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10 most random celebrity soap cameos ever

As Harry Redknapp heads to EastEnders, we look at the most surprising soap cameos ever.

Harry Redknapp EastEnders
Published: Friday, 9th July 2021 at 11:30 am

By: Michael Hogan

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Get into my pub! He’s a real-life East Ender and Friday evening’s episode of the Albert Square soap opera sees much-loved former West Ham manager Harry Redknapp play himself - causing quite a stir as Euros football fever hits Walford.

Harry pays a surprise visit to his “good friend”, Terry “Rocky” Cant (Brian Conley), and pops into the Queen Vic for a chat with starstruck landlord Mick Carter (real-life Hammers fan Danny Dyer) - making Mick’s day when he agrees to sign his West Ham shirt.

There's even an amusing spot of confusion when Mick mentions to wife Linda (Kellie Bright) that "royalty is visiting". When she hears the name Harry, she assumes a certain ginger prince has flown in from America. Now that really would be cause a soapy media storm.

Redknapp relished the chance to swap I’m A Celebrity for the urban jungle. “I really enjoyed it and they made it easy for me,” says the 74-year-old. “Thankfully I only had a few lines, otherwise we could still be recording today.”

Sadly he’s not accompanied by oft-mentioned wife Sandra or football pundit son Jamie. In fact, EastEnders devotee Sandra has joked that she’ll refuse to watch her husband’s appearance in her favourite soap.

'Appy ‘Arry is just the latest in a long line of publicity-grabbing cameos from famous faces in our favourite soaps. Here we rewind 10 of the most entertainingly random.

Ed Sheeran in Home & Away

The giga-selling singer’s armour-clad 2017 Game Of Thrones cameo wasn’t the first time he randomly popped up in a fictional TV realm. Two years earlier, the ginger troubadour visited Summer Bay - a somewhat sunnier and less dangerous location than Westeros.

The slightly implausible premise was that soap stalwart Marilyn Chambers (Emily Symons) has been Ed’s nanny back when she lived in England. She was blissfully unaware that he’d grown up into a megastar until he came to town. Scatty but big-hearted Mazza was thrilled to be reunited with “Teddy" and once locals realised who he was, the whiskery muso was roped into playing a gig at the local diner.

"It's an Australian institution,” said Ed of the long-running show. “It's always on in my local chip shop.” High praise indeed.

Boris Johnson in EastEnders

In 2009 came a clash of two blond bombshells with torrid personal lives: Queen Vic matriarch Peggy Mitchell and the somewhat less powerful Boris Johnson.

Back when Boris was still Mayor of London, Walford council candidate Peggy (the late, great Barbara Windsor) vowed to give him a piece of her mind if she ever got the chance. But when his bicycle got a puncture and BoJo popped into the pub, the wind went out of the poison dwarf’s sails. Peggy was all smiles for the VIP visitor, cooing: “It’s such an honour to have you here, Mr Mayor.” “Oh please, call me Boris,” he replied in trademark bumbling style.

Things were less convivial off-screen, though. Boris's predecessor Ken Livingstone complained that the Cockney soap had rejected him for cameos in the past... Would you Adam and Eve it?

Sir Ian McKellen in Coronation Street

“You’ll never guess who I ran into down the Rovers Return? That wizard fella from Lord Of The Rings.” Yes, he might be one of our most celebrated thesps but Sir Ian admitted he was fulfilling a life-long ambition by signing up for a guest stint on the Corrie cobbles in 2003.

Across 10 episodes, the Lancashire lad played shifty novelist Mel Hutchwright, who arrived at the Weatherfield Book Club and was soon conning cash and kindness out of awe-struck members. Ken Barlow (William Roache) eventually rumbled that "Mel" was actually a career fraudster called Lionel Hipkiss.

McKellen "had a ball", clearly relishing his scene-stealing turn. In 2019, he happily recorded a special message in character for Sue Nichols, aka Audrey Roberts, when she received the Outstanding Achievement Award at the British Soap Awards. Good work, Gandalf.

Lily Allen in Neighbours

While touring Down Under in 2009, Londoner Lily promoted her album It's Not Me, It's You on local radio stations as is industry standard. More unusually, these included Erinsborough's amateur operation, PirateNet.

The 24-year-old singer confessed she was a big fan of the Aussie soap so "wasted no time in accepting" a cameo. "OMFG! Just saw Paul Robinson and Libby Kennedy,” she tweeted during filming.

