Lord Michael Cashman has briefly reprised his role of Colin Russell in EastEnders.
The actor turned Labour politician will appear in two upcoming episodes of the BBC soap with bosses teasing that Colin’s return to the Square will raise a big question for his old friend Dot (June Brown).
Lord Cashman made his first appearance as EastEnders‘ first gay character in 1986 when yuppie graphic-designer Colin moved to Albert Square. He was soon joined by love interest Cockney barrow-boy (Gary Hailes). The Sun tabloid, in its usual poor taste, nicknamed the at-the-time twice weekly drama ‘EastBenders’ as a result.
“It was a real joy, indeed a privilege, to return to my old home of Albert Square. To be amongst so many friends again, and to be back in the place where 30 years ago I started an amazing journey. An amazing journey which incredibly helped to change the country, and certainly its attitude to lesbian gay and bisexual people. Arguably without EastEnders I would never have gone into politics; I would not have been one of the founders of Stonewall and its founding chair, and I would never have ended up where I am now.
“As Shakespeare would have said by returning to where it all started ‘the wheel has turned full circle’. And the exquisite joy of having my scenes with the incredible ‘Dame’ June Brown was a bonus beyond anything else.” – Lord Michael Cashman CBE
During Lord Cashman’s original stint on the saga, Colin turned down an amorous Debbie Wilkins (Shirley Cheriton) before his sexuality was common knowledge in Walford, and became the subject of vicious tittle-tattle when Dot found out about his and Barry’s relationship. Colin and Dot resolved their differences in time and resumed their friendship.
Colin and Barry later parted ways as Barry was concerned about incurring the wrath of his homophobic father. Colin then embarked on a new relationship with business associate Guido Smith (Nicholas Donovan). Towards the end of his time in Walford an out-of-sorts Colin had tests which revealed multiple sclerosis. With cracks appearing in his relationship with Guido, Colin decided to leave the Square for a fresh start in Bristol in February 1989.
In 1987 Colin and Barry had the first gay kiss on British primetime TV although the two did not lock lips. In a scene that sparked outrage amongst viewers and the right-wing press, Colin gave Barry a gentle peck on the forehead. Colin and Guido were later responsible for the first mouth-to-mouth gay kiss on British television.
Lord Michael Cashman, a founder of gay rights charity Stonewall, will make his appearance next month.