Where are the original EastEnders cast members now?

As Dr Legg returns to EastEnders at the age of 92 we reveal what happened to the rest of the original 1985 cast – so how many Queen Vic regulars do YOU recognise?

  • Actor Leonard Fenton is back filming scenes in Albert Square at the age of 92
  • He was one of 26 original cast members who starred in the show when it first aired in 1985  
  • Letitia Dean, Adam Woodyatt, Gillian Taylforth and June Brown are still acting in the soap 
  • Susan Tully who played Michelle Fowler is a successful director. Linda Davidson runs social media agency
  • Gillian Taylforth, John Altman and Sandy Ratcliff experience issues with drink or drugs 

Earlier this week, it was announced that EastEnders legend Leonard Fenton, 92, an original cast member from 1985 is set to return to Albert Square as Dr. Harold Legg in autumn this year.

He will find some familiar faces among the cast, as several of the original line-up he was part of when they show first aired in 1985 are still in the soap, including Letitia Dean who plays Sharon Watts and Adam Woodyatt’s character Ian Beale. 

The actor portrayed Dr Legg in regular and recurring roles up until 1997, before appearing in short cameos in the early 2000s, and will no doubt be delighted to be reunited with his on-screen friend Dot Cotton, who is still in the show.  

Sadly, however, some of the soap’s stalwarts have since passed away including Wendy Richard who portrayed Pauline Fowler and Leslie Grantham – famed for his role as Dirty Den – who died from cancer last month.  

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Actor Leonard  Fenton, 92, is returning to Albert Square at the age of 1982, but how many other members of the original cast can you name? 1. Wendy Richard (Pauline Fowler). 2: Anna Wing (Lou Beale). 3: Linda Davidson (Mary Smith). 4: Ross Davidson (Andy O’Brien). 5: Shirley Cheriton (Debbie Wilkins). 6: Bill Treacher (Arthur Fowler). 7. Susan Tully (Michelle Fowler). 8. Letita Dean (sharon Watts). 9: Gretchen Franklin (Ethel Skinner). 10: Willy the pug. 11: Roly the poodle. 12: Leslie Grantham (Den Watts). 12. Anita Dobson (Angie Watts). 14: Tom Watt (Lofty Holloway). 15: Leonard Fenton (Dr Legg). 16: Andrew Johnson (Saeed Jeffrey). 17: John Altman (Nick Cotton). 18: June Brown (Dot Cotton). 19: Paul J. Medford (Kelvin Carpenter). 20. Oscar James (Tony Carpenter). 21: Sandy Ratcliff (Sue Osman). 22: Nejdet Salih (Ali Osman). 23: Gillian Taylforth (Kathy Beale). 24: Adam Woodyatt (Ian Beale). 25: Nick Berry (Simon Wicks). 26: Peter Dean (Pete Beale)

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    1. Wendy Richard

    Played: Pauline Fowler

    Sitcom veteran Wendy also appeared in Are You Being Served?, Dad’s Army and a couple of Carry On films. 

    Our favourite cheeky Cockney was actually born in Middlesbrough, in 1943. The matriarch of Albert Square, her 21 years on the show ended with an on-screen death in 2006. Wendy died from cancer in 2009, aged 65.


    Then and now: Wendy Richard (Pauline Fowler) pictured with her on-screen husband Arthur (Bill Treacher) in the first year of the soap, 1985 (left) and pictured in 2006 (right)

    2. Anna Wing

    Played: Lou Beale

    Lou was the most formidable character of the original cast, Pauline and Pete’s mother, and a no-nonsense Londoner. 

    Anna, who was 70 when the show began, was also a mighty personality: in the Fifties she had been the lover of poet Philip O’Connor, with whom she had a son. She left the show in 1988, but kept working right up to her death, aged 98, in 2013.


    Then and now: Anna Wing, who played Lou Beale, was one of the show’s best-loved characters. She left the show in 1988, but kept working right up to her death, aged 98, in 2013

    3. Linda Davidson

    Played: Mary Smith

    Mary was one of the Square’s most controversial characters — a former punk rock groupie and drug user whose wild lifestyle put her baby’s life at risk. Barely literate, she couldn’t to look after her child without her neighbours’ help, and earned her living by prostitution. 

    Actress Linda, who was born in Canada, dated co-star Nejdet Salih and left the show in 1988; now aged 53, she gave up acting to work in internet design and today runs a social media agency.


