Michelle Fowler

Michelle Fowler
Michelle Fowler.jpg
EastEnders character
Portrayed by Susan Tully
Created by Tony Holland
Duration 1985–95
First appearance 19 February 1985
Last appearance 26 October 1995
Classification Former; regular
Profile
Date of birth 30 July 1969

Michelle Fowler (previously Holloway) is a fictional character from the BBC soap opera EastEnders, played by actress Susan Tully.

Although she was one of the brighter people in Walford, that didn't stop Michelle making some huge mistakes during her time in Albert Square. Michelle had a habit of choosing the wrong men and her stubborn nature meant that she rarely accepted anyone's help or listened to good advice. She is tough, feisty, determined and outspoken and never afraid to defend herself or her beliefs.

Contents

Storylines

Michelle and Den's rendezvous by the infamous canal.

Michelle spends the early part of 1985 fighting with her best friend Sharon Watts for the affections of Kelvin Carpenter, but that romance quickly fizzles out and Michelle is soon seen liasing with older men: Tony Carpenter, Ali Osman, Andy O'Brien, and local publican Den Watts; when she discovers in September 1985 that she is pregnant, she is uncertain which is the father. Her parents, Pauline and Arthur, are appalled to discover that their 16-year-old daughter is expecting, and even more upset when she refuses to name the father. She also refuses to have an abortion: she is adamant that she is keeping her baby.

On the Square, speculation persists on Michelle's child's father's identity. He is eventually revealed as Den Watts, Sharon's 39-year-old father. Michelle had turned to Den for sympathy during a difficult time and they'd eventually had a one-night stand at the Queen Vic. At a nearby canal, away from the prying eyes of Walford, Den promises to provide financial support for his child and keep its paternity a secret.

Michelle spends the early part of 1986 struggling with the hardships of being a pregnant teenager. Restricted from the youthful pursuits of her peers she begins to get depressed. She turns to kind-hearted barman George "Lofty" Holloway who eventually falls in love with her, proposing to her and offering to bring up her child as his own. Although she initially refuses, she eventually accepts. That May she gives birth to a daughter she names Vicki. As their wedding day nears, Michelle has second thoughts. Unable to get over Den, she realizes that she doesn't love Lofty. Den visits her moments before she's supposed to walk down the aisle, and their chat spurs her to jilt Lofty at the altar. But later that year she changes her mind and Lofty whisks her off for a secret wedding away from Walford.

Their marriage does not go smoothly. Michelle grows tired of Lofty, who pressues her to let him to adopt Vicki legally and also to have another baby. Michelle likes neither idea, but after an ill-fated attempt to elope with Den, she settles for an unhappy life with Lofty and ends 1987 with an unwanted pregnancy. Lofty is overjoyed and--against Michelle's wishes--tells all of Walford what he considers good news. Michelle retaliates by sneaking away for a private abortion funded by Den, who doesn't want Lofty to adopt Vicki. A devastated Lofty physically attacks Michelle in front of her family. The marriage dissolves and Lofty leaves Walford.

Michelle moves into a flat with Vicki and Sharon, paid for by Den who had got involved with local gangsters known as The Firm, leading to a spell in prison in 1988. After it becomes clear that the firm want Den dead, he escapes from custody but meets with Michelle by the canal one last time, not realising she is under surveillance. At the canal, Michelle tells Den that she will wait for him and that one day they will be together with Vicki as a family. After their emotional farewell, Den is shot by a man concealing a gun in a bunch of daffodils and falls into the canal.

With Den presumed dead, both Michelle and Sharon are distraught. When a witness says Den had been seen with a mystery woman the day of his death, Sharon wonders who it was, and Michelle decides to confess not only that she was the one but also that Den is Vicki's father. Feeling hurt, angry, deceived, and unable to accept Michelle's explanation, Sharon walks out wishing she had never been told. Later, Arthur accidentally overhears a conversation between Pauline and Michelle in which he discovers the truth about Vicki, and he reacts with fury. Michelle and Sharon remain estranged for months, until Vicki contracts meningitis late in the year and their shared worry brings them closer and they manage to patch things up.

