Ever wondered what the actors who have played some of EastEnders’ best remembered characters are doing now? TV Times decided to track them down and find out.
Peter Dean AKA Pete Beale
Pete ‘Alwight, tweacle!’ Beale ran the fruit and veg stall. When he wasn’t flogging his ripe bananas or juicy plums, he was in the Vic where he had his own tankard behind the bar. He was bumped off in 1993.
At 70, Peter still acts, owns a scrapyard and is part of a syndicate, training and racing greyhounds. But his big passion is old time music halls.
He says: “I belong to a group called Across the Board Players and we put on shows. I do jokes and talk history and the others do the singing. Songs like Knees up Mother Brown, no one knows the origin, but it’s actually about Queen Victoria having the affair with James Brown. I love the humour of the era.”
Michael Cashman AKA Colin Russell
The tabloids went crazy in 1986 when they discovered new character, Colin, would turn out to be gay. Originally, EastEnders creators Julia Smith and Tony Holland wanted a straight actor for the part.
Michael adds: “Julia said, ‘It would make it easier for them with the press, but every time we think of this character, we think of you.'”
Michael quit after three years. By then, he’d set up the gay rights charity Stonewall and was a big Labour Party supporter. This led to him getting a seat on the party’s National Executive Committee and in 1999 he was elected as an MEP.
He says: “I defend human rights across the board. The whole thing about human rights is recognising that we’re all different. If you give away somebody else’s rights then ultimately, you give away your own.”
Leonard Fenton – AKA Doctor Legg
Leonard appeared in the very first episode and, although Dr Legg retired in 1997, he returned for several short stints – the last being in 2007.
“People still call me Dr Legg,” Leonard tells us. “I do tell them not to ask me any medical questions, although I actually learned a lot on EastEnders. I was always contacting doctor friends for information and there were books in Dr Legg’s surgery that I used to study.”
He may be 84 now, but retirement isn’t an option for Leonard. He’s currently in a new play and later in the year he’s doing a film, One for Sorrow, about assisted suicide. When he’s not working, he loves to paint.
“I’ve painted for many years and I’ve had the odd exhibition,” he says. “I like doing still life and I tend to paint when I go abroad. My partner and I have a house in Andalucia, Spain and one of the things I love painting most are fishing boats.”
Linda Davidson AKA Mary Smith
Who can forget Mary the punk? An illiterate, single mum, she made one mistake after another. She briefly cleaned up her act when she met Rod the roadie, but got addicted to speed, went on the game and, in 1988, shoved two fingers up to the square.
Linda explains: “I was offered a Steven Berkoff play, so I went off and did that.”
After several years acting, Linda got into writing.
“I got some short stories published, and things went from there,” she tells us. “I got a deal to co-write a sit-com, which didn’t happen. I had a film script optioned which didn’t happen, then I got another film optioned, which didn’t happen – you get the picture! And then I started writing for Tomorrow’s World and Good Homes Online, and got interested in the internet.”
These days, Linda works for Discovery Television as Director of Business Strategy for IT Business Operations.
Tom Watt AKA George ‘Lofty’ Holloway
Lofty worked at the Vic with Simon Wicks. Simon had the looks, Lofty had chronic asthma. He left the square in 1987 to work in a children’s home, after wife Michelle aborted their baby and broke his heart.
“It was my decision to go – after about a year, actually. Then I went to see the producer about storylines, and I agreed to stay for a bit longer.”
A lifelong Arsenal fan, Tom’s now one of the country’s leading sports journalists. Following stints on radio, he’s recently written his fifth book.
“I’m unbelievably proud of it,” he says. “It’s called ‘A Beautiful Game: Football Through the Eyes of the World’s Greatest Players.’ I’m still acting, though. I was in the BBC Drama Small Island and I had a bit part in the new Sherlock Holmes movie. And I’m in a play soon, called The Madness in Valencia, at London’s Trafalgar Studios.”
Catch the 25th anniversary special live episode of EastEnders on Friday February 19 at 8pm.