Matthew Rose (EastEnders)

Matthew Rose
Matthew rose0.jpg
EastEnders character
Portrayed by Joe Absolom
Duration 1997–2000
First appearance 26 August 1997
Last appearance 3 February 2000
Classification Former; regular
Date of birth 8 January 1981
Occupation Market trader, DJ

Matthew Rose is a fictional character from the BBC soap opera EastEnders, played by Joe Absolom. He was introduced in 1997. In a deviation from typical casting protocol, the role of Matthew was constructed for Absolom after he auditioned for the production team; they were looking for new, raw talent and developed the character after they saw him perform. Matthew's most prominent storyline surrounded him being framed for murder and his wrongful imprisonment. The storyline captivated public interest with various newspapers starting nationwide campaigns for the character's release. Absolom decided to leave the soap believing that the storyline could not be advanced further or bettered. He made his final appearance in February 2000 after taking revenge on Steve Owen, the man who framed him for murder. Matthew was not killed off in the serial and producers at the time suggested that the door had been left open for a possible return.



When Matthew arrived in August 1997, he started out as a sulky teenager. His father, Michael Rose, was a market inspector in Albert Square and his mother, Susan Rose, arrived later. She and Michael were divorced but he and Matthew took care of her because she had multiple sclerosis. Matthew eventually started his own market stall, selling CDs.

In early 1998, he got engaged to Sarah Hills so he could sleep with her and later broke off the engagement. He also had a brief relationship with Mary Flaherty.

In 1999, Matthew started working as a DJ for new e20 club owner Steve Owen. Steve Owen's past soon caught up with him when his obsessive ex-girlfriend Saskia Duncan arrived in the Square and started stalking him. Steve got Matthew involved and told him to keep an eye out for Saskia and not let her into the club.

Saskia's murder

On 14 February 1999, Saskia sneaked into Steve's office and tried to strangle him with his tie, angry because he had dumped her. Matthew came in and tried to pull Saskia away but she pushed him away and continued strangling Steve. Steve reached for the nearest object, an ashtray, and hit her over the head and she was killed instantly from the brutal blow.

Matthew witnessed it and tried to run away from the scene but Steve threatened him and told him he was already involved and couldn't run now or he would go to prison too. Steve and Matthew dumped Saskia's body in Epping Forest. Matthew was worried someone would find out about Saskia but Steve assured him nothing would happen. Over the next few months, Matthew continued to be paranoid and was worried he would go to prison for Saskia's murder. Unknown to Steve, he kept the CCTV tape showing Saskia's attack on Steve and subsequent death, but did not dare destroy it. When his flat was burgled and the rucksack in which he had hidden the tape was stolen, his fear and paranoia was heightened. Steve tried to keep him in control. The tape was subsequently recovered but was rendered useless as it was wiped by the magnetic field of the stereo speaker Matthew had hidden it in.

In June 1999, Saskia's body was discovered and Matthew tried running away from Walford with girlfriend Teresa di Marco so he wouldn't go to prison. He and Teresa went to Nottingham to hide, using Steve's credit card to pay their expenses. He planned to go to Italy from there. Steve was hot on their trail and found them in a hotel. Matthew and Teresa managed to escape but Matthew was arrested on the way to the airport because Steve told the police Matthew had killed Saskia. Steve was arrested too for helping to dispose of Saskia's body. Matthew found life tough in prison but his cellmate toughened him up and told him he must never be scared of anyone.

At the trial in October 1999, Matthew pleaded not guilty. Steve, meanwhile, put up an act and told lies about how Matthew was obsessed with Saskia and killed her. In a cruel twist of fate, Matthew was found guilty of Saskia's manslaughter, and Steve walked away. Matthew's dad, Michael, shouted in court, "He's innocent, my son is innocent!"

Matthew was released from prison in December 1999 after the police found the ashtray with Steve's fingerprints on and planned revenge on Steve. During January 2000, he stalked Steve - trashing his flat, blocking the toilets in his e20 club and spraying graffiti on his door saying, "DEAD MAN WALKING". Steve tried investigating who was responsible and hired a detective to find out. The detective was unable to find out if Matthew was doing all this.

