EastEnders will celebrate its 35th anniversary next week, with a series of explosive episodes set to end in one character’s downfall.
The action will kick off as the Queen Vic landlords Mick and Linda Carter win the Pub of the Year contest and decide to celebrate with a boat party along the Thames.
While it’s unclear which Walford local will lose their life, filming pictures have revealed that a whole host of characters will be on board, including Mick, Linda, Max and Jack Branning, with Linda set to cause major drama as her alcoholism hits breaking point.
Here, as the show marks its anniversary, Kellie Bright – who has played Linda on the soap for seven years – reveals the five female characters who have inspired her along the way.
Who are they?
Sharon Mitchell – played by Letitia Dean
The pair initially met in 1986 when Kellie played a bridesmaid at Sharon Mitchell’s best friend Michelle Fowler’s wedding.
One of the original characters on the soap, Sharon appeared in the very first episode which broadcast on 19 February 1985.
And her character has been involved in some of the show’s most iconic storylines, including her love affairs with brothers Grant and Phil Mitchell – both of whom she’s married – the murder of her ex-husband Den Watts, and her most recent storyline revolving around her affair with her stepdaughter’s boyfriend, Keanu Taylor.
Recalling her first day on set, Kellie told press including RadioTimes.com: “I had one of my first speaking scenes with Letitia Dean on the square – that was so strange!”
She added: “I’m so grateful because she was so lovely so that was really nice. It was bizarre, I couldn’t believe I was stood doing this scene with such an iconic woman and character who I’ve watched since I was tiny! It was a strange sensation.”
Carol Jackson – played by Lindsey Coulson
Another EastEnders original, Carol is best known as the hardworking mother of the Jackson family.
Her storylines have seen her suffer from heartbreak, as she struggled to hold down relationships with various men and fiercely defend her four children Sonia, Robbie, Bianca, and Billie – who sadly died of alcohol poisoning in 2010.
In 2014, Carol was diagnosed with breast cancer, which subsequently led to Lindsey’s leave from the show as her character turned her life around.
So, what makes Carol one of Kellie’s fave?
“I loved Carol Jackson as a character, I just thought Lindsey was brilliant,” she said.
“Moments [that stand out to me] are like when Carol Jackson came onto the square with her five kids and their whole family and Ricky and Bianca as well.”
Pat Butcher – played by Pam St Clement
Feisty, flamboyant and full of sass, Pat Butcher remains an all-time fave for many including Kellie.
As one of the longest serving characters on the soap, having been on it for 25 years, Pat was originally created to “to add an extra edge of toughness to the show”.
And that she certainly did.
From her brief stint in sex work, to her relationship with Frank Butcher and rivalry with fellow EastEnder’s legend Peggy Mitchell, hardly a moment went by when Pat wasn’t up to mischief.
Sadly, her character was killed off in 2011, after Pam decided to hang up her earrings.
However, her bright-coloured eyeshadow, printed, silk shirts and door knocker earrings will forever be ingrained in our memories.
When asked who her ultimate icon is, Kellie said: “I’m going to say Pat Butcher – mostly because of the earrings! I do choose really large earrings for Linda based on my love for Pat really. There are some corkers in the 35th anniversary.”
Dot Cotton – played by June Brown
A devout Christian, with a smoking habit and love of sherry, her character has won much critical appraise from fans.
And as the second-longest-serving character in EastEnders – surpassed only by original character Ian Beale – her life has overlapped with that of actress June Brown’s.
Dot began appearing less frequently in 2015, due to Brown gradually losing her eyesight and this was written into her character the following year.
In 2008, she had an entire solo episode, which saw her record a message for her late husband Jim Branning, as he recovered from a stroke.
Speaking about the event – which she dubbed her “most iconic moment” on the soap – Kellie said: “I just think Dot is such an iconic female character of the show and also because June Brown is just a genius – she really becomes Dot.”
Lou Beale – played by Anna Wing
We’re used to seeing her as Linda Carter, but if she had the chance, Kellie tells us she’d have wanted to play Lou Beale.
“If I could have played anyone, I would have been Lou!” she admitted.
Like Sharon, Lou appeared in the very first episode of the soap in 1985 before her character was killed off three years later in 1988.
A true East End matriarch and head of one of Walford’s leading families – the Beales and Fowlers – Lou was an intimidating force in the community, who wasn’t afraid to speak her mind.
Although they often found her to be a nuisance, Lou received much love and respect from her family.
Doesn’t sound too different to Linda, if you ask us!