Mandy Salter was last seen fleeing Albert Square in 1994. But 17 years later, actress Nicola Stapleton returns to EastEnders this month. We caught up her…

Tearaway teenager, Mandy Salter was last seen fleeing Albert Square in 1994, after breaking up with her boyfriend, Aidan (played by Sean Maguire).

But 17 years later, actress Nicola Stapleton returns to EastEnders next week. We caught up with Nicola for a chat about what’s in store for her classic character….

How did you return to EastEnders happen?
“It’s been fired about for a little while now, but I was busy with other stuff. Then I worked with Bryan Kirkwood on Hollyoaks Later in 2009. When he moved to EastEnders as the Executive Producer we stayed in touch and it came about like that. It’s been 17 years since I was last here. It’s amazing – I think I might be the cast member who has had the biggest gap!”

What has Mandy been up to?
“It’s all a bit of a mystery. She quite coy about what she’s been up to, but it’s going to be revealed a lot further down the line. But I’m really excited about the things they have in store for Mandy.”

We first see Mandy on Monday, wroking in a strip club…
“Yes, it’s probably quite fitting for her! She’s been working as a lap dancer to survive. Ian Beale comes to her rescue, as she is in the middle of having an argy-bargy with the club’s bouncer. So to see a familiar face is good timing as far as she’s concerned.”

What’s she like these days?
“She’s similar, but she’s been through a lot. She’s a little older and wiser, but still only has herself to rely on. She’s never had any family support. The closest thing she had to family when she was originally in the Square was Mark Fowler. So she’s still a feisty, independent woman who does what she has to to get by.”

Has she got her eye on any men in the square?
“You will have to wait and see who falls for her charms. Everybody is potential as far as she is concerned. I want to keep her exciting and keep everybody guessing. The way they are writing for her, anything could happen. She is a ticking bomb really!”

What would you like to see happen for her?
“I would like her to be happy. She had such a troubled upbringing. So it would be nice to see her fall in love and be happy.”

Have you watched any of your old episodes?
“Yes, I did look at some old footage before coming back. I was cringing! What the hell was I thinking with those outfits? They haven’t got much better, I tell you!”

Have you kept in touch with anyone since you left?
“Yes, I’m in touch with Sid Owen and I still see Sean Maguire every now and then. I bumped into Sean at a casting just before it was decided to bring Mandy back. I see Patsy Palmer every now and then, and Natalie Cassidy, too.”

You’ve had loads of other roles over the years. What have been your favourites?
“I loved the TV series, The Last Enemy , as I got to work with Benedict Cumberbatch. I really admire him. I had to shave all my hair off for the film, Chunky Monkey. But it was worth it, as I got to work with Alison Steadman and David Threlfall. To go to work and act alongside people like that is amazing.”