Sharon Watts

Sharon Watts
Sharon Rickman.jpg
Sharon Watts as she appeared in 2005.
EastEnders character
Portrayed by Letitia Dean
Created by Tony Holland
Introduced by Julia Smith (1985)
John Yorke (2001)
Kate Harwood (2005)
Duration 1985–95, 2001–06
First appearance 19 February 1985
Last appearance 13 January 2006
Classification Former; regular
Book appearances Blood Ties: The Life and Loves of Grant Mitchell
Spin-off appearances Dimensions in Time (1993)
Date of birth 22 October 1969
Occupation Barmaid (1988–95,
2001–02, 2005)
Pub landlady (1991–95, 2001–02, 2005)
Businesswoman (since 2001)

Sharon Anne Rickman (née Stretton; previously Watts and Mitchell) is a fictional character from the popular BBC1 soap opera EastEnders, played by Letitia Dean, who was a regular cast member for the first 10 years after the programme began on 19 February 1985. She returned in May 2001, and appeared on and off, having most recently appeared in January 2006. Dean has expressed her interest in reprising the role of Sharon on numerous occasions.

Sharon is the adoptive daughter of the popular 'supercouple'; the late Den and Angie Watts. She was known to Den as his "princess" and he made sure suitors watched their step around the teenage Sharon. Even though she disapproved of her father's dodgy deals and his constant fighting with binge-drinker Angie, she loved them both nonetheless.




Sharon was born to Carol Stretton and adopted at age 3 by Den and Angie Watts (Leslie Grantham and Anita Dobson). She was constantly caught in her adoptive parents' stormy marriage. Den's "princess" was initially troublesome; her behaviour resulted from resentment of Den's womanising and Angie's alcoholism. Nonetheless, she loved them both.


A brief romance with Ian Beale (Adam Woodyatt) in 1986 ends when Sharon realises she prefers a more experienced man; she dates Simon Wicks (Nick Berry), who dumps her when she refuses to have sex. In October 1987 she seeks refuge from her turbulent homelife from local church curate Duncan Boyd (David Gillespie); they get engaged, but Sharon tires of him and ends the relationship.

When Den gets involved in gangland crime, he is shot and presumed dead. Sharon later discovers Den's signet ring on a market stall. With Den's body missing, Sharon persuades the police to drag a canal in April 1990; a body is found and identified as Den's. Sharon rekindles a relationship with Simon, but he cheats on her with Cindy Beale (Michelle Collins). Hurt and missing her parents, Sharon traces her birth mother, Carol Hanley (Sheila White). They meet several times but when Carol confesses she has no maternal feelings for Sharon, the meetings stop.

Sharon remains at the Queen Vic, working as a barmaid. She starts dating Grant Mitchell (Ross Kemp) in 1990. A possessive boyfriend, Grant beats Sharon's boss, Eddie Royle (Michael Melia), for making a pass at her. After discovering that Grant's violent behaviour results from a traumatic experience in the Falklands War, she agrees to marry him. Eddie fires Sharon for this and she takes him to an industrial tribunal for unfair dismissal; she wins, but Eddie refuses to reinstate her. Sharon tells Grant she will only marry him if he gets her tenancy at the Vic. Grant makes this happen, and Sharon becomes the Vic's new licensee in October 1991. That Boxing Day Grant springs a surprise wedding on Sharon. Initially unimpressed with his romantic gesture, she marries him following persuasion from her best friend, Michelle Fowler (Susan Tully).

Sharon and Grant's marriage is tempestuous and rows occasionally end in violence. While Grant wants to start a family, Sharon prefers to concentrate on making the Vic a success. When Grant discovers she is taking the contraceptive pill, he smashes up the pub and disappears; Sharon is comforted by his brother Phil (Steve McFadden). Starting to wonder if she has married the wrong brother, Sharon has sex with Phil in September 1992. Phil is prepared to risk everything to be with her, but she chooses Grant. The marriage deteriorates further when Grant torches the Vic in an insurance scam, nearly killing Sharon and her dog Roly, who are trapped inside; Sharon tells Grant their marriage is over. In March 1993, Grant hits Sharon during a power struggle over management of the Vic. Michelle calls the police during one of Grant's outbursts and he is imprisoned for assaulting them. While he is in prison, Sharon and Phil reunite and live secretly as a couple. Neither want to tell Grant, and when he is released, Sharon takes him back, leaving Phil dejected.