    Then and now: Linda Davidson as punk rock groupie Mary Smith in 1986 (left) and today (right) running a social media agency

    4. Ross Davidson

    Played: Andy O’Brien

    Ross was a PE teacher who played water polo for Scotland before acting. EastEnders was his first major part — he played the nurse who has an affair with the Vic landlady, Angie Watts. 

    In his final scene, in August 1986, Andy rows with girlfriend Shirley: when she tells him to ‘drop dead’, he stomps out of the house and is flattened by a lorry . . . making him the first character to be killed off. 

    Ross believed he was dropped because he was dating his co-star Shirley Cheriton. He died from cancer, aged 57, in 2006.


    Then and now: Ross Davidson’s character Andy O’Brien was the first character to be killed off.  Ross believed he was dropped because he was dating his co-star Shirley Cheriton. He died from cancer, aged 57, in 2006.

    5. Shirley Cheriton

    Played: Debbie Wilkins

    Debbie was a professional middle-class woman whose East End property was an investment as well as a home. The working-class locals thought she was stuck-up and pretentious. 

    Actress Shirley, who left EastEnders in 1987, was a favourite of series creator Julia Smith, who had also cast her in the hospital drama Angels. 

    Now 63, she hasn’t appeared on TV since 2009, when she played Mrs. Spalden in Last Night A DJ Saved My Life. 


    Then and now: Actress Shirley Cheriton, who left EastEnders in 1987, left with Ross Davison, was a favourite of series creator Julia Smith, who had also cast her in the hospital drama Angels. Now 59, she hasn’t appeared on TV since 2009.

    6. Bill Treacher

    Played: Arthur Fowler

    The gruelling pace of filming EastEnders left stage actor Bill exhausted. Arthur saw his daughter pregnant at 16, his son infected with HIV and himself having a breakdown. 

    Bill left in 1996 and famously said ‘by the time I finished, even the theme music was making me feel ill’. He later appeared in films including George And the Dragon in 2004. 

    Now 88, he is retired and admitted in 2015 that he’s suffering from the degenerative disease ataxia, which affects his balance and ability to walk. 


    Then and now: Bill Treacher, playing Arthur Fowler, was one of the show’s longest-serving stars. He was later in The Bill and is now retired

    7. Susan Tully

    Played: Michelle Fowler

    Susan, now 46, grew up on a North London council estate and started acting through a community theatre school. Before EastEnders, she was familiar to viewers from the children’s series Grange Hill. 

    She played Michelle until 1995, and the character was credited with saving EastEnders — viewing figures had slumped to seven million before the storyline of her secret pregnancy, aged 16, hooked the nation.

    Her friendship with Letitia Dean, who played her best pal Sharon Watts, endured off screen and Susan was a bridesmaid at her wedding in 2002.   

    Susan is now a TV director, whose credits include Lark Rise To Candleford, The Bill, Silent Witness and most recently the historical fantasy Britannia.


    Then and now: Susan Tully, who started her career on Grange Hill, starred as Michelle Fowler untill 1996. She is now a director, whose credits include Lark Rise To Candleford

    8. Letitia Dean

    Played: Sharon Watts

    A graduate of the Sylvia Young theatre school and another Grange Hill old girl, Letitia was born in Hertfordshire, but claimed at her audition she was a Cockney. Her dirty laugh apparently won her the part of Den and Angie’s daughter. 

    She left for the first time in 1995, but returned to the show from 2001 to 2006, and has been back fora  third time since 2012. 

    The 50-year-old also competed on the fifth series of Strictly Come Dancing in 2007, and she later released a fitness DVD after crediting the show with inspiring her to lose weight. She starred in a touring production of Calendar Girls in 2010. 

    After divorcing Jason Pethers in 2006, Letitia began dating 23-year-old model and dancer Bowen Perrin after meeting on the set of the Ipswich panto production Cinderella during Christmas 2007. However, she’s currently believed to be single. 


    Leitia Dean as Sharon with onscreen husband Grant (Ross Kemp) in 1994 (left). Looking chic in black as she filmed scenes for Eastenders in London’s Notting Hill in 2015

    9. Gretchen Franklin

    Played: Ethel Skinner

    Born in 1911 into a showbusiness family, Gretchen was a dancer in Soho in the Twenties, a member of the tap troupe Four Brilliant Blondes and was also in Crossroads. As Ethel, she was the crony of Lou Beale and Dot Cotton, always to be found with a sherry and ‘my little Willy’, her beloved pug. She left EastEnders in 2000 and died in 2005, aged 94.


