Hundreds, if not thousands, of people have graced Walford with their presence since 19 February 1985. But as we celebrate 35 years of Walford woe, which EastEnders characters have made the biggest impact?
Who have been the most memorable drama kings and queens over the years? Narrowing down this list was no mean feat, so please don’t give us any Argee Bhajee about not including Fat Elvis or Mr Papadopolous.
We’re kicking off with numbers 35-21...
35. Lou Beale
Anna Wing 1985-88
They sure don’t make ’em like they used to, and Lou Beale represented a generation of battle-hardened, no nonsense East End women. Her final scene, delivering home truths to her assembled family, is a masterclass in tough love.
34. Patrick Trueman
Rudolph Walker 2001 –
A hit with the ladies, the elder statesman of the Square brightens up every scene he’s in thanks to that twinkle in his eye. He’s also easily the best dressed man in Walford.
33. Colin Russell
Michael Cashman 1986-89; 2016
‘Yuppie’ graphic designer Colin wasn’t the first gay man in British soap – that was Brookside’s Gordon Collins. But it was kind hearted Colin who made a bigger impact, sending the tabloids into a rabid froth while winning over the viewers.
The second version of Masood and Zainab’s daughter saw the character become a complex, spiky, layered and smart young woman. Her stillbirth storyline was truly devastating.
31. David Wicks
Michael French 1993-96; 2012-14
Car salesman David managed to combine two recurring ’Enders tropes – the rubbish parent and the disappointing son. But he did it with such charm and swagger that we can see why Cindy and Carol couldn’t resist him.
30. Sonia Fowler
Natalie Cassidy 1993-2007; 2010-11; 2014-
The trumpet was packed away years ago and life has made one long ‘sad trombone’ sound ever since. She’s one of Walford’s less showy residents, but you underestimate Sonia at your peril.
29. Ian Beale
Adam Woodyatt 1985-
In a show with such a high mortality rate, being the longest serving character is quite an achievement. (If a nuclear bomb ever goes off in Walford, Ian would probably survive it). We’ve seen him go from teenage Thatcherite to successful businessman, but his pursuit of money and status hasn’t made Ian happy. His wives all left him, his children are either dead, absent or despise him and even his own mother barely has a good word to say about him.
28. Zainab Masood
Nina Wadia 2007-13
Outspoken, gossipy and obsessed with her family’s standing in the community, Zainab could have been an unlikeable character. Yet her insecurities made us embrace her flaws and we were always Team Zainab when it came to her battles with judgmental frenemy Bushra. Zainab’s deep-rooted struggle to accept that son Syed was gay was powerful stuff.
27. Bianca Jackson
Patsy Palmer 1993-99; 2008-14; 2019
Gobby, stroppy and her own worst enemy at times, Bianca could be a puffer jacket-clad nightmare who thought the world was out to get her. But we all knew that behind that bravado she wasn’t quite as tough as she made out – and that’s why we loved her. Patsy Palmer probably dies a little inside when yet another member of the public yells ‘Rickaaaaay!’ at her in the street, though.
26. Kathy Beale
Gillian Taylforth 1985-98; 2015-
Nobody brings glamour to the greasy spoon like Kathy. This husky-voiced diva has been known to serve up life lessons with the fry-ups, but her wisdom has been hard earned as she’s endured unspeakable tragedy. (No, we don’t mean the knitwear she wore during the ’80s). Responsible for one of the show’s most jaw-dropping twists when she stepped out of a black cab looking remarkably fresh for a woman who had been ‘dead’ for a decade.
25. Carol Jackson
Lindsey Coulson 1993-97; 1999; 2010-15
Feisty, proud and protective of her diverse brood, Carol is one of the strongest matriarchs to ever grace the Square. Constantly let down by the men in her life, Carol remained dignified and we genuinely think she wouldn’t look out of place in a Mike Leigh film.
24. Ronnie Mitchell
Samantha Womack 2007-11; 2013-17
Misery loves company, and Ronnie’s batshit crazy trials and tribulations were extreme even by Walford’s standards. She went from Ibiza party babe to a woman whose grip on reality was tenuous and she made some very questionable life choices. The ice cool blonde baby-swapping, car boot assassin was a divisive, larger than life character who was always watchable.
23. Frank Butcher
Mike Reid 1987-2000; 2002; 2005
Would you buy a used car off this man? Absolutely! Frank was the original diamond geezer, a real charmer whose gift of the gab sealed deals and made Pat and Peggy go weak at the knees. Much more than just a spinning dickie bow, Frank was a towering physical presence but he was also deeply flawed and often unable to face problems head on. Yet he rightly remains one of the show’s best-loved male characters.
22. Stacey Slater
Lacey Turner 2004-10; 2014-19
Despite not being part of the original Slater family set-up, Stace quickly established herself as one of the show’s dramatic heavyweights. Whatever is thrown at her– bipolar disorder, rape, murder, postpartum psychosis – there’s an intensity which fans just can’t get enough of. And the reveal of Stacey’s affair with father-in-law Max is a proper ’Enders Christmas classic.
21. Lisa Fowler
Lucy Benjamin 1998-2003; 2010; 2017; 2019-20
In 2001, a whopping 22 million viewers tuned in to discover ‘Who Shot Phil?’ The culprit – the emotionally volatile Lisa – has been a recurring thorn in Phil’s side. But if he ever thinks that his ex is weak due to her fragile mental state, he should remember that she survived having both Peggy and Pauline as a mother-in-law. Lisa’s journey hasn’t all been about being a victim though, as her friendship with Mel will always be one of the strongest that Walford has seen.