DISAPPEARING ACTS; As EastEnders goes on TV four days a week, we trace stars who faded after they left the Square.
SHOOTINGS and stabbings have claimed a dozen lives. Other residents have just vanished as the little burgh's resident gangsters battle it out.
Welcome to Walford's Albert Square - surely one of the most dangerous places on Earth.
For as many an EastEnders character has discovered, no-one is safe from the scriptwriter wielding his axe.
The soap war has just hotted up with the BBC's long-awaited launch of a fourth weekly helping of Albert Square life going out on a Friday night.
Soap chiefs have promised some of the show's strongest storylines yet lie ahead.
And to cope with the extra airtime, new characters will arrive on Albert Square.
But whatever happened to the stars who have breathed life into the soap which has tackled everything from anorexia and Aids to abortion and cancer in its 16-year history?
Few of the original cast have survived the hit show's hatchet men as they fight to overtake ITV rival Coronation Street in the ratings wars.
But are Albert Square's stars ever as big on the outside?
Agent Maggie Sangwin represents ditched EastEnder Leila Birch, who played Teresa Di Marco.
Leila was axed from the show under executive producer John Yorke, who decided the Italian family was no longer needed.
Maggie says: "It isn't a bad idea after something like EastEnders to give the public a bit of a break, just so people don't get bored of you.
"It's easy to pigeon-hole yourself with a soap. So many stars take up huge contracts to play 101 other parts that aren't a million miles away from their soap character, but I don't think that's the way forward.
"Leila wants to be an actress rather than a soap star, and she didn't want to be a TV personality. And because she hasn't done any theatre, she went off and toured for 10 months.
"But she's constantly working and she will be back on TV within the next six months because you don't want the public to forget about you.
"Whether you return to a soap really depends on the character and the storyline you are offered. But I am very much of the opinion an actor must never say never."
We tracked down some of Walford's most memorable former residents to find out how they have fared in life after EastEnders.
GIANNI DI MARCO
MARC BANNERMAN was devastated when he was axed from his role as hunky Italian waiter Gianni after programme chiefs decided most of the family should go. After leaving, he teamed up with Al Murray to make his comedy debut in Sky One's Time Gentlemen, Please.
He also appeared with Ray Winstone in the movie Pretty Boy Roy Shaw, played Dick Whittington in the obligatory panto and made a guest appearance in ITV's The Grimleys ... as an Italian waiter.
But he now says being sacked was the best thing that could have happened to him.
He explains: "I've had a difficult time, but I'm happier than I've ever been. I'm able to enjoy life and appreciate my time in a way I never could before."
TERESA DI MARCO
ACTRESS Leila Birch has kept a low profile since she felt the force of the chop, although she has kept busy.
She starred as Cinderella in panto in Canterbury and teamed up with another former EastEnder, Andrew Lynford, to star in the Agatha Christie play, A Murder Is Announced, on Blackpool's Golden Mile, before the show transferred to the King's Theatre in Edinburgh earlier this year.
It remains to be seen whether the former soap star will set the world alight with her acting talents.
She says: "When I look back in, say, six years, I'll hopefully be looking at more than just Eastenders."
ANDREW LYNFORD has fronted shows such as Wild Thing, EastEnders Revealed and TV Travel Shop since leaving the show.
He has also appeared at the National Theatre in Joe Orton's Loot and has written a 1970s musical called Diva Fever - The Decade That Taste Forgot.
He said: "EastEnders was the one safe place. Nobody outside of there really understands what it is like. But I don't miss the work schedule and I don't miss the role."
HARD-DRINKING vamp Lorna was ditched when actress Janet Dibley stormed out of Albert Square after refusing to do a rape scene.
Mum Janet, whose character had an affair with Phil Mitchell, feared the harrowing plot would lead her young daughter to be taunted at school.
She told a friend: "It just doesn't feel right. I don't care how much money is on offer, I can't do those scenes."
Since then, Janet has not done too badly in her career.
She turned up on Casualty, as Dr Max Gallagher's new girlfriend, and was one of the stars of Fat Friends, Kay Mellor's hit series about a group of weight watchers.
She played club chief Carol, one of the show's few slim roles.
SCOTS star Caroline Paterson couldn't wait to ditch dreary Ruth Fowler.
She said: "In EastEnders, you went in, did it in one take and that was that. Then you had another 10 scenes to shoot.
"When I got home, I was talked out. I didn't want to talk again."
After leaving, she had a cameo role in Taggart, but then turned her attention to the other side of the camera, directing a play for Rain Dog, the Glasgow theatre company she founded in the early Nineties with her then-boyfriend Robert Carlyle.
And she recently won Best Director at the Scottish Baftas for the BBC TV series, Tinsel Town.
TOM WATT has broadened his horizons and enjoyed a string of successes away from the land of soap.
The Arsenal fan has been an author, playwright, radio and TV broadcaster, newspaper columnist and official historian of Wembley Stadium. He now presents his own radio show on TalkSport and recently appeared in the BBC TV series Happy Birthday Shakespeare alongside Neil Morrissey.
