When EastEnders went to three episodes a week in the early 90s, bosses realised they needed a new family to bring a whole heap of drama.
In stepped the Jackson family, one of the most iconic clans to have set foot in Walford.
Various members of the family started popping up from the end of 1993 but the whole gang moved from the Walford Towers flats into Albert Square at the start of 1994.
Described as a “classic problem family” by scriptwriters, the Jacksons were made up of fierce mum Carol, her partner Alan and her troublesome kids.
The most famous of all is gobby Bianca, and there was also trumpet-playing Sonia, loser Robbie and youngster Billy.
None of the actors cast as the Jackson family were matched for appearance or screen compatibility before they worked together.
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Natalie Cassidy, who plays Sonia, said: “It was all decided without doing that. I don’t think it particularly mattered that none of us Jackson kids looked like each other because all our characters had different dads!”
The Sonia actress is the only Jackson remaining on the soap as all the others have either been killed off, sent packing or walked away.
There have been sordid affairs, divorces and strippers – with tales that would be too filthy for the pre-watershed show.
While one of the members of the Jackson family is actually engaged to someone they work with on EastEnders.
Here is a look at what happened to the stars once they left EastEnders.
Patsy Palmer – Bianca Jackson
Patsy Palmer rose to fame as loud-mouthed EastEnders icon Bianca Jackson at the age of 21-years-old – beating future Spice Girl Emma Bunton to the role.
Patsy was at the centre of some of EastEnders’ most explosive storylines – with a staggering 22 million viewers tuning in to watch Bianca’s wedding to Ricky Butcher in 1997.
The actress played her much-loved character for six years before quitting Albert Square for the first time in 1999 to spend more time with her family and concentrate on new projects, such as a cameo appearance as herself in Kathy Burke’s sitcome, Gimme Gimme Gimme.
As well as having her second child a year after her exit, she starred in animal series Battersea Dogs Home and detective drama McCready and Daughter as well as being a guest host on GMTV.
However, Patsy never managed to shed the influence of her overbearing EastEnders character and three years after leaving reunited with on-screen partner Sid Owen for a special two-part special EastEnders: Ricky and Bianca
Patsy did not make a permanent return to EastEnders – and it seemed like she never would when she publicly criticised the ‘ridiculous and unbelievable’ soap back in 2005 but made a drastic U-turn in October 2007.
Bianca came back with four misbehaving kids and after another six years in Albert Square, Patsy decided to swap Walford for Tinseltown by quitting EastEnders for good to move to Hollywood.
The actress wanted to take her family to Los Angeles for a “once in a lifetime opportunity”, but luckily for her EastEnders bosses decided not to kill Bianca off.
A friend said: “She has lots of exciting offers lined up and feels the time is right to say goodbye. Her children are at the age where they can be moved across to the States relatively easily. And it has always been her big ambition to crack Hollywood.”
Despite living across the pond, Patsy did return for a brief stint in the autumn of 2019 to reunite with on-screen daughter Tiffany Butcher, played by Strictly star Maisie Smith.
She had been due to reprise her role again and was back in the UK for filming, but her appearance was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Patsy now lives in Malibu, California with her husband Richard and their children Fenton, Emilia and Bertie.
During her most recent return to our screens in March this year, Patsy stormed off from a live Good Morning Britain interview being offended by the introduction of ‘addict to wellness guru’.
Claiming she was going to switch off and “do a Piers Morgan”, Patsy hung up after saying: “My issues that I had years ago, that were talked about many years ago, and it’s over, so I am not going to talk to you, don’t worry about it but I don’t want to talk to you.”
Natalie Cassidy – Sonia Jackson
At just 10-years-old, Natalie Cassidy burst onto our screens as adorable Sonia Jackson.
Natalie was actually given trumpet lessons but she began to play too well and producers asked her to deliberately play badly.
When on-screen mum Lyndsey Coulson quit in 1997, the majority of the Jackson family were written out and Cassidy feared she was out of the job forever.
The actress went back to school but after some brief stints she returned back full-time in 1998, then took a break to explore new things in 2007 when Sonia and Martin both left together.
During that time, Sonia got married, had a daughter who was put up for adoption then returned, and had a lesbian affair with friend Naomi.
While away from soapland, Natalie released a fitness DVD, hosted her own BBC Three show on diet secrets and appeared in the 2009 series of Strictly Come Dancing.
Natalie returned to the soap a few times in 2011 then came back for food in 2014 and has remained in Albert Square ever since.
Off-screen, her love life has intertwined with her job as she is dating someone she works with.
When Eastenders Secrets of the Square aired last summer, many fans were stunned when they discovered Natalie is engaged to a cameraman.
Marc Humphreys, who works behind the scenes every day, was pointed out to host Stacey Dooley by Adam Woodyatt, who plays Ian Beale.
In a quip to presenter, Adam said: “We can’t stand Marc,” before he added: “We have to be nice to him because he’s with Nat.”
The pair, who have been together since 2014, tend to keep their relationship private, but she has treated fans to a glimpse of him from time to time.
Last year she posted an adorable photo of herself and Marc on Instagram with a gushing caption.It doesn’t really matter what’s going on as long as we have each other.
“And yes. My nose is rather large. ‘#soulmates #laughteristhebestmedicine #kidsareinbed #peaceatlast.”