Phil gets engaged to Kathy Beale (Gillian Taylforth); Sharon realises she still has feelings for him and tries to seduce him. Phil kisses her in a moment of passion he immediately regrets. Sharon convinces herself she is happy with Grant and considers having children with him. Simultaneously, Michelle's boyfriend Geoff Barnes (David Roper) wants to interview Sharon for a book he is writing. Michelle conducts a recorded interview, but when it finishes, the girls forget to turn off the recorder and discuss Sharon's affair with Phil. Grant finds the tape and on the night of Phil and Kathy's engagement party in October 1994, he plays it to a packed Queen Vic and then beats Phil, hospitalizing him. Grant bullies and humiliates Sharon until she agrees to divorce him and leaves to stay with Angie in America.

Sharon returns in March 1995 to hostility from the Mitchells. She is unperturbed and her gutsy behaviour earns her Grant's respect; he realizes he still loves her. Wanting revenge for her mistreatment, she leads Grant on while telling Michelle that she plans to humiliate him publicly. They have sex and Sharon lets Grant think a public marriage proposal will seal their reunion. Grant attempts this on the Vic's quiz night; Sharon is all set to turn him down but suddenly cannot go through with it and stops him from proposing. She confesses that she still loves him, then returns to America alone.


In May 2001, Phil and Grant's mother Peggy Mitchell (Barbara Windsor) sells The Queen Victoria to an anonymous buyer who turns out to be Sharon. Peggy loathes Sharon and regrets selling the pub. Sharon's boyfriend Ross Fletcher (Ché Walker) joins her, claiming he has left his wife, but Sharon discovers he is lying and ends the relationship. With Grant no longer around, Phil and Sharon rekindle their romance. They survive Peggy's attempts to break them up, but when Sharon reveals that she had aborted Grant's baby in 1995 and this has left her infertile, Phil takes the news badly. Knowing Phil would not be content without children of his own, Sharon leaves him.

Sharon brings her mother's body back from America in 2002 for burial. Angie's death of liver poisoning, affects Sharon badly; she rebuffs Phil's attempts to reunite and instead starts a relationship with her old school friend, Tom Banks (Colm O'Maonlai). The relationship survives the arrival of Tom's psychotic wife Sadie (Isobel Middleton), who constantly attempts to break them up. Sadie spreads lies about Tom, then breaks into Sharon's flat and holds her hostage, threatening to kill herself if Tom does not take her back. Tom and Sharon manage to stop Sadie and she is hospitalized. Sharon sells her share of the Vic to the Mitchells in September 2002 and she and Tom purchase a club, naming it "Angie's Den." Soon after, Tom is diagnosed with a terminal brain tumour. Sharon stands by him; they plan to marry and go travelling, but on the night of their engagement party, Tom is killed in an explosion after ran into a burning house to save Little Mo and Trevor Morgan (Kacey Ainsworth and Alex Ferns). Sharon goes through a tough period of grief.

Early in 2003, Sharon and Den's youngest daughter Vicki (Scarlett Johnson) discover that Den had an estranged son, Dennis Rickman (Nigel Harman). After making contact, Dennis moves to Walford to live with Sharon. Dennis has links to the same criminal organisation as his father, and after doing some detective work he discovers that Den is still alive; Sharon refuses to believe this.

Meanwhile, Dennis falls in love with Sharon. Despite claiming to see Dennis merely as a brother (and only by adoption, not blood), she has feelings for him too. They have sex in September 2003 but their affair is halted by Den's return. He had survived the shooting 14 years earlier in 1989 and fled to Spain for safety. Sharon had spent years feeling guilty about disowning Den before his supposed demise; she is thrilled to see Den but furious about the unnecessary hurt he caused. Den moves in with Sharon and when he discovers Sharon and Dennis are romantically involved, he blackmails Dennis into ending the relationship. Dennis begrudgingly dates Zoe Slater Michelle Ryan), but as 2004 ends, he secretly reuintes with Sharon. The couple plan to move to America on Christmas Day, but then Zoe announces she is pregnant. This is a ruse Den concocts to split-up Sharon and Dennis; Sharon refuses to let Dennis abandon his child and leaves Walford. She returns briefly in February 2005 when summoned by Den's second wife Chrissie (Tracy-Ann Oberman). Chrissie, Zoe, and Sam Mitchell (Kim Medcalf) confront Den about his deceitful deeds, including Zoe's fake pregnancy. Disgusted, Sharon disowns Den and leaves and Chrissie murders Den, bashing him repeatedly with a cast-iron doorstop. Aided by Zoe and Sam, Chrissie buries Den's body in the Vic's cellar.