    Gretchen Franklin in 1987 with Willy the pug (left) from Eastenders and pictured in 2005 shortly before her death (right) 

    10. Willy the pug

    Willy was spoilt, greedy and mischievous. The other characters couldn’t stand him: the local doctor complained bitterly about the mess Willy made on the pavements, and owner Ethel had to decline two marriage proposals when her suitors asked her to get rid of her precious pet. Willy was put down in 1992; two weeks later, the dog who had played him also died.

    11. Roly the standard poodle

    Landlords Den and Angie Watts never took much notice of daughter Sharon, but they poured their hearts out to their pooch. Whenever Den was in a rage, he’d grab Roly’s lead and drag the poor animal round the Square. Roly was nearly killed when Grant Mitchell set fire to the Vic for the insurance money, and died on screen when he was run over while chasing a cat in 1993. Roly’s real-life owner was EastEnders creator Julia Smith. He died in real life in 1995.

    Then: Willy was put down in 1992; two weeks later, the dog who had played him also died. Roly died on screen when he was run over while chasing a cat in 1993. Roly’s real-life owner was EastEnders creator Julia Smith. He died in real life in 1995.

    12. Leslie Grantham

    Played: Dirty Den Watts

    Dirty Den was the original villain of Albert Square, a bully who shoved his wife around and got his 16-year-old daughter’s best mate pregnant. TV had never had such a hated character — and the actor who played him, Grantham, actually murdered a taxi driver in a 1966 robbery. During his ten-year prison sentence, he took up acting. 

    His character Den was seemingly killed in 1989, but he returned from the dead in 2003. The renaissance didn’t last long: Grantham, who is now 67, was caught in a sex scandal in 2004, in which he was caught exposing himself to an undercover reporter via a webcam from his dressing room.

    Dirty Den was killed off for a second time shortly afterwards. 

    Last month the TV star, who had recently returned to the UK after living for some time in Bulgaria, passed away aged 71, after battling cancer. 


    Then and now: Controversial character Dirty Den Watts (played by Leslie Grantham) with on-screen wife Angie (Anita Dobson) (left) and a brooding Den in 2004 (right)

    13. Anita Dobson

    Played: Angie Watts

    A real EastEnder, Anita wasn’t the first choice to play the Queen Vic landlady — when filming began, the role was taken by Jean Fennell. Jean was deemed ‘too classy’ and was replaced. 

    In 1986, Anita had a No 4 hit with Anyone Can Fall In Love in 1986, produced by Queen guitarist Brian May — whom she married. Angie left EastEnders after three years. 

    Anita, 69, has enjoyed a successful and varied career since quitting the soap. She took part in Strictly and played Hamlet’s mother in a touring production in 2005. 

    From September 2016 to January 2017 Dobson she starred as Madame Morrible in Wicked in London’s West End. 


    Then and now: Anita Dobson was in the the soap for three years but was involved in many of its most memorable storylines. Married to Brian May, she is still acting and has appeared in the West End musical Wicked

    14. Tom Watt

    Played: Lofty Holloway

    Lofty, the Vic’s barman, was hopelessly in love with Michelle, and married her after she became a single mum . . . though she dumped him at the altar during the first ceremony. 

    Watt left the show in 1988 to become a social worker. Now 58, he is a radio sports reporter and the ghostwriter of David Beckham’s autobiography.


    Tom Watt as Lofty in the soap with Susan Tully who played Michelle Fowler (left). Tom, who is now a radio sports presenter, attending a film premiere in London in 2017 (right)

    15. Leonard Fenton

    Played: Dr Harold Legg

    This East End grammar school boy, the son of Jewish refugees from the Baltic states, was an Army engineer in World War II. During a 50-year career in acting, he appeared in Z-Cars, Colditz and Auf Wiedersehen, Pet. For 12 years, Fenton was Albert Square’s caring but irascible doctor who was good friends with Dot Cotton.  

    In 2004, Leonard made his debut as a theatre director. His character has returned to EastEnders three times over the years and is now back on set filming scenes again at the age of 92. 

    Gushing over his surprising return, the star said: ‘I am very happy to be back at EastEnders and am looking forward to working with June and the rest of the cast and crew again.’ 


    East End grammar school boy Leonard Fenton played Dr Harold Legg, who treated the main characters. This week it was announced that he’s returning to the set to film new scenes at the age of 92

    Andrew Johnson played convenience store owner Saeed Jeffrey

    16. Andrew Johnson

    Played by: Saeed Jeffery

    Saeed owned a convenience store called First Til Last and was unhappily married to Naima (Shreela Ghosh), who refused to sleep with him. 

