes and was a highly engaging screen presence.
David Essex (EastEnders)
Ask your mum (or your gran) about 1970s troubadour crooner Essex, he was a huge star back in the day who had a string of hits, successfully branching out into a respected screen and stage acting career over the decades. EastEnders almost lured him in 2006 to play Honey Mitchell’s dad but he had to back out due to other commitments, but the stars aligned in 2011 when he signed up to play Eddie Moon, uncle to Alfie and dad to Tyler and Anthony. Shame he only stayed a few months.
Shayne Ward (Coronation Street)
Angelic X Factor winner and blue-eyed boy of musical theatre Ward was cast very much as type in 2015 as Corrie ladies’ man and businessman Aidan Connor, but the actor blindsided audiences with a hard-hitting depression storyline which saw the character take his own life three years later. Ward’s heartbreaking performance made Aidan’s suicide one of the soap’s most impactful plots of recent years.
Matt Willis (EastEnders)
You might not remember, but Busted/McBusted star Willis had a promising part in EastEnders as Stacey’s love interest when she returned in 2014 after a three-year absence. Stace was on the run after killing Archie Mitchell, living under the name Jenny Smith and shacked up with dependable bloke Luke Riley. Unfortunately cousin Kat tracked her down and shattered her happy set-up by telling Luke who his girlfriend really was, and he dumped her. Although this meant Stacey could return to Walford full-time, Willis showed great potential in his brief spell in the Square.
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