Dennis reunites with Sharon in America, and in June 2005 they return to confront Den; Chrissie claims he has left with another woman. Sharon and Dennis marry on 29 August 2005 but, during their reception, Sam Mitchell is arrested after she digs up Den's body to incriminate Chrissie. Sam is charged with Den's murder and her brothers, Phil and Grant, return, determined to exonerate her; they convince Sharon that Chrissie is guilty. After a decade apart, Sharon and Grant are more friendly towards each other and resolve their past grievances. Sam is released after Johnny Allen (Billy Murray) records Chrissie confessing to Den's murder. Chrissie is caught at the airport attempting to flee and Sharon punches her before she is arrested.

Sharon and Dennis enjoy marriage and on Christmas Day 2005, Sharon ia stunned to discover she is pregnant but happiness is fleeting. On New Year's Eve 2005, Dennis gets involved in Phil Mitchell's vendetta against Johnny Allen. Johnny responded to Sharon and Dennis interfering in his relationship with his daughter Ruby (Louisa Lytton) by throttling Sharon and threatening to kill Dennis unless they leave Walford by midnight on New Year's Eve. Sharon persuades Dennis to leave after confiding in Phil, but Phil tells Dennis who responds by beating Johnny. Johnny calls Danny Moon (Jake Maskall) to kill Dennis; Dennis is stabbed and dies in Sharon's arms. Heartbroken, Sharon refuses to speak, only breaking her silence to ask Phil to avenge Dennis's murder. She breaks down at Dennis's funeral, clawing her face in distress. Concerned for her unborn child, Phil persuades Sharon to move back to America on 13 January 2006. Phil enacts revenge; Johnny is imprisoned after confessing to Dennis's murder and Danny Moon is killed. On 4 July 2006, Pauline Fowler (Wendy Richard) receives news that Sharon has given birth to Dennis Rickman Jr.

Character creation


Sharon Watts was one of the original twenty-three characters conceived by the creators of EastEnders, Tony Holland and Julia Smith. The character of Sharon was originally to be named Tracey[1] and she and her parents were to be the occupants of the soap's local pub, now famously known as The Queen Vic. Holland, who had worked as a barman in his youth, called upon his own personal experiences to invent the Watts family and the pub they lived in.[1] Holland and Smith had always been critical of the way pubs had been portrayed on television feeling they lacked vitality and life, so they were determined that their pub and occupants were going to be more 'real'. The Watts were seen by Holland as integral to the show's success, partly because he had already guessed that the pub was going to be a monstrous battleground where emotions would run high on a regular basis, and also because the occupants would be providing the majority of the drama.[1]

Sharon's original character outline as written by Smith and Holland appeared in an abridged form in their book, EastEnders: The Inside Story. In this passage, Sharon will be referred to as Tracey and her parents as Jack and Pearl (known now as Den and Angie).

Tracey is at the centre of her parents' dramas. The children of publicans nearly always suffer in one way or another: the fact that your 'home' is always 'open house' to a variety of strangers often produces genuine feelings of anxiety and insecurity. Tracey, being adopted, will be even more sensitive to this lack of permanence. Jack and Pearl do use her as something of a tennis-ball in their games of playing things off against each other. Jack tries to buy her affection with gifts. Pearl sees her as something of a rival... Tracey's set on a course which is almost inevitable. Either, a collision, or, full-circle, to the same route as her parents took." (page 74).[1]


Although the character of Sharon was meant to be 14 old, licensing regulations required the cast actress to be a 16-year-old who could "play down." Holland and Smith were looking for a "bouncy, attractive, oddly vulnerable young woman" who would come across as slightly more sophisticated than the character of Michelle Fowler, due to be Sharon's closest peer. Out of the various applicants they had seen, only actress Letitia Dean had all of those qualities.[1] As the casting directors were only looking for real East End actors, she falsely claimed that she was born and raised in Hackney, east London.[2] The lie paid off and she got the part, clinching the deal because of her laugh, which Holland and Smith have described as "the dirtiest in the world!"[1][3]