On 3 February 2000, Matthew finally confronted Steve. He came for a final showdown with Steve in the club where it all began with Saskia's murder a year earlier. Matthew revealed that he had been in the Square for weeks and that the detective Steve had hired was useless. He demanded £10,000 but Steve tried to bully him and throw him out but Matthew wanted to show him something. Matthew showed him a video of him planting light bulbs in Steve's flat. He made him realise that if his sister, Jackie, arrived home and turned on the lights they would explode. Steve wasn't buying it and taunted Matthew about how stupid he was and that is what got him into prison.

He pulled a gun on Matthew to try and scare him off. Matthew was one step ahead and had the gun emptied beforehand. Steve was shocked and after a struggle, Matthew hit him with a glass bottle, knocking him unconscious. He tied Steve to a chair and threatened to set the club on fire. Steve was reduced to a helpless and emotional wreck which is what Matthew wanted. He revealed that the video was fake and the petrol he used to threaten Steve was actually water. He got his revenge, which was to see Steve beg for mercy. He left the Square for good and was not seen again.

When Steve died in a car crash two years later, flowers from Matthew saying "Dear Steve, rot in hell" were left on his grave.

Creation and Development

Absolom was asked to attend an audition for EastEnders by the producers at the time in 1997, despite there being no set part available at the time. He commented, "I got a telephone call out of the blue asking me whether I would like to go in and see them. They didn't have a role for me but were looking for Looking for new faces and were keen for me to come on board."[1] According to Absolom the producers were looking for someone who was "new, raw, unaffected".[2] Absolom was initially uncertain about taking the role: "I really had to think long and hard about it. Once you take on something like this, it really does change your life. After I'd auditioned, they told me to go away and think things through. My parents said it was only me who could decide and my younger sister was no help. She tried to put me off. She said "don't do it Joe, 'cos we'll have all the fans parked outside our house."[1] However he accepted the role and made his first appearance on-screen in August 1997 as the son of already established character Michael Rose (Russell Floyd).

Matthew's most prominent storyline spanned a year and began on the Valentine's day episode in February 1999. After developing a friendship with club owner Steve Owen (Martin Kemp), Matthew was present to witness Steve accidentally killing his ex-girlfriend Saskia Duncan (Deborah Sheridan-Taylor) by hitting her on the head with a marbel ashtray following her jealous attack on him. Saskia's death was screened in a lengthened 45-minute episode on a Sunday evening, deviating from EastEnders' typical broadcasting weekday slots.[3] Executive producer Matthew Robinson alleged that Saskia's death scene had to be reshot because it was deemed too violent: "When we played back the film, it was fantastic - too fantastic. It looked so real that I knew we couldn't broadcast it. EastEnders goes out before the nine o'clock watershed, children watch it - and we can't show outright scenes of graphic violence. We had to do the whole thing again. It took almost two hours and the three actors were emotionally and physically exhausted. In the end we got what we wanted."[3] After the killing, Steve fearing that police would not believe it was an accident, convinced Matthew to help him cover-up the death and they bundled Saskia's body into a bin liner and buried it in a wood. Robinson said, "This is an exciting plot and it'll keep us occupied for much of the next year."[3]

The storyline advanced throughout 1999 with a police investigation, the discovery of Saskia's body and Steve framing Matthew. In episodes that aired in October 1999, a court trial was screened, with both Matthew and Steve on trial for manslaughter. Throughout the court scenes different verdicts were insinuated as evidence swang to and fro against the two accused. The eventual verdict ended in a miscarriage of justice; Steve was exhonerated and Matthew was found guilty of manslaughter and imprisoned. A spokeswoman for EastEnders said: "We are expecting a huge public reaction over the storyline. Joe has already been sent T-shirts by two viewers that say 'Free Matt'."[4]