In 1989 Michelle gets involved with another married man, computer salesman, Danny Whiting, who pretends to Michelle that his marriage is over, while trying to reconcile with his wife. In 1991 Michelle moves in with Rachel Kominski, a lecturer who persuades Michelle to resume her studies and enroll at University. Michelle and Rachel become inseparable, and rumours about their sexuality prompt Michelle to embark on a relationship with Clyde Tavernier, a fellow single parent. Some of the Albert Square residents, including Arthur, view their interracial relationship with disdain. Later that year Clyde is falsely accused of murdering publican Eddie Royle. With the police closing in, Clyde decides to flee the country with his son Kofi, and Michelle decides to take Vicki and go with him. Their getaway fails and Clyde is imprisoned. He is freed 3 months later, but in late 1992 he catches Michelle in bed with fellow student Jack Woodman.

Michelle gets shot by madman Dougie Briggs (April 1994).

Early in 1993, Jack turns up in Walford claiming he and Michelle are meant to be together. When she rejects his constant advances, he behaves erratically: he convinces Pauline that he is dating Michelle and steals her unwashed knickers, he makes threatening phone calls, and he injures himself to gain her sympathy. Michelle turns to Phil Mitchell for help with handling him, and Jack disappears while they're finding out from his parents that he is mentally unstable. In March, Vicki is abducted from her playgroup and Jack becomes the prime suspect of her kidnapping. A national police operation eventually finds Vicki in the clutches of an old woman named Audrey Whittingham and Michelle is reunited with her daughter.

Michelle has one clear enemy on the Square: Grant Mitchell, Sharon's abusive husband. In 1994 Michelle is shot by Dougie Briggs, a psychotic army friend of Grant's. Michelle survives, but she rethinks her life in Walford. In 1995 she plans to move to Scotland with her middle-aged boyfriend Geoff Barnes, her former University lecturer. They decide to marry, but Michelle has second thoughts and calls it off. After Sharon flees following the breakup of her marriage, Michelle and Grant have a heated argument about Grant's poor treatment of Sharon and the two end up sleeping together in The Vic. Michelle quickly regrets this, and when she discovers she's pregnant, she tells only her brother Mark that Grant is the father, and when she is offered a job in Alabama, she moves to America.

Seven months later, in May 1996, Arthur Fowler dies. Michelle is unable to travel back for the funeral as she gives birth off-screen to a son she names after Mark. It is later revealed that Michelle married and is living in Florida with Vicki, Mark Jr., and her new husband. When Pauline dies in December 2006, Michelle does not attend the funeral, but inherits her mother's life savings.

Creation

Michelle Fowler is one of the original 23 characters invented by the creators of EastEnders, Tony Holland and Julia Smith. Michelle is a member of the first family of EastEnders, the Beales and Fowlers, and Holland took the inspiration for some of the series' earliest characters from his own London family and background. Michelle's original character outline as written by Smith and Holland appeared in an abridged form in their book, EastEnders: The Inside Story.[1]

"Michelle has another year of schooling...Michelle is more on the straight and narrow...Unlike her brother, she gets the things she wants, by doing part-time work. "Saturday girl" at the local hairdressers, and two late shifts a week at a hamburger place. She's into Reggae." (page 55)[1]

Holland and Smith wanted the character to be feisty and emotionally strong. They had been introduced to the young actress Susan Tully when they attended an open evening at the Anna Scher Theatre School in North London. They were extremely impressed with her "natural and unaffected" acting abilities and felt she displayed hidden depths of emotion. Despite their interest, both Holland and Smith were hesitant about casting her because she was already widely known for playing the student Suzanne Ross in the children's television show Grange Hill. Nevertheless she was asked to audition for the role of Michelle and was informed of the intention to make the character a pregnant schoolgirl. Tully liked the story and liked the fact that the character was going to keep the baby, but what interested her most was the opportunity to allow the character to grow up on screen, something she was unable to do with her Grange Hill character. Although Julia Smith initially feared that Tully was too well-known to play the part, they eventually decided to use this fact to their advantage. Tully had a huge following from Grange Hill, and they felt that those fans would be likely to tune in to EastEnders, so she was offered the part.[1]

