EastEnders‘ Nicola Stapleton reveals to Soaplife that the return of Mandy, who moves in with Ian, is good – and bad – news for him!

Ian’s life will never be the same again after he rescues Mandy Salter and takes her back to Walford. Word is, after 17 years away, she’s still trouble. “She’s a feisty, individual woman who does what she must to get by,” says Nicola. Sounds a bit like Ian’s ex-wife Cindy. And Ian could be looking for a new wife…

So, how does Ian come to rescue Mandy?
“He’s at a strip club where she’s rowing with two bouncers, so she’s relieved to see a familiar face. Ian doesn’t want to acknowledge her, but she grabs him and kisses him then begs him to let her get into his car. She jumps in and they speed off.”

Is she a stripper?
“She’s a lap dancer. People think she used to be a prostitute, but she’d rip off punters by taking money up front. She never actually went through with it.”

She’s followed back to Walford by one of the heavies, though, isn’t she?
“Yes. He tells Ian that Mandy stole 5k off him and while they’re talking Mandy flees out the back door. Ian goes looking for her, but when he asks a street girl for info he’s arrested for soliciting!”

And when he gets home he finds Mandy…
“She’s on his sofa. Ian’s angry and has a go at her, but she reminds him she once saw him kerb crawling. He tells her to leave, then changes his mind.”

Why?
“I think this is the most exciting thing that’s happened to Ian in a long time. There’s banter between them and she has a real energy that lifts his spirits. They have fun and Ian agrees to put her up – he even lends her money!”

Can you tell us what Mandy has been doing for the past 17 years?
“She’s very coy about that and keeps her cards close to her chest. She comes and goes, but she’s going to be around for a while.”

What’s it like returning after so long?
“Great but strange. I watched DVDs of Mandy to remind me of her character and I was like, ‘What was I thinking with those outfits?!'”

Has Mandy got any family?
“Not that we know of – at the moment!”

So she didn’t get pregnant after that one-night stand with Ricky?
“When we meet her she’s very much on her own, living hand-to-mouth. I think there’s a part of her that wants to be maternal as she gets on really well with Bobby, who becomes her little mate.”

Could she become the next Mrs Beale?
“There are lots of possible love interests. She has her eye on everyone…”