Nat had a tough time this summer as crippling hayfever was ruining her life and she looked barely recognisable in a video showing her swollen face.
Dean Gaffney – Robbie Jackson
Schoolboy Robbie Jackson was always getting into trouble, much like actor Dean Gaffney.
The actor originally played Robbie from 1993 to 2004, later returning in 2010, 2015 and 2017 before he was sensationally axed two years later.
Dean has enjoyed a wild love life over the years and has boasted about bedding more than 1,000 women, but his love for the ladies resulted in him getting fired from EastEnders.
His character was written out of the soap in 2019 after Dean was found to have begged a woman for racy pics on Facebook, asking to see her “boobs and bum”.
He said he respected the decision but branded it “harsh”, adding: “Sometimes in life you have to hold your hands up and admit what you’ve done wrong and own your s**t.”
Dean has twin daughters, Chloe and Charlotte, from his marriage to ex partner Sarah Barge, who Dean met when he was 15.
Dean allegedly had a series of affairs when he was with Sarah and their relationship fell apart after photos emerged of the actor with a hairdresser, Sasha Levy in 2007.
“No one wants to see pictures of someone that’s been in their life for so long with someone else. No one wants to be humiliated,” he told The Mirror.
In 2017, Dean and Sarah decided to properly call it quits after 22 years together.
He had flings with porn star Linsey Dawn McKenzie, dancer Maddie Stephens, and Celebrity Big Brother star Alicia Douvall – who was not very complementary about their romp.
“He was so hopeless, rough and selfish between the sheets,” she told Sunday People. “I knew it was doomed. He reckons he is a superstud, but he is the most clueless lover I’ve ever had.”
Dean also was in a relationship with 26-year-old model Rebekah Ward, who is just two years older than his daughters, but their fling soon fizzled out after she claimed she felt like a “trophy”.
Their relationship lasted for three years, and Dean said of their split: “I’ve suffered real heartbreak. It was a very passionate relationship.
“But by the end we were just in this vicious circle where I didn’t treat her right and she didn’t treat me right.
“Looking back, I was probably selfish. I should have put her first and had her back. I do regret that.”
And in June last year, Dean reportedly attended a raucous party with strippers in Huddersfield, and posed up for a group photo that was posted on social media by one of the attendees.
In July this year, he became a grandfather for the first time at the age of 43.
Lindsey Coulson – Carol Jackson
Fierce, loud and determined, Carol Jackson was the matriarch of the family.
The mother-of-four, whose kids all had different dads, made big sacrifices for her children and struggled as they turned into teenagers.
Carol was hiding the secret that Bianca was David Wicks’ daughter but was forced to come clean when David unknowingly started flirting with his own kid.
Actress Lindsey Coulson originally appeared between 1993 and 1997 then returned briefly in 1999.
She went on to have roles in Clocking Off, Judge John Deed, New Tricks and Doctor Who.
Her character returned as part of the soap’s 25th anniversary and was immediately given a major storyline when son Billy died of alcohol poisoning.
Carol would sleep with her son’s friend, have a relationship with Masood and battled breast cancer.
Lyndsey decided to leave once again in 2015, saying: “I’ve had a fantastic time playing the formidable Carol Jackson and although I’ll miss everything about EastEnders, I feel the time is right for me to move on”
Most recently, she has appeared in Sky drama Bulletproof and ITV crime thriller The Bay.
Howard Antony – Alan Jackson
Kind-hearted Alan brought some stability to the Jackson clan and the kids all took his surname.
The reliable and hard-working father was seduced by singer Frankie Pierre and ended up leaving Carol for her, but she did a runner.
Alan had a nervous breakdown when Billy was kidnapped and split from Carol again, then when he returned for Billie’s funeral in 2010 it was revealed he is married when Carol tried to kiss him.
Actor Howard Antony opted not to renew his EastEnders contract and it was reported he had grown disillusioned with his character’s storylines.
“There are those above me who make decisions for my character and they’re not always ones I like. There were certain aspects of the Frankie story I didn’t like,” he explained.
“I was frustrated with Alan taking so much nonsense. I thought ‘Why are you investing time in Frankie when the woman you’ve been with for nine years [Carol] wants you back?
“As an actor it was a difficult pill to swallow. I’ve had a great time in EastEnders, but the future looks bright.”
Howard, who made his acting debut in 1987 in Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket, went n to appear in Doctors and 2004 film The Defender.
Devon Anderson – Billy Jackson
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Carol and Alan’s only son was Billy, who was originally played by six-year-old Devon Anderson.
The angelic boy was at the centre of a dramatic storyline in 1997 when Billy was kidnapped after witnessing an armed robbery, so the whole family was put into a witness protection programme.
During his time away, Devon appeared in the 1997 film Spiceworld and was the lead actor in CBBC sitcom Kerching!.
Billy was not seen again until Sonia’s wedding in 2004 where he was played be a new actor, Bluey Robinson, for several episodes.
When the character came back full-time in 2010, original actor Devon reprised the role 13 years after he was last in the soap.
Admitting he found it easy to come back, Anderson explained: “When a child comes into a show, you can’t give them a character, so anything that was created for Billy was by me in the early days. Nobody knows Billy like me!”
In October 2010, Billy was dramatically killed off in a shock twist after an alcohol-fuelled birthday celebration.
Since his exit, Devon has appeared in an episode of Casualty in 2018.
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