Josie: I wanted to leave with a BANG! Why Midland actress Josie walked out on EastEnders.
FORMER soap star Josie Lawrence has revealed how she wanted to go out of East-Enders with a bang - literally.
Manda to spontaneously combust, rather than the low-key exit which befell the character earlier this year.
"I wanted Minty to go and make a cup of tea, then return to find nothing left of Manda but her pixie boots and a puff of smoke," chuckles the Black Country actress and comedienne. Instead, she just walked out of Albert Square after boyfriend Minty told her he still had feelings for Sam Mitchell.
Now Josie reveals she surprised producers by deciding to quit - and the writers were too busy killing off Archie Mitchell to come up with a better storyline for Manda's departure.
"I really enjoyed my stint on EastEnders, especially the people," she says. "But I like having variety in my career. So when my contract came to an end, I went to see the boss and said 'It's been lovely but can I go now please?'.
"He understood - he called me a wandering minstrel! But they had been expecting me to stay on, so they admitted they didn't have much time to come up with a good storyline. They were all too busy with Archie's murder so my exit was much more low-key."
Now Josie, 50, is free to indulge her love of improvised comedy. She is joining an old for one night of his tour, Paul Merton's Impro Chums.
Josie specifically asked to play the Birmingham date, at the Alexandra Theatre on May 14. It is a homecoming gig for the local girl whose 90-year-old mum still lives in Old Hill.
"It's up to the audience how the night goes, as they suggest what we do, and Midlanders have a great sense of humour."
But first Josie's dream of taking a relaxing week's holiday in the sunshine has been put in jeopardy - by the volcanic ash coming from Iceland which downed all air traffic.
"My flight was cancelled," she wailed. "I'm trying to reschedule, but this was the only time I could take off. I haven't had a holiday in ages and I booked a posh hotel with a mate. It's so frustrating.
"Trouble seems to follow me around when I travel. The first time I went to Egypt I had to come home because there was an outbreak of SARS, and when I was in Peru they were demonstrating in the streets."