Described as "slightly spoilt, over-dramatic, blousy, but ultimately kind-hearted",[4] Sharon has been classified by Rupert Smith, author of EastEnders: 20 years in Albert Square, as a "drama queen", a "strong passionate [woman] who [goes] to pieces where men are concerned and always [comes] back for more".[5] Early on in her narrative, Sharon was shown as a mixed-up individual, torn between her warring parents, but spoilt by both; the British press often describe her "Den's princess," an indication of her spoilt upbringing.[6][7]

In 1991, author Hilary Kingsley compared Sharon to her mother Angie: "There's a lot of her mother in Sharon Watts. There is the warm sympathy and the barbed tongue for a kick-off. But Sharon is more sensible than Angie, less likely to fly off the beer handle in The Vic. All the same, she's a sensitive, vulnerable girl who is easily hurt. Even so, that doesn't stop her going after something that she really wants...Sharon came through to become a nice girl behind the streetwise image...with her blonde hair and bright make-up she adds a cheerful touch to drab Albert Square."[8]

Sharon has also been described as a "buxom femme fatale",[9] and one of "life's survivors", who has had "many moments of emotional turmoil".[7]

Character development

Early Years

Sharon Watts as she appeared in 1985.

An early controversial storyline involving Sharon revolved around her desire to take contraceptive pills to persuade Kelvin Carpenter (Paul J. Medford) to date her. This storyline caused tremendous interest in the UK. It was a fairly daring issue to tackle in the 1980s, as it involved a girl under 16, and it aired at a time when the issue was very prominent in British society. People took sides with the issue and her story became a debate used as a teaching method, both in schools and at home. Many families admitted that as a result, they were discussing such taboo topics opening in their homes for the first time i years, or ever.[1]

Sharon went on to feature in a complicated storyline about the ups and downs of a pop group called The Banned. Their song "Something Outa Nothing," which was performed on-screen in the plot, was released in the real world by actors Letitia Dean and Paul J. Medford. It was seen as an interesting and major undertaking in the serial, but one that Holland and Smith felt never entirely worked.[1]

In the early years, Sharon's main storylines depicted the plight of a young woman struggling to find her true identity while growing up in a broken home. When both her onscreen parents had departed the show by early 1989, the writers and producers decided to develop her character more fully and move away from the 'spoilt-princess' image she'd been given initially.[10] Being the only remaining member of the Watts family required Sharon to become more independent and determined; perhaps this was cemented onscreen by the discovery that her adored father had impregnated her best friend Michelle when she was 16. Sharon discovered this in a special two-hander episode written by Tony McHale, which aired in April 1989. The episode returned to a model established by the first Den-and-Angie solo episode, with revelations and major character changes to an important relationship and gave Letitia Dean and Susan Tully (Michelle) the chance to demonstrate how much they had grown as actresses during their 4 years on trhe programme. It was held in high regard by the show's producers, directors, and writers.[10]

Relationship with Phil and Grant Mitchell

Sharon and Grant marry, Boxing day 1991.

The arrival of the Mitchell brothers in 1990 heralded a new era for EastEnders, but also for Sharon Watts. Phil and Grant Mitchell were introduced by Executive Producer Michael Ferguson, as he wanted to bring in a couple of young men who would bring an air of danger to the show.[10] Both the Mitchell brothers would prove to be extremely important for the character of Sharon in the following years, most notably marrying one brother and then having an affair with the other. Despite the fact that Sharon married Grant initially, former EastEnders writer Tony Jordan has revealed in The Mitchells - The Full Story that the love-triangle storyline between Grant, Sharon and Phil had been planned from their introduction after the writers came to the realisation that "Sharon was perfect for them both".[11] This storyline was slow burning and was spread out for several years. Things finally came to a head in 1994 with some of EastEnders' most popular and renowned episodes, which have been dubbed "Sharongate".

Sharon's affair with her husband's brother.

The episodes centred around Grant's discovery that his wife had been having an affair with his brother. It was watched by 18.4 million viewers[12] and was voted the sixth top soap opera moment of the decade in a poll of 17,000 people for What's On TV magazine. The aftermath of the storyline eventually saw Sharon leave Walford after ten years in the show. Off-screen, Letitia Dean had decided to leave the show to take other acting roles.

