The reunion of one of Walford’s classic clans will be part of the soaps 25th anniversary celebrations which will also see the popular BBC saga air a live episode in February.
EastEnders producers have secured the return of actors Lindsey Coulson, Natalie Cassidy and Dean Gaffney. The trio will return to the BBC One soap early next year as it celebrates its silver anniversary.
The beeb have teased strained relations between Carol (Lindsey Coulson) and daughter Bianca (Patsy Palmer) in a continuation of a storyline aired by the saga in 1999 that saw Bianca sleep with her mum’s boyfriend. Just what are Carol’s reasons for turning up and will mother and daughter be able to work through their differences?
“I’m thrilled to be returning to EastEnders after all these years. I’m also excited and intrigued to find out what Carol and her family have been up to since we last saw her and where she will be going next.” – Lindsey Coulson
Sonia, played by Natalie Cassidy, left Walford with Martin and their kid Rebecca in 2007 to start afresh in Manchester.
Has it worked out for them? With Sonia back in the Square, viewers will learn how life has been for the last surviving UK-based Fowlers.
“To be invited back to EastEnders is such an honour and I am very very excited that Sonia is coming back. For me, to be reunited with the original Jacksons is a dream come true and I think it will be a fantastic storyline.” – Natalie Cassidy
Meanwhile, Robbie, played by Dean Gaffney, has been living happily in India with his girlfriend Nita. We will find out more about what Robbie has been up to these past few years, and if he has managed to keep himself out of trouble. And who’s going to break the news to him about the death of his beloved dog Wellard?
“I am really looking forward to returning to EastEnders for what looks set to be a really exciting storyline. I was thrilled when Diederick called me personally to ask for Robbie to return once more and working alongside Lindsey, Natalie and Patsy again makes it all the more special. I’m sure with the family being reunited it will mean that there must be a lot of drama in store.” – Dean Gaffney
Also returning to the serial is Carol’s youngest son Billie who is the apple of her eye. Can this restless and troubled young man be the good family boy she desperately wants him to be? The casting of Billie is soon to be announced. Devon Anderson played the role in the family’s originating storylines with Bluey Robinson stepping in briefly in 2004.
“I’m so excited to see Lindsey back at EastEnders, and the fact that we’ve got Natalie and Dean as well makes it extra special. This family were the original EastEnders Jackson Five, and I can’t wait to see how they’ve grown and changed. These returns all contribute to the excitement and drama of EastEnders’ 25th anniversary.” – Diederick Santer, Executive Producer, EastEnders
The dysfunctional Jackson family have been on and off a part of EastEnders storylines since late 1993. In addition to Carol and her four children (the original Jackson Five), Carol’s partner Alan Jackson (Howard Anthony) was also a part of the original family set-up whose storylines centred on general family chaos, financial hardship, and later infidelity when Carol had an affair with Bianca’s father David Wicks.
Following Coulson’s decision to quit the role of Carol in 1997, most of the family was written out of the soap, with Bianca remaining while Sonia and Robbie featured intermittently before returning full-time. Coulson returned to the soap in 1999 to facilitate Patsy Palmer’s exit from the role of Bianca. Gaffney was written out of the series in 2003, but made a brief return as Robbie the following year for Sonia and Martin’s wedding alongside Billie. Cassidy was the only member of the original Jackson Five on-screen after that before quitting the role in 2007.
In 2006 bosses started bolstering the family of Carol’s father Jim Branning (John Bardon), who was seen for the first time in 1996 and introduced as a regular in 1999, with his grandson Bradley (Charlie Clements) moving in with him and wife Dot. Bradley’s father, Jim’s estranged son Max (Jake Wood), was also introduced along with his two daughters and wife Tanya (Jo Joyner).
Scott Maslen joined the saga as another of Jim’s sons Jack in 2007 with Palmer reprising her role as Bianca in 2008 who’d since acquired a step-daughter Whitney Dean (Shona McGarty) and two further offspring, Tiffany (Maisie Smith) and Morgan (Devon Higgs), in addition to eldest son Liam (James Forde), comprising a new Jackson five. The family were joined by Bianca’s ex-husband Ricky (Sid Owen) who is the father of Liam and Tiffany. The move established the Brannings-Jacksons as a formidable clan in Walford once more.
Away from EastEnders, Lindsey Coulson has played roles in dramas such as Clocking Off, Murder Investigation Team, The Stepfather, The Street, New Tricks and Doctor Who. Natalie Cassidy has guest-starred in Pyschoville and is currently a contestant on Strictly Come Dancing, while Dean Gafney has since appeared in The Bill, I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here, Extras and M.I High.