    He started using prostitutes and making obscene phone calls to women. When he was found out, Saeed left the Square in shame in December 1985. 

    Like his character, Andrew, 59, is from a mixed-race background, and reportedly was unhappy at the negative storylines foisted on Saeed. He moved to Hollywood and still works as an actor, in minor parts.

    17. John Altman

    Played: Nasty Nick Cotton

    Heroin addict, racist, conman, killer and thief, Nasty Nick set the tone in the very first episode of EastEnders when he murdered the Square’s oldest resident for drug money. He killed again and very nearly poisoned his ‘dear old ma’, Dot. 

    Written in at the last minute, Nick was never intended to be a lasting character, but after his his sixth stint on the show he was killed off in the the 30th anniversary episode in 2015. 

    In real life, Altman, 62, struggled with a drink problem in the Nineties. He published his autobiography in the Nick of Time in 2016, and has taken part in charity fundraising for the Alzheimer’s Society as well as being an avid supporter of wildlife charities. 


    Bad boy Nick Cotton, played by John Altman, set the tone in the very first episode of EastEnders when he murdered the Square’s oldest resident for drug money. The star pictured at the The TRIC Awards in 2017 (right) released his autobiography in 2016 

    18. June Brown

    Played: Dot Cotton

    Bafta-nominated for her work as kind-hearted busybody Dot, 87-year-old June Brown’s career started at the Old Vic theatre school. 

    She became the oldest dancer to take part in Strictly, in 2010, and appeared in West End hit Calendar Girls. 

    The mother of six is the only EastEnders actress to have an entire episode to herself: in 2008 she performed a half-hour monologue, talking about her life as she recorded a tape for her husband, Jim Branning, who had suffered a stroke. That same year she was awarded an MBE. 

    Dot Branning (nee Colwell, previously Cotton) is still a Walford stalwart. She’s lived alone in Surrey since her second husband Robert died in 2003. 


    Bafta-nominated for her work as kind-hearted busybody Dot, 87-year-old June Brown is one of the original cast members and has been at the heart of the show since 1985. Pictured at the The TRIC Awards in 2017 (right) with her former on screen son John Altman 

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      19. Paul J. Medford

      Played: Kelvin Carpenter

      Kelvin was the entrepreneur of Albert Square, who fell for an older woman and was humiliated when she publicly dumped him.

      With Sharon and a group of friends, he set up a band, the Banned, but after some embarrassing gigs, Kelvin was forced to admit they were rubbish

      But in real life their song Something Outa Nothing, credited to Letitia Dean and Paul Medford, reached No 12 in the UK charts. Kelvin left Walford in 1987 to do a degree in computer studies.

      The actor, now 51, is a West End veteran and has starred in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Five Guys Named Moe, for which he received an Olivier Award nomination. He also co-owns a talent and modelling agency. 


      Then and now: Paul Medford played Kelvin Carpenter in the soap, and launched a pop career with co-star Letitia Dean. He became a West End veteran and has starred in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

      20. Oscar James

      Played: Tony Carpenter

      Tony was Kelvin’s father, an easy-going builder with a nagging wife. While he was working at the Vic as an odd-job man, Tony became Angie’s lover: he thought it was a serious relationship, but she was only using him to get back at Den. 

      After two years, including a stint as a minicab driver, Tony left to live in Trinidad. 

      Oscar, now 75, went on to perform in a wide range of TV shows, The Bill, Holby City and Casualty and had a small part in the the 2005 Tim Burton adaptation of Charlie And The Chocolate Factory. 


      Then and now: Oscar James, who played Tony Carpenter, was an odd-job man who became Angie’s lover but left the soap after two years. The 75-year-old appeared on a wide range of TV shows, including The Bill and Casualty 

      Sue Osman played Sandy Ratcliff at the beginning of the show in 1985, but went on to battle heroin addiction 

      21. Sandy Ratcliff

      Played: Sue Osman

      Sue was at the centre of the most bleak storyline British soaps had ever seen when her baby died from cot death syndrome in June 1985. 

      When she and husband Ali finally had another child, their marriage broke up; Sue had a breakdown and was sectioned. 

      After leaving the show in 1989, actress Sandy, 64, slipped into heroin addiction; she later retrained as a counsellor. 

      One of her last public appearances was at the Old Bailey trial of her then boyfriend, Michael Shorey, who was found guilty of murdering two women in 1991. 