ACTOR Richard Driscoll left the soap after two and a half years playing the Square's resident vicar.
Although Alex announced he was leaving Albert Square for Somalia, Richard hasn't completely severed his connection with Walford.
Recently he teamed up with fellow EastEnder Paul Nicholls for Good-bye Charlie Bright.
The Albert Square connections didn't end there.
The film's director, Nick Love, was married to Patsy Palmer, the actress who played Bianca.
And Richard was his best man when they wed.
He said: "I felt it was the right time to go. I had learned a hell of a lot. The pace and the turnover is incredible.
"But I'm an actor and I want to do different things. I couldn't afford to be pigeon-holed."
HARDMAN Ted jetted off to Dubai in August 1997 - but things weren't quite so sunny for actor Brian Croucher.
When he struggled to find acting work after his pounds 80,000-a-year role as Kathy Mitchell's brother was axed, he resorted to signing on the dole before taking a job as a cabbie.
Last Christmas, he topped the bill in Dick Whittington at the Palace Theatre in Worcestershire.
He said: "EastEnders is very popular, but it's just fantasy. It's not about real life. You're better off watching a good film."
SOME felt Paul Nicholls may struggle to convince viewers he could play a different character to David Wicks' mentally unstable son.
But he has kept busy, with roles in three movies - The Trench, Goodbye Charlie Bright and The Clandestine Marriage - and several TV dramas, including City Central and Table 12: Setting Up, alongside Scottish actress Daniela Nardini. He also appeared alongside veteran actress Jessica Lange in a West End production of Long Day's Journey Into Night.
ACTOR Paul Bradley visited Rwanda for Comic Relief, but his TV appearances have been few and far between.
He was seen briefly as the executioner in the film The Golden Bowl, starring Uma Thurman, but most of his work has been in the theatre.
ACTRESS Linda Davidson shocked viewers with her portrayal of punk Mary, then left in 1988, claiming Leslie Grantham had started a hate campaign against her.
She worked for three years as an actress after leaving the soap, then began to write, working on a sitcom and then Tomorrow's World Online.
She moved to Beeb.com's science site, then into entertainment. Now she heads up Channel 4's digital channel, E4.
PLAYING graphic designer Colin kept Michael Cashman busy during the Eighties.
After leaving, he worked as a hospital porter, estate agent, office manager and a builder, but is now a gay rights campaigner with lobby group Stonewall and a Euro MP for the West Midlands.
TROY-TITUS ADAMS Adams played vice girl-turned-barmaid Nina before switching to Channel 5's Family Affairs where she played Kim.
And she wasted no time in blasting EastEnders. She said: "EastEnders has lost its edge. It's rough."
Since then, Troy has put her fitness to the test in a Fort Boyard Celebrity Special on Channel 5 and did kick-boxing on Hidden Talents of The Rich and Famous.
Earlier this year, she teamed up with Sir Richard Branson for the launch of the Vass Medical Foundation Charity, to help fight malaria in the tropics.
She's also joined supermodel Christy Turlington to front a Government-backed anti-smoking drive and is currently making a Channel 4 documentary about racial identity which is due to be released in the autumn.
ACTOR Bill Treacher has gone from soap stardom to temporary obscurity - and he couldn't be happier.
Since his character died in November 1995, Bill has worked in the theatre, but spent most of his time indulging his love of travel and tending his garden.
He did work on horror film Talos The Mummy with Christopher Lee, but has not been on our TV screens.
FORMER Grange Hill star Sean Maguire's career fell decidedly flat when Aidan bid Albert Square farewell.
Within 12 months of quitting the soap, he had been arrested for drink driving and banned for 18 months, and his attempt at pop stardom failed dismally.
He was written off as a has-been at 23 and hit the bottle. He admits: "I lost my self-esteem and my confidence. After being in the public eye, I found it difficult having people coming up asking ... 'What are you doing now?'"
But Sean's career is back on the up. He has appeared in Dangerfield and Sunburn on TV. Today he is on the brink of success in America. He is to play the lead in the TV film Prince Charming and he has signed up to make a US sitcom, Off Centre, which is being hailed as the next Friends.
LONDONER Susan Tully lived out much of her childhood on our TV screens.
She hosted children's TV series Our Show and The Saturday Banana before landing the role of Suzanne Ross in Grange Hill.
She was then among the original cast when EastEnders hit our screens in 1985.
But when her character left Albert Square to start a new life in the USA, Susan turned to directing. She even returned to Albert Square to direct her former colleagues, as well as Holby City.
JAMES WILMOT BROWN
ONE of the few toffs to grace Albert Square, James Wilmot-Brown was also one of the major villains in EastEnders' early years.
The posh landlord of the Dagmar pub disappeared from our screens after his trial for the rape of Kathy Beale.
Actor William Boyd, who played him, is set to return to our screens shortly - as the barman in Johnny Vaughan's new BBC comedy, 'Orrible.
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|Publication:||Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)|
|Date:||Aug 11, 2001|
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