Actress-director Caroline Paterson made an emotional return to the set of EastEnders earlier this month.


Scottish star Paterson memorably appeared in EastEnders in the 1990s as Ruth Aitken, the second wife of long-running character Mark Fowler (Todd Carty).

Now as part of her work in the BBC's River City Academy training scheme this year, Paterson has made an emotional return to the set of EastEnders to shadow directors there.

In the video, Paterson is seen stepping onto Albert Square and being overwhelmed with emotion. The show's original set for Walford was demolished earlier this year as the soap has recreated it on a nearby lot at Elstree to enable greater filming opportunities and further technological advancements.

In the exclusive clip, we then see Caroline as she heads to the recreation of the old Fowler house where her character used to live with Mark.

Paterson exclaims: "It just looks exactly the same, I can't believe this!"

Speaking to about her return to the show's set in Elstree and how the soap has changed, Paterson said: "I mean, the way people view it is completely different. You know, they use different cameras - I think it looks better.

"And then compared to when I was in it, one of the things that I really noticed was how diverse it is. And I just felt that this is starting to reflect London. Whereas when I was in it, you know, it just wasn't there. So I'm really over the moon that that has completely changed."

Paterson added that when she visited the set she could see diversity in front of and behind the cameras too, noting that this was "all for the better".

Caroline Patterson is delighted as she visits the Elstree set of EastEnders.
Caroline Paterson is delighted as she visits the Elstree set of EastEnders. BBC

The actor and director made clear that she thought the soap had had to "move with the times" in the stories it tackled, recalling her own involvement in the powerful story of Mark Fowler's HIV journey.

"Stories haven't changed really," noted Paterson. "They still do huge stories about what happens in society and I'm just thinking about Mark Fowler's HIV story, we were doing that and there was a lot of fear in the public. That was such a huge story due to actually what it informed the audience, you know, this fear shouldn't be there. And I thought it was a great story."

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Paterson revealed that she had seen the recent story about Zack Hudson (James Farrar) being diagnosed with HIV and said that it demonstrated how far things had come.

James Farrar as Zack Hudson in EastEnders
James Farrar as Zack Hudson in EastEnders BBC

"I noticed that they had an HIV story with Zack and I was amazed," commented Paterson. "Thank goodness. Then when I was in EastEnders, HIV was this scary thing that could come out, it was kept secret, but it just shows how far society has come so far."

Having directed since age 24 across theatre and film, Paterson revealed that she gets offered much more directing work now than acting.

However, having never received any formal training in these fields, Paterson has taken the opportunity to upskill her directing further as part of the River City Academy training scheme, which works alongside the beloved Scottish continuing drama River City. Paterson directs the scenes that the trainees in the scheme will work on.

"This is my first training and I'm loving it and loving learning it because River City works in a completely different way from what I worked," said the director. "So I'm really enjoying this training. I'm like, 'Let me learn a new skill'. I'm really loving concentrating on directing at the moment."

Paterson has previously directed episodes of River City and will be doing so in the upcoming series.

Caroline Patterson poses for River City Training Academy.
Director Caroline Paterson poses for River City Training Academy. Alan Peebles

Praising the training scheme, Paterson added: "I'm so pleased that the BBC is doing this because it's for people who want these skills, but also it's just for people who maybe never get an opportunity to get into the industry or young people I know that can't get in it.

"You know, it's difficult. It's not easy just trying to get in the industry, so I'm pleased that it's also for beginners - people who maybe would be part of the sound team or costumes.

"I've never seen training like it and I hope it continues and it will go down all the continuing dramas - that they take time to let people learn."

You can apply for the River City Academy to be part of the 2024 cohort now.

Who was Ruth Fowler in EastEnders?

Caroline Patterson as Ruth Fowler in EastEnders.
Caroline Paterson as Ruth Fowler in EastEnders. BBC

Ruth Fowler was the second wife of Mark Fowler.

Introduced in 1994, Ruth Aitken was taking care of her dying friend Anna in a hospice after her friend had contracted HIV, and it was there she met Mark Fowler who had dealt with having tested positive for the virus for a few years.

The pair grew close and formed a romance, then eventually got married, against her strict parents' blessing. However, issues arose as Ruth wanted children and so she and Mark pursued fostering a child, but this soon ended in heartache when they were separated from the one they had taken in.

Ruth also defended Mark from abuse on Albert Square, including against then-bigoted pub landlady Peggy Mitchell (Barbara Windsor).

Mark and Ruth's marriage began to break down and she tried to seduce Mark's cousin Conor Flaherty (Seán Gleeson), but was knocked back due to Mark's HIV status. After coming clean to Mark, the Fowler marriage ended.

Ruth's behaviour turned wilder after their separation and she struggled for money too. Eventually, Conor and Ruth did have an affair and she became pregnant. While Conor wanted her to terminate the pregnancy, Ruth chose to keep it and the knowledge of what had happened saw Mark turn furious with Conor and they came to physical blows.

In the end, Conor offered to raise the child with Ruth but she decided to return home to Scotland and raise her child as a single mother in 1999. In the aftermath, Conor and his sister Mary (Melanie Clark Pullen) left to find her.

Mark went on to receive a card sending well wishes to him from Ruth when he went on to marry Lisa Shaw (Lucy Benjamin) in 2002. Alas, this marriage ended in heartache for Mark too.

Finally, Mark himself left Walford in 2o03 as his health deteriorated and he was no longer responding to treatment. He died off-screen in 2004.

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EastEnders airs Mondays to Thursdays at 7:30pm on BBC One and from 6am on BBC iPlayer. Visit our dedicated EastEnders page for all the latest news, interviews and spoilers. If you’re looking for more to watch, check out our TV Guide and Streaming Guide.


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