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It’s ten years this week since the final version of cult Midland saga Crossroads hit the year, and while the remakes failed to live up to the 24-year run of the original, they did bring us some still well known faces.

The 2003 series was devised by Granada executives and ITV network top brass in London, so insiders at the company say, to ‘kill off’ production from Central’s Nottingham base, a studio complex that always had been a television regulator imposed white elephant. If it was the reason, then it certainly worked.

The original series ended in 1988 after clocking up over 4500 episodes and a high of 18 million viewers. Revived the first time in 2001 the slick Carlton version became one of ITV’s highest rating daytime programmes and was even nominated for a couple of Soap Awards across the, almost, two years it aired.

The series was suddenly axed in late 2002 in order for, what Carlton described at the time as, a ‘getting the show back to its roots’ revamp which aimed to appeal to older audiences. This was thrown out the window by senior ITV Network bosses for the still much-mocked ‘glam sham’ which burst onto screens in January 2003.

However across the two new series a host of actors appeared and some have gone onto notable roles…

Lucy Pargeter

Lucy PargeterLucy joined Crossroads in its first reincarnation as Helen the daughter of Virginia Raven, played by Sherrie Hewson of Coronation Street fame. The poles apart mother and daughter, proved a popular combination with viewers. Virginia’s fake airs and graces, and a want to be part of the management, left her disgusted when Helen arrived in Kings Oak, common, loud and proud of her stripper work.

The pair did eventually bond and both survived into the 2003 series, where Virginia remained as a receptionist at the Crossroads Hotel and Helen worked in the local bar.

After the show’s demise in May 2003 Lucy was snapped up by Emmerdale where she has appeared as Chastity ‘Chaz’ Dingle ever since. Sherrie also later joined the cast as another villager in the Yorkshire Dales serial, although stayed only two years.

Freema Agyeman

Freema AgyemanBest known these days as Martha Jones from BBC One’s family science fiction drama Doctor Who, where she played the tenth doctors’ companion. It was the 2003 series of Crossroads however which gave her a telly break.

As Lola Wise, the character arrived in Kings Oak pretending to be a ‘pop star’ along with her sister Belle. However checking into Crossroads Hotel as singing superstars didn’t last long when their scam was rumbled. Having used a ‘lost’ credit card to fund their adventures at the hotel the pair were soon employed to pay-off their debts with Lola working in the kitchen.

The girls were soon joined by their elder sister Philomina and later their mother – Wanda – played by Bird’s Of A Feather actress Linda Robson.

Freema is currently working on the new Sex and the City prequel and has starred in numerous series including The Bill and Law and Order: UK.

Jessica Fox

Jessica FoxJessica played Lola’s sister Belle who fell in love with Jimmy the geeky son of the hotel’s owners Angel and Max Samson, played by Jane Asher and Stuart Milligan.

The millionaire couple frowned upon their son getting entangled with lowly chambermaids, after all they’d just paid off Emma Noble to ‘do one’ after she married Jimmy for his inheritance. There was however a dark secret that lurked beneath, the couple learned that Jimmy was in fact her half-brother, Max had in the past had a ‘Wanda’…

Since checking out of Crossroads in 2003 Jessica has been a regular in Channel 4 teen soap Hollyoaks, playing the part of Nancy Osborne for eight years.

Neil Grainger

Neil played porter-turned-businessman Phil Berry in the first revival of the iconic soap from 2001 through to 2002. It was quite a turbulent time at the Crossroads Hotel for the character. Caught stealing petrol for his motorbike in the hotel car park, he soon was taken in by porter Rocky – played by Nuts In May star Roger Sloman – who managed to persuade the hotel to give Phil a chance as a porter.

Neil GraingerIt wasn’t long before he was wooing Nicola Russell, the ‘could do no wrong’ daughter of then owners Patrick and Kate. When he was accused of murdering Crossroads legend Jill Chance in the one-time motel lake, the pair went on the run.

It turned out it wasn’t Phil who had done-in Jill and all seemed to get back on track, Phil even started his own car valeting service in the hotel grounds – impressing Nicola’s family thus allowing him into the ‘clan’. He then went and spoilt it all for a while by having an affair with her best friend, but the couple eventually made up.

Happiness at last? The couple later married, but all under a cloud. Phil’s abusive step-father, who had been beating his mother for years, was murdered, accidentally by a fellow member of the hotel staff. However Phil got the blame and the real culprit then pushed Nicola down a flight of stairs leaving her fighting for her life… what happened? We’ll never know, the 2002 cliff-hanger was never really resolved.

