Blast From the Past: Nicola Stapleton on Life After Mandy
By Larry Jaffee
In true tabloid tradition, a headline in an early issue of the Walford
Gazette bellowed: MANDY TO WALFORD: STOP ME BEFORE I STEAL AGAIN!,
amid a photo of her running on the lam with what looks like a bottle
of milk in her hands.
“Probably was a bottle of booze,” quips Nicola Stapleton, via a
transatlantic phone connection, laughing heartily, in an exclusive
interview with the Walford Gazette.
Mandy left EastEnders in 1994 after a three-and-a-half-year stint, and
even though she’s achieved other successes in British telly, such as
the women’s prison drama Bad Girls and more recently the U.K. soap
Emmerdale, which she joined last fall, it’s her portrayal of Walford’s
one-time troubled youth Mandy Salter for which she’s best remembered.
“I’m 35 this year and when I joined EastEnders I was 19,” says
Stapleton, who has been acting since she was 6 years old.
When Stapleton was an EastEnders cast member and at the centre of
several powerful storylines, including one Christmas cliffhanger, the
show typically drew 20 million viewers. “You tend
to forget you’re in people’s front rooms.”
Asked who were her closest mates on the set of EastEnders, she names
Sid Owen (Ricky), Todd Carty (Mark) and Patsy Palmer ¬(Bianca) – “the
She thoroughly enjoyed the experience being on the show, but admits
that even as a young actress, she wasn’t an EastEnders fan, which
actually worked to her advantage, Stapleton believes.
Otherwise, “you can become a little bit judgmental.” So she never
really watched the show while she was on it or now; nor had she
watched Emmerdale or Bad Girls for that matter. “I don’t have time to
EastEnders gave her good training in a technical setting with multiple
cameras. She took mental notes how other actors worked.
She did find the continuing serial’s around-the-clock schedule
grueling when compared to the less taxing schedule of a sitcom or
non-soap drama. “That’s six months of your life. It frees you up to do
other things,” Stapleton adds.
Mandy typically would share her hard luck story with anyone who’d
listen in the Square: Mark was often in the mix; Ricky was good for a
shag. The troubled daughter of a prostitute then quickly latched onto
the hunky but naïve Irish football prodigy Aidan, whose once promising
professional career was cancelled due to injury. The couple left
Walford, presumably to Ireland,
homeless and trying to get off drugs.
Stapleton notes that she stays in touch occasionally with Sean
Maguire, who played Aidan. He’s gone onto a successful acting career
in the States, including roles as Donovan Brink in the UPN sitcom Eve,
and as Kyle Lendo in the CBS sitcom The Class, as well as the feature
film Meet The Spartans in 2008. “I bump into him in London; it’s
always good to see him,” says Stapleton, who also has worked
occasionally in the U.S. “Things are difficult stateside. It’s harder
[to make it as an actor] in LA.”
She points out that it was her decision to leave EastEnders at the
time. “I had an offer to work in LA. I wanted to do some other things,
and EastEnders is strict about the cast doing other things,” Stapleton
explains, adding that she didn’t leave on bad terms.
Her character in Bad Girls, Janine Nebeski, would appear to be Mandy a
bit older. She went to prison for a five-year sentence, convicted of
credit card fraud. The official website says: “Janine broke her mum’s
heart when she was arrested and the rest of her family disowned her
when she was sent down. Used to work in a high street fashion store
where she masterminded a lucrative scam involving credit cards. Janine
is a selfish, uneducated, thick-skinned and mouthy little madam. She
thinks she knows it all. She has an opinion about everything and is
always ready to dish out advice. Basically, Janine loves the sound of
her own voice and she’s not afraid to speak her mind, although chances
are that she’ll say one thing to your face and another behind your
Bad Girls allowed Stapleton to be reunited in 2006 with Sid Owen
(Ricky), who played a prison guard Donny Kimber, but that didn’t stop
him from getting involved with inmate Janine, who should have appeared
familiar. Stapleton told a British newspaper, “I’ve snogged Sid before
so it was revisiting old ground. We had a little thing going on
EastEnders. He’s definitely got better. He’s obviously had loads of
practice since then. It’s just as well because there are many saucy
scenes. It was lovely to see him again. We've bumped into each other
out and about at events but it was nice to spend some proper time
Stapleton’s character in Emmerdale, Danielle, is described as a
“streetwise Londoner,” although she too gets into police trouble.
Danielle made her first appearance last September. One wonders whether
Stapleton is typecast?
The actress is taking matters into her own hands by developing and
co-writing a sitcom. She’s presently pitching it with her writing
“Keep your fingers crossed that it gets commissioned. [EastEnders]
always left the door open for Mandy to return. At the moment I’m quite
happy to be doing what I’m doing.”
Back to Latest Articles