TV & Movies

EastEnders cast members who swapped Walford for Hollywood and became huge stars

Over the decades, EastEnders fans have seen many beloved actors turn their back on the BBC soap set in Walford in search of new acting projects.

It can be hard to break away from a well-known television character they've played for so many years in turn for a fresh start elsewhere.

But sometimes Albert Square's famous faces have taken a risk that's paid off massively in Hollywood, TV series, or working behind the scenes.

So Daily Star has taken a look at some of the BBC soap stars who left EastEnders and became very successful in the world of showbiz.

Sam Strike

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Sam Strike was a hit with EastEnders fans as soon as he appeared on the soap back in Christmas 2013, as Johnny Carter, son of Mick and Linda Carter, and left in 2014.

But the 27-year-old actor, who was 19 when he began playing Johnny, opted to bow out of the role after a one-year stint, later being replaced by Ted Reilly.

He landed a role on Silent Witness and shortly afterward he scored a film role in Bonded by Blood 2.

In 2017 he appeared in the sequel to the infamous 2010 'Essex Boys' crime drama and in the same year and also played the leading role of a psychotic teenage escapee who abducts a nurse in Leatherface, the prequel to The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, alongside Stephen Dorff.

He's also starred in the horror-thriller movie Monster Party, sci-fi series Timeless, Mindhunter, and Nightflyers.

More recently, Strike appeared in the first episode of 2019's Chernobyl and in 2020 he formed part of the core cast of the American TV series When the Street Lights Go On.

Martine McCutcheon

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The TV star from Hackney is well known for playing Tiffany Mitchell in EastEnders but after Frank Butcher ran her over outside The Queen Vic she died – and it still makes us sad to this day!

Fast forward a few years and Martine McCutcheon played Natalie in Christmas classic film Love Actually as the love interest to the prime minister – played by Hugh Grant – and the film is still well-watched every year.

She's also appeared in Agatha Christie's Marple, Midsomer Murders and as a panelist on ITV chat show Loose Women.

Most recently Martine starred in The Masked Singer earlier this year as the Swan, which fans on social media loved.

She also released pop songs over the years and scored a number one with the ballad Perfect Moment.

Ben Hardy

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Ben Hardy played Peter Beale between 2013 and 2015 and the actor has come a long way since flogging fruit and veg on the market stall.

The 30-year-old has bagged full-on Hollywood with roles in X Men: Apocalypse and Elle Fanning's Mary Shelley.

Ben also played Roger Taylor in the biopic Bohemian Rhapsody and Four in Netflix movie 6 Underground, and most recently played Seb in the thriller The Voyeurs.

The ex-soap star is also no stranger to TV series with parts in The Woman in White and The Girl Before.

Ross Kemp

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Walford's hard-man Grant Mitchell arrived in the square in 1990 and has come and gone over the years, with his last appearance in 2016.

The 56-year-old from Barking starred as Staff Sergeant Henry "Henno" Garvie in the SAS drama Ultimate Force from 2002 to 2008.

He made a hilarious appearance in Ricky Gervais's Extras where he claimed that SAS stands for Super Army Soldiers and has also starred in Spartacus, Doctor Who, Hero of the House, and A Christmas Carol plus many more.

But it's Kemp's work as an investigative journalist and documentary filmmaker which has carved him out a hugely successful career away from acting.

He won a BAFTA Award in 2006 for Ross Kemp on Gangs, and has earned admiration for his willingness to put himself in the firing line in series including Ross Kemp: Extreme World.

Susan Tully

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Michelle Fowler is the unlucky-in-love daughter of Pauline and Arthur, and sister to Mark and Martin Fowler.

The single mum was originally played by Susan Tully when EastEnders launched in February 1985.

She was just 17 years old when she burst into Walford fresh from her previous Grange Hill role where she played Suzanne Ross.

Susan played Michelle for 10 years and was involved in an array of huge storylines including teenage pregnancy and controversial affairs with married men including Dirty Den.

But life in Walford wasn't meant to be and in 1995, she left the East End and headed off into the American sunset to start a new life away from Grant Mitchell after falling pregnant with his baby, who she called Mark in tribute to her deceased brother.

Susan had decided to leave the BBC soap, and acting altogether, and in its place forged a successful career behind the camera as a director.

Her credits include Secret Diary of a Call Girl, Silent Witness, Stella, Britannia, Strike: Lethal White, Tin Star and Line of Duty.

Rob Kazinsky

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Sean Slater was an Albert Square force to be reckoned with as the older brother to loud-mouth Stacey in the BBC soap between 2006-2019.

Since leaving troubled Sean behind him, the 37-year-old has worked constantly in the US.

He's starred in George Lucas's WWII air fighter film Red Tails, Guillermo del Toro's Pacific Rim, and also in vampire drama True Blood. His most recent roles were in the big-screen videogame adaptation Warcraft and director Duncan Jones' follow-up, Mute.

He's set to star as Henry in the upcoming flick Big America and as Perini in The Gray Man which are both in production.

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