Neil has most recently starred in sitcom Hebburn as well as several appearances in television and movies, including The Bill, Judge John Deed, Heartbeat, EastEnders and other Midlands’ saga Doctors.

Stuart Milligan

Has the distinction of being voted as having “the worst American accent on TV” in 2003, despite the fact Stuart is really from the states. He joined Crossroads as the “JR Ewing” type, but ended up more “PG Tips”.

Stuart MilliganAs sex-mad Max Samson he first appeared alongside Jane Asher as his on-screen wife Angela in 2003. They took over the Crossroads Hotel and took it from a corporate affair to a Laz Vegas whore-house.

In the first week he’d already murdered a lover, and then went on to murder plots every week for five months. Other dubious storylines from the third series saw dodgy business deals, romping with Kate O’Mara in a haystack, a long running feud with old school friend Ethan Black (in no way ripped off from JR and Cliff Barnes’ long running feud in Dallas) and paying off Emma Noble to stay away from his geeky son Jimmy.

Not to fear though, it all turned out to be a dream and in reality he wasn’t married to Angela, she was a supermarket check-out girl while he was a down-and-out drunk.

Since Crossroads Stuart has been gifted with decent scripts in shows such as Doctor Who, The Sarah Jane Adventures and one of the shows he starred in before ITV soap fame, Jonathan Creek.

John Bowler

John BowlerAnother actor like Milligan that had been around for quite some time before the Midland’s most tacky hotel opened its doors to his character of Ethan Black.

In the storyline Ethan had been a one-time friend of Max Samson, but that friendship had turned to hate and business rivalry. It was supposed to be as dramatic as the JR versus Cliff in Dallas, but really it was as dramatic as watching a soufflé fall apart.

Ethan wanted to ruin Max and storylines saw him attempt this one way or another. It all came to nothing however, like the 2003 storyline meetings really.

Since the end of Crossroads John has had a long running role in The Bill as well as parts in Young Dracula, Steel River Blues and Inspector George Gently.

Max Brown

Max BrownMax starred as conference manager Mark Russell, also son of the hotel owners, across 2001 and 2002. He almost married a fake Sarah Jane Harvey – the real one being the granddaughter of Crossroads Motel founder Meg Richardson – and turned to drink.

Mark was more of a reactor character across his time on the soap, dealing often with other people’s situations. This included helping alcoholic sister-in-law Tracey Booth deal with her emotional problems. Mark departed Kings Oak before the 2002 axe fell, when not one to fear history repeating itself he took up with the real Sarah Jane Harvey! They left to go on travelling adventures and like so many before them, just never came back.

Since those Kings Oak days Max has appeared in Hollyoaks as Kristian Hargreaves for two years, recurring roles in Foyle’s War as Adam Wainwright and The Tudors as Edward Seymour.

Luke Roberts

Luke RobertsLuke played Ryan Samson, a lothario who had the women falling at his feet and fighting in the Jacuzzi over him. That was pretty much all his 2003 storylines, although he did find time to stop his brother Jimmy committing suicide on a bridge and became the object of an obsessed stalker.

After Crossroads the storylines took to the air with comedy drama Mile High and a five year stint at the Holby City hospital as Doctor Joseph Byrne, where his on-screen Crossroads mother – Jane Asher – turned up in Holby as his on-screen mother there too.

Guest Stars and Famous Faces

During its run the show also played host to some big names.

Tim Brook-Taylor of The Goodies fame dropped in as a gay lover of the hotel chef, only to die. Anne Charleston of Neighbours and Cell Block H played housekeeper Betty Waddle for the whole five month run in 2003, Jane Asher starred as wanna-be super-bitch Angela ‘Angel’ Samson while Roger Sloman appeared from the first episode in 2001 through to the last in 2003 as porter Rocky Wesson.

Crossroads Hotel sign, 2003Sherrie Hewson of Coronation Street, Carry On Laughing and Loose Women fame played snooty receptionist Virginia Raven from 2001 to 2003 while dancer and personality Lionel Blair turned up as a dance teacher named Valentine Starwood along with telly critic Jaci Stephen as dancer Myfanwy. Kate O’Mara of Dynasty fame popped up as Lady Alice Fox, Family Fortunes host Les Dennis appeared as a doctor and Emma Noble appeared pretty much as herself, although she was given a character name of Suzie.

In 2001 there was much excitement for teenagers as Lee from pop group Steps stayed at the hotel while in the same year GMTV’s Ben Shepherd checked-in, and not forgetting Casualty and Dangerfield actress Jane Gurnett who brought some sophistication to the 2001-2003 episodes as Kate Russell.

[Reported by Mike Watkins, source: ATV Archive, Central Television/Carlton International]

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