Lily was interviewed by Ramsay Street resident Zeke Kinski (Matt Werkmeister) and even crooned her hit single “22” for a select audience. Big fan and “fellow musician” Dr Karl Kennedy (Alan Fletcher) was particularly starstruck, verging on flirtatious. “It’s nice to know that older men have an interest in my songs,” said Lily drily. “Does your wife know you listen to my music?”

Rick Astley in Hollyoaks

All manner of famous faces have passed through the Cheshire village. from Alison Hammond to Alan Carr, from Nick Grimshaw to Kate Garraway. However, the most surreal had to be “Never Gonna Give You Up” hitmaker Rick Astley.

Unhinged nurse Kim Butterfield (Daisy Wood-Davis) spent months locked in the basement at Hollyoaks High, surviving on tins of baked beans and talking to a tattered old Astley poster for company.

The 80s pop crooner become something of a guardian angel in her darkest hour, hence it was strangely fitting that when Kim departed in 2018 to go on the run, she bumped him at the bus stop. What were the chances? Astley was even reading a copy of The Chester Herald newspaper with the front-page headline “Together Forever” - another of his hits. It was like a real-life Rickroll.

Phil ’n’ Fern in Emmerdale

Back in 2005, Phillip Schofield and Fern Britton were the golden couple of daytime TV. So when Shelley Williams (Carolyn Pickles) disappeared from the Yorkshire Dales farming community, long-serving character Alan Turner (Richard Thorp) went on This Morning to be interviewed by the presenting pair and appeal for the return of his on/off lover.

More recently, Emmerdale writer Sharon Marshall joked on This Morning that she could create another role for Schofe. “I could write you into Emmerdale again briefly,” she said in 2017. “I’m thinking nudist camp. You’d just walk in and someone would say, ‘Your usual, Mr Schofield?’”

Now that would be an episode to remember.

David Walliams in EastEnders

At Christmas 2003, moonlighting Little Britain star David Walliams caused a right kerfuffle in the Queen Vic. He played a fake registrar at the shambolic pub wedding of Alfie Moon (Shane Richie) and Kat Slater (Jessie Wallace).

Loveable wide boy Alfie was unable to get his divorce from first wife Liza (Joanne Adams) finalised in time, so he cancelled the proper vicar and instead roped in his old mate Ray Collins to pretend to marry them.

Did Ray ever return to Albert Square? Computer says no. Walliams didn’t even get to write the theme tune or sing the theme tune.

Michael Palin in Home & Away

When former Monty Python star and all-round national treasure™ Michael Palin was shooting his 1996 travelogue Full Circle, he made a surprise stop-off in New South Wales - while wearing an unforgiving wetsuit.

Palin’s fleeting scene saw a romantic heart-to-heart between Donald Fisher (Norman Coburn) and Marilyn Chambers (her again) on the beach get awkwardly interrupted when Palin’s nervous English surfer sidled up to ask whether there were any sharks in the Summer Bay waters.

“No,” came Fisher’s firm answer. “Jolly good, thanks awfully,” bumbled Palin - who thought better of venturing into the waves when Marilyn called after him: “Plenty of jellyfish, though.”

Peter Kay in Coronation Street

Boltonian funnyman Peter Kay might have been born to play the comic relief in Coronation Street and so it proved in 2004.

The creator of sitcoms Phoenix Nights and Car Share donned a ginger wig and goofy dentures to play hapless Newton & Ridley drayman Eric Gartside, who attempted to woo Rovers barmaid Shelley Unwin (played by Kay’s old pal Sally Lindsay). The pair went on a date but Eric’s rather sweet romantic advances were rejected after Shelley discovered that he still lived at home with his overbearing mother.

This was actually Kay’s second appearance on the cobbles. In 1997, he had a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it part as a delivery driver drafted in by Fred Elliott (John Savident) to help refurbish the corner shop.

Emma Bunton in Neighbours

I’ll tell you what I want, what I really really want, and that’s to appear in an Aussie soap. Well, Emma “Baby Spice” Bunton got her wish in 2007.

When Dr Karl Kennedy (him again) whisked his childhood sweetheart Susan Kinski (Jackie Woodburne) away on holiday to London, they not only ran into chat show host Michael Parkinson (who said "Give my regards to Dame Edna”) but Karl had his romantic proposal rescued by Bunton. When he accidentally dropped the engagement ring off an open-topped sightseeing bus, thankfully there was a Spice Girl on hand to retrieve it.

Bunton very nearly made a career out of soaps rather than pop. In her stage school days, she went up for the role of Bianca Jackson and got down to the final three but was “devastated” when she lost out to Patsy Palmer. Happily, her disappointment didn’t last long. “It was fate because I met the girls and had my Spice audition two weeks later.” Zig-a-zig-ah indeed.

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