Absolom announced he was quitting the role in October 1999.[5] Absolom stated that he had enjoyed his time on the soap but believed it was the right time to move on, suggesting that the storyline airing at the time, his wrongful imprisonment for murder, would have been difficult to advance.[5] He commented, "I think people are getting quite bored of it. I've cried so many times on telly, that people just go, `he's crying again', it's not like anything new now." Absolom remained on-screen until February 2000.[5] Executive producer of EastEnders, Matthew Robinson, said of the actor, "Joe Absolom has made a huge contribution to EastEnders, culminating in the huge success of the recent trial and verdict storylines" and he added that the door would be left open for a future return.[5] Absolom commented in 2000, "I've been told the door is always open for me, so you never know. Also, I hope to still see some of the cast, so I like to think it won't be my last visit."[6]

Matthew's final episode was a showdown of revenge against his enemy Steve Owen, the real culprit of the murder Matthew was framed for. Absolom described the episode as tough and intense. Two versions of the episode were filmed after the BBC decided that the initial version was too violent.[2] In the broadcast version, Matthew held Steve hostage at gunpoint and terrorised him with mind games, threatening to kill him and forcing Steve to beg for his life.[6] Finally, Matthew emptied a petrol can and pulled out a lighter, but in a final twist he revealed that the can was only filled with water."[7] After humiliating Steve, Matthew departed. Of his leaving storyline, Absolom said, "I wanted it to be a totally blow-your-mind storyline. This is why I knew it was the right time to move on. I really felt I couldn't top recent scenes and wanted to go out on a high and be remembered for work that I'm proud of."[6]


Absolom was touted as one of the BBC's rising stars due to his stint in EastEnders.[5] Viewers were reportedly shocked and angered when the character was wrongly imprisoned for murder in 1999. Several newspapers began a campaign to free Matthew, whom was dubbed the Walford One by the popular press.[5] During Matthew's time in prison, Absolom received what he described as zany fanmail such as chocolate "from people who thought it would sustain me in jail" and an audio-taped copy of the episode in which Saskia was murdered by Steve "So I could show it to the police and clear my name".[8]

Absolom was nominated in the 'Most Popular Actor' category at the 1999 National Television Awards for his performance as Matthew.[5] In 1998 he won 'Best Soap Actor' award at the TV Quick awards.[9] In 2000, Absolom was awarded 'Best Actor' at the British Soap Awards.[10]


  1. ^ a b "EastEnders is fantastic.. but I'm happier playing music in a pub with my band.". The Mirror. 24 April 1999.'m+happier+playing+music+in+a+pub+with...-a060387196. Retrieved 24 February 2011. 
  2. ^ a b "Absolom interview; EASTENDERS JOE TALKS ABOUT LOVE, FREEDOM ...AND A CLINCH WITH BABS.". The Mirror. 9 january 2000.'s+OK%2c+but+I'd+be+as+happy+stacking+shelves+at+Sainsbury's%3a+Joe...-a060960417. Retrieved 24 February 2011. 
  3. ^ a b c "The Ender Saskia; How Valentine violence kills Square stalker.". The Mirror. 12 February 1999. Retrieved 24 February 2011. 
  4. ^ "Shock verdict in EastEnders trial". BBC News. 8 October 1999. Retrieved 24 February 2011. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g "Absolom quits EastEnders". BBC News. 20 October 1999. Retrieved 24 February 2011. 
  6. ^ a b c "EastEnder Joe is going out with a BANG!". Mirror. 29 january 2000.!%3b+WEEKEND+TV.-a060816493. Retrieved 24 February 2011. 
  7. ^ "Matthew's not the only one to lose the plot.". The Mirror. 4 February 2000.'s+not+the+only+one+to+lose+the+plot.-a061232048. Retrieved 24 February 2011. 
  8. ^ "Joe's what the Doctor ordered". The People. 7 October 2007. Retrieved 24 February 2011. 
  9. ^ "Square win for Eastenders". BBC News. 6 September 1999. Retrieved 24 February 2011. 
  10. ^ "EastEnders cleans up soap awards". BBC News. 28 May 2000. Retrieved 24 February 2011. 

External links

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