From the maiden episode of the long-running BBC soap opera Eastenders, Mark and Michelle Fowler were fixtures of the show.
The siblings were involved in some of the most memorable storylines and we all loved following the twists and turns that kept us on the edge of our seats.
Whereas Michelle Fowler, who is now played by Jenna Russell, made a recent comeback to the show after leaving in 1995, Mark Fowler, who was first played by David Scarboro until Todd Carty took over in 1990, met a far more conclusive and dramatic end in 2004 when he was written out of the show.
Jenna Russell wasn’t the first person to play Michelle Fowler however. That honour goes to Susan Tulley who played her from the first episode in 1985 for a full decade until her departure.
It’s been a long time since we’ve Todd Carty and Susan Tulley on Albert Square, so let’s have a look at what they’ve been up to since then.
Todd Carty (Mark Fowler)
Carty was performing on our screens from the age of four and since then he has never looked back. Starting his career as a four-year-old in adverts for Woolworths, Carty, who was born in Limerick in 1963 before moving to England as a child, was educated at the Phildene Stage School, a co-educational independent school in Chiswick in West London.
As well as his early roles in advertisements for Woolworths, Carty also had other advertisement and Public Information Film roles, including one with Doctor Who actor Jon Pertwee for the “Green Cross Code”.
Carty made his first stage appearance at the New London Theatre, Drury Lane, as the young Lionel in Lionel Bart’s autobiographical musical Lionel!; however for much of his television career in his youth, he would be defined by his role as Tucker Jenkins on the BBC children’s drama Grange Hill from 1978 to 1982, as well as the spinoff series Tucker’s Luck from 1983 to 1985.
Throughout the 70s and 80s, however, the young Carty still managed to land roles in shows such as Z-Cars, Our Mutual Friend, Drummer, and Headmaster, all of which aired on the BBC.
He spread his talents further afield as he appeared on German TV in programmes such as Focus on Britain and The Idle Bunch. Carty also managed to ply in trade in film with roles in films such as Please Sir! in 1971 and Professor Popper’s Problem in 1974. In 1983, he landed the role of Oswyn in the fantasy film Krull opposite Ken Marshall, Lysette Anthony, Liam Neeson, and Alun Armstrong, amongst others.
Carty landed another role, for which he will always be remembered by telly fans, in 1990 as he took over the character of Mark Fowler from David Scarboro, who had tragically taken his own life in 1988. Carty played the character for 13 years, and in the process he became one of the longest-running male cast members. Over the course of his stay on Albert Square, he was involved in one of the longest-running and most important storylines in the history of Eastenders – his positive HIV status.
Over the years, the character struggles to come to terms with his illness and the show deals with the ignorance which littered the popular mind about the disease at the time, such as the characters father, Arthur Fowler, bleaching everything that Mark touches, in an effort to avoid infection.
Mark Fowler was the first mainstream soap opera character to be diagnosed as HIV-positive. The storyline came as a result of the government attempting to “spread the word” according to an article in the Scotsman, and to dispel the myth that HIV is an automatic death sentence, owing to the fact that the character lived with the condition for 13 years before dying of an AIDS related illness.
According to the BBC, The Terrence Higgins Trust, a charity that campaigns on several AIDS and HIV related issues, worked with the production team throughout the storyline, and despite the litany of public health campaigns concerning transmission of the illness, the biggest peak in requests for testing in Britain was seen in January 1991 when Mark Fowler was diagnosed HIV-positive, according to the Telegraph.
Carty commented on the storyline himself; according to the BBC and the Mirror, he said: “I feel that the storyline educated people at a time when there were lots of misconceptions about HIV and AIDS…My main concern was that they’d get it right and, overall, I think they did – because it showed someone living with HIV, as opposed to dying of it.”
The storyline was widely applauded for the way it handled the plot and the following issues that the scriptwriters explored, from antiretroviral drugs, safe sex and prejudice. The storyline was so successful in raising awareness that a 1999 survey by the National AIDS Trust found teenagers got most of their information about HIV from the soap.
However Mark Fowler eventually succumb to the disease, when medication to quell the spread and offset the transition into AIDS was rejected by his body. In the end, the character died of Non-Hodgkins lymphoma – an AIDS-related illness, in 2004.
Executive producer Louise Berridge said that Carty had made a “fantastic contribution” to the soap and Mark had been a “pivotal figure”, but the character had finally run its course, saying, according to the BBC: “Todd and I have discussed this at some length and agreed that it was time for Mark to hang up his leather jacket for the last time. We will all miss Todd, who is one of our best-loved actors, and wish him every success in the future.”
After the show, Carty went on to portray the villainous copper PC Gabriel Kent in ITV’s The Bill for more than two years from 2003 to 2005. Carty has since revealed, according to the Mirror, that he broke his EastEnders contract a year earlier than planned to take on this new role.
After leaving The Bill in 2005, Carty returned to the big screen for the role of aristocrat Harvey van Bollingbroke in the 2006 film Treasures of Albion. Carty acted in The School that Roared (2009) as the eccentric Mr Haig, and was also the second-unit director.
After appearances on shows such as Heartbeat, Doctors and Holby City, Carty was a guest on the BBC1 show I’d Do Anything, in May 2008, with Cameron Mackintosh, helping to choose one of the selected boys to play Oliver Twist for the new West End production of Oliver!.
He also had stints on Dancing on Ice as well as being a contestant on Celebrity Master Chef.
Carty has also lent his talents to radio, stage and presenting work. He has had radio roles in productions such as Les Miserables, The Three Loves of Ida Bliss, We Are Happy and Wavelength, as well as presenting jobs for Sky One.
From his earliest days to his most recent, Todd Carty has spent his entire life in front of the camera, from film to soap to radio to stage, Todd Carty has truly done it all in British entertainment.