We’ve already seen Cindy in her new life in France, where she’s been living under witness protection along with Ian (Adam Woodyatt) and Peter (Thomas Law). But what we’ve really waited for is to see her set foot in Walford again and reconnect with old acquaintances like mother-in-law Kathy Beale (Gillian Taylforth) and Phil Mitchell (Steve McFadden).
There’s also set to be huge emotion when Cindy is reunited with her daughters, Gina (Francesca Henry) and Anna (Molly Rainford), who she had to leave without explanation many years ago. And of course there’s her former partner and the girls’ dad, George (Colin Salmon). How will that reunion go?
Michelle Collins revealed that she had a few reservations about returning, but they were quickly overcome when she heard what was in store for her character.
‘Initially, I was like, “Hmm, I don’t know…”,’ she told us. ‘And then when I met Chris [Clenshaw] – I’dheard that this new producer was reallyfantastic and everyone was saying “Oh, he’s great” and everything – and I met him and when he showed us the storyline on his laptop, [my agent and I] were both really taken aback. I just thought “Wow. If they can make it work, then maybe yes!” And so, a year down the line, here I am!’
Michelle felt that Cindy’s return had to be well handled so that viewers would believe in it and be prepared to invest in the character again.
‘I didn’t want to just come back for a week, because it wouldn’t be worth the while. And it had to be handled well for people to believe in it, in that character, I think. I think it was about time, and it felt like the right point in my life for it to happen,’ she said.
Cindy Beale first arrived in Albert Square in 1988 when Michelle was only 26 years old. Prior to that she was filming the BBC play Pressures with Tony Holland, one of EastEnders’ original writers who co-created the show with Julia Smith. He thought she would be perfect for EastEnders.
‘I got an audition and I went to meet Julia,’ Michelle recalled. ‘It was only for 11 episodes, and I thought the character was called Corinne and the producer was called Cindy, but it was the other way around! The character was called Cindy and the producer was called Corinne Hollingsworth. I don’t think she was too happy when I called her Cindy!’
Despite this unpromising start, Michelle got the part and went on to play the iconic role for most of the 1990s.
But Michelle told us it wasn’t the first time she’d gone for a part at EastEnders – she’d first auditioned for a role that turned out to be equally iconic, but in the hands of another actress.
‘Interestingly enough, I originally went up for the part of Punk Mary when the show was called E8. And I didn’t get that, obviously,’ she said.
Linda Davidson eventually got the role of teenage mum Mary Smith, instantly recognisable because of her punk style. Linda reprised her role for Dot Cotton’s funeral last October.
EastEnders’ history would have been entirely different if Michelle had got the first part she went for, but as she went on to play one of the most iconic characters in Walford history everything worked out for the best. And Michelle is looking forward to seeing what the future has in store for Cindy Beale.
‘She’s kind of a bit older and wiser… I don’t know about the wiser bit,’ the actress teased. ‘I suppose a little bit like I am, in a sense. All the experience you gain in life, that’s going to make you a different person. And the things that she’s been through. She’s certainly no walk over! I’d say she’s very emotional because of everything she’s been through, and I can’t say too much that’s happened but there’s a lot of emotional stuff going on there, and she is really challenged by things that happen.’
She does make one promise that will please fans, too: ‘You can definitely expect bits of the old Cindy to come back!
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