Development

Early in the series, the character of Michelle became central to the programme and was the focus of a controversial storyline involving her teenage pregnancy.[1] Press interest in the show escalated to "record levels" as journalists continuously tried to guess who had fathered her baby.[1] In whodunnit fashion, the audience had been kept in the dark as to the father's identity and were offered teasers implicating several Square residents.[1] The culprit was finally exposed in October 1985 on episode 66. Written by series co-creator/script editor Tony Holland and directed by co-creator/producer Julia Smith, it was considered to be a landmark episode in the show's history.[2] 4 possible suspects were seen leaving the Square in the episode's first half: Tony Carpenter, Ali Osman, Andy O'Brien, and Den Watts.[2] As Michelle waited by their rendezvous point, a car pulled up and the fluffy white legs of Roly the poodle bounded out of the car, revealing that the man who was meeting Michelle, the father of her baby, was Den Watts! The rest of the episode was one long scene of Den and Michelle discussing whether or not to keep the baby.[2]Until that time, that 15-minute scene was the longest ever done on a soap opera. Writer Colin Brake has suggested that this was a bold experiment for a series that had established a reputation, in its first 8 months, for being fast-moving and rapidly cut.[2] It relied on only 1 story and 2 actors to hold the audience for over half an episode. Tony Holland's handling of the awkward scene between a teenage girl and her best friend's father is considered one of the highlights of the programme's first year.[2] The finishing touch was the use of alternative end-title music, "Julia's Theme", a variation of the usual one which replaced the dramatic drum beats with a longer, gentler piano-solo introduction.[2]

Michelle as she appeared in 1985.

The following year Michelle and Lofty's church wedding was another target of press speculation before the episodes aired.[1] According to Holland and Smith, they wanted to know two things: the design of Michelle's dress, and whether she'd jilt Lofty at the altar.[1] The wedding was shot in a church in private grounds to which the press would not have access.[1] But the press still assembled in large numbers, and security people had to be hired to keep camerapeople away from the story acction. Huge lorries were parked in front of the church's entrance so nothing could be seen, and the cast arrived in disguise.[1] Finally strong lights were shone into the eyes of the journalists and photographers, making them angry, and they tried to gain access to the grounds by breaking the security barrier and telling the production team that they were extras needed inside the church.[1] The entire episode, written by David Ashton, was devoted to Lofty and Michelle's wedding day. Brake has said that at the time it was deemed one of the best cliffhangers of the series, with the episode ending as the bride arrives at the church door and hesitates.[2] The birth of Michelle and Den's daughter, and Michelle and Lofty's eventual marriage, helped to consolidate a fast-growing audience.[1] Accoding to Holland and Smith, "The young couple had come together under enormously difficult circumstances".[1] The subsequent storylines were built to keep the audience guessing about the future of their relationship. Had they married for the wrong reasons? Would the relationship survive? What would happen if Lofty wanted his own child?[1]

Michelle did become pregnant by Lofty, and in another controversial storyline she had an abortion behind Lofty's back in January 1988.[1] The episode, written by Tony McHale, was screened on the same day that a private member's bill was discussed in the House of Commons, which sought to reduce the number of weeks following conception in which an abortion can be carried out.[2]

An April 1989 two-hander episode in which Michelle confessed Vicki's paternity to her best friend Sharon Watts returned to a model established by the first Den-and-Angie solo episode, with revelations and major character changes to an important relationship. According to Brake, this episode was held in high regard by the programme's producers, directors, and writers and gave Susan Tully and Letitia Dean (Sharon) the chance to demonstrate how much they had grown as actresses during their 4 years on the show.[2]

Michelle went onto to feature in controversial storylines such as her daughter's kidnapping, a shooting, and a brief liaison with Grant Mitchell--her best friend's husband and her own archnemesis--which left her pregnant. This heralded one of the soap's best-kept secrets as Grant never discovered that Michelle had his child. Michelle remained central to the programme for 10 years and became one of the most popular characters of her time. She was written out of it in 1995 when Susan Tully decided to move on. Tully has since taken up directing, and has directed several episodes of EastEnders.

References

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Smith, Julia; Holland, Tony (1987). EastEnders - The Inside Story. Book Club Associates. ISBN 0-563-20601-2. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Brake, Colin (1995). EastEnders: The First 10 Years: A Celebration. BBC Books. ISBN 0-563-37057-2. 

External links


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