Riley Carter Millington is to join BBC One’s serial EastEnders as Kyle, a transgender character. Riley’s casting is the first time a UK television soap opera has ever had a transgender actor playing a transgender character in a continuing role.
“In Riley, we have found not just a talented actor but also an inspirational young man whose warmth immediately comes through the screen. And this isn’t about tokenism. Alex Lamb and his story team have worked with Riley to create an EastEnders character who is fresh and relatable – but also comes with his own stock of secrets and is going to be thrown right into one of our biggest stories for the end of the year. I hope that the audience will take Riley and his character to their hearts as quickly as everyone here at EastEnders has done.” – Dominic Treadwell- Collins, Executive Producer
The Walford character is 21-year-old Riley’s first television role. Riley’s first appearance as Kyle will be on screen later this month, but little will be known about his mysterious character for quite some time. Following this brief appearance, Riley will return permanently at the end of the year.
“I am extremely excited to be joining EastEnders. I can honestly say that I have now fulfilled my two biggest dreams – to be living my life as a man and to be an actor. I cannot wait to really get stuck in with filming and I look forward to seeing what is in store for my character.” – Riley Carter Millington
‘Enders boss Dominic Treadwell-Collins announced earlier this year that he was creating a transgender character and he was determined to have a transgender actor in the role. Following that announcement, a number of transgender actors put themselves forward for the role and, as well as working alongside groups within the transgender community, EastEnders undertook workshops to find an actor. As soon as they found Riley, the character of Kyle was developed and created.
“From Mark Fowler’s HIV to Colin and Barry’s first gay kiss, EastEnders has always led the way in changing audience’s perceptions about ‘difference’ – and ultimately making the world a better place. It has been my intention for a long time to cast a trans actor playing a trans role – and we have been so careful to ensure that we cast the right actor for the part.
“I’ve sat in many acting workshops over the years with our Casting Executive Julia Crampsie and her team – but never have we been so moved by the incredible life stories and wealth of talent that we experienced over our several weeks of workshops with transgender actors. The people we met showed us a strength and bravery that took our breath away – and to go through as much as they have while maintaining humour and a positive view on the world is testament to what special people we met.” – Dominic Treadwell- Collins, Executive Producer
Coronation Street introduced ITV’s first transgender character in a soap opera back in 1998 with the arrival of supermarket worker Hayley Patterson. Viewers soon discovered she had lived as Harold Patterson prior to her arrival in Weatherfield and at that time was still a pre-operative male-to-female transsexual. Hayley, played by actress Julie Hesmondhalgh, became a hugely popular character with the Corrie audience when teamed up with loner Roy Cropper. In the storyline she traveled to Amsterdam for private sex reassignment surgery and later married Roy, played by actor David Neilson. Hesmondhalgh left the ITV Granada soap in 2014 with the character dying of an overdose following months of battling pancreatic cancer.