      She has since largely disappeared from the public eye.  

      22. Nejdet Salih

      (Ali Osman)

      Born a Cypriot Turk, Ali was married to Sue and ran the Bridge Street Cafe with her. 

      He was a gambling addict and held nightly poker schools in the cafe after closing. He left Walford in 1989, after losing all his money at cards. 

      The 56-year-old actor changed his name to Nej Adamson, and appeared in the final Carry On film in 1992, as well as playing a brigand in two Pirates Of The Caribbean movies.


      Then and now: Ali Osman, played by Nejdet Salih, was Albert Square’s gambling addict who left after losing all his money in a card game. Mr Salih went on to build a successful film career

      23. Gillian Taylforth

      Played: Kathy Beale

      One of the show’s original and best-loved characters, Kathy appeared in the soap as a barmaid and best friend of Angie in the Queen Vic. 

      During the early years of EastEnders, Gillian dated her co-star Nick Berry, who played her stepson. Her character, Kathy, was raped early in the show’s history, sparking a major TV controversy. 

      Taylforth left the show in 1998, but returned three times. She acted in the soap Hollyoaks but returned to Albert Square for good in August 2015.

      Off screen, she experienced turbulence in her personal life and was handed a two-year driving ban in 2015 after being caught behind the wheel while almost three times the drink driving limit.

      It was the second time that Gillian, now 62, was caught drink driving. She was found over the limit back in 1995, while daughter Jessica, then aged three, was in the car.

      A year before that, the actress lost a high-profile libel case against The Sun, after the newspaper ran a story claiming she had performed oral sex on her then boyfriend Geoff Knights on an A1 slip road while in their Range Rover.

      She claimed she was massaging his stomach to soothe his abdominal pain, but a police officer said she had been engaging in a sex act. 


      Gillian Taylforth in the role of Kathy with Peter Dean who played her on-screen husband when the show began in 1985. The actress, pictured at the British Soap Awards last month, returned to the soap in 2015, after a stint on Hollyoaks.

      24. Adam Woodyatt

      Played: Ian Beale

      The only member of the cast who has appeared on the show without a break for 30 years. Ian has been married five times, and is currently engaged to Jane, one of his ex-wives. 

      One of his biggest storylines saw him shot by a hitman hired by another wife, Cindy. In 2012, Ian had a breakdown and ended up living at a homeless hostel. 

      Adam, 46, won the Lifetime Achievement trophy at the British Soap Awards in 2013, after nearly 3,000 appearances on the show.

      An accomplished photographer, he previously won the Architectural Photographer of the Year Award and has appeared in panto alongside his EastEnders role. 


      Then and now: A very youthful looking Adam Woodyatt as Ian Beale in 1989 with Cindy (Michelle Collins) left and at the British Comedy Awards 2014 (right)

      25. Nick Berry

      Played: Simon Wicks

      Nick wasn’t in the first few episodes, but was drafted in after another actor left unexpectedly, having refused to play a scene where his character used racist language. 

      Nick’s character, Wicksy, proved almost too popular — he was an instant pin-up and in 1986 Nick enjoyed a No 1 with his song Every Loser Wins. 

      After five years on EastEnders, Nick, 55, went on to star in nostalgic police series Heartbeat, and now runs a production firm called Valentine.


      Then and now: Nick Berry joined the show early on as SImon Wicks and it launched him to superstardom. He had a successful pop career, was the main character on Heartbeat and now runs a production company

      26. Peter Dean

      Played: Pete Beale

      The affable fruit and veg trader was Pauline’s twin, and a childhood mate of Dirty Den. 

      In real life, Peter Dean’s family ran a stall in Petticoat Lane, and he attracted customers by bellowing out quotes from Shakespeare. Actress Prunella Scales heard him, and urged him to go to drama college. Pete Beale was killed off in a car crash in 1993. 

      After converting to Buddhism, Peter swore off alcohol. Aged 79, he enjoys racing greyhounds and is still an actor.

      He suffered a falling out with his close pal Leslie Grantham on set and the pair were estranged for 25 years. 

      He recently revealed his heartbreak over Leslie’s death, saying he’d tried to reach out to him to end the feud shortly before his death but the letter was sent to the wrong address and his friend passed away before he could make amends.  


      Then and now: Fruit and veg trader Pete Beale, played by Peter Dean, was killed off in 1993. Right: pictured appearing in the quiz show Soapstar Superbrain in 2012

       

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