Return (2001)

The character was reintroduced to the show in 2001 by then producer John Yorke,[13] almost six years after her initial departure.[14] Her return was voted one of the top 100 TV moments of 2001 in a Channel 4 poll, and was chosen as the favourite soap comeback by almost one third of viewers.[15] Since her return, the character has undergone several character changes and has been central to many key storylines, most notably the return of her infamous father Den Watts,[16] and her relationship with her adoptive brother Dennis Rickman, a storyline that was nicknamed "Shannis".[17] Sharon has had several departures and returns since this time and has become one of the longest-running characters in the show's history. She was last seen on-screen in January 2006.


In 1985, The Sun newspaper branded EastEnders "Too sexy for kids" and suggested it could be a bad influence on children, with Sharon Watts touted as a reason for this.[18] Described as a "teenage temptress" Sharon was criticised for flashing her mini-skirted legs at pub customers and fondling a barman's bottom.[18] Television clean-up campaigner Mary Whitehouse said, "This show should be X-rated. This kind of thing is just not on. It is an adults-only soap opera. I shudder to think of the embarrassing questions parents face from their children after Sunday [omnibus] afternoon viewing."[18] A BBC spokesperson responded, "It is not our policy to be sexually provocative. It just mirrors real life in the East End of London."[18]

In popular culture

The character of Sharon Rickman has been spoofed in the ITV cartoon sketch show 2DTV. In one sketch she was likened to the Jim Henson Muppet Miss Piggy, but she is more regularly depicted as someone who is always crying, and says "Oink!" (in a further Miss Piggy reference).

The character has also been spoofed by the Scottish impressionist Ronni Ancona in BBC's Big Impression. Ancona's impression mocked Letita Dean's pronunciation skills, inferring that she pouts a lot and that she looks badly dubbed, as her lips quiver after delivering a line. The episodes featuring Sharon aired on the Christmas day special of the programme, in 2001.

The British celebrity-based magazine heat regularly mocked the character of Sharon in their television reviews of upcoming EastEnders episodes, often referring to her as "Sharon and her incredible acting eyebrows".

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Smith, Julia; Holland, Tony (1987). EastEnders - The Inside Story. Book Club Associates. ISBN 0-563-20601-2. 
  2. ^ "Letitia Dean interview in Woman", URL last accessed on 2006-12-20.
  3. ^ "Meet the Strictly Come Dancing contestants", The Sun. URL last accessed on 2007-10-10.
  4. ^ "why Sharon Mitchell left the show". BBC. Retrieved 2008-10-02. 
  5. ^ Smith, Rupert (2005). EastEnders: 20 years in Albert Square. BBC books. ISBN 0-563-52165-1. 
  6. ^ "EastEnder to the West End". Coventry Evening Telegraph. 2000-06-17. Retrieved 2008-03-10. 
  7. ^ a b "Classic EastEnders Characters". MSN. Archived from the original on 2008-05-30. Retrieved 2008-03-10. 
  8. ^ Kingsley, Hilary (1990). The EastEnders Handbook. BBC books. ISBN 0-563-206010-563-36292-8-2. 
  9. ^ Lock, Kate (2000). EastEnders Who's Who. BBC Books. ISBN 0-563-55178-X. 
  10. ^ a b c Brake, Colin (1995). EastEnders: The First 10 Years: A Celebration. BBC Books. ISBN 0-563-37057-2. 
  11. ^ "Mitchells Special", BBC. URL last accessed on 2006-09-18.
  12. ^ "Sharongate", BBC. URL last accessed on 2006-09-18.
  13. ^ "Biographies John Yorke", BBC. URL last accessed on 2006-09-18.
  14. ^ "Letitia Dean back in EastEnders", BBC. URL last accessed on 2006-09-18.
  15. ^ "Dirty Den makes Square return", BBC. URL last accessed on 2006-09-18.
  16. ^ "Watts family reunited", BBC. URL last accessed on 2006-09-18.
  17. ^ "Tony Jordan:EastEnders Lead Scriptwriter", BBC. URL last accessed on 2006-09-18.
  18. ^ a b c d "TV Soap "Too Sexy For Kids"". The Sun. 3 September 1985. 

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