EastEnders kids who got replaced – Hollywood star, cash woes and gutted over axe

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EastEnders has made a bit of a habit out of switching its younger actors.

The BBC One soap has produced a number of stars over the years, including X-Men's Ben Hardy, who played one of the many iterations of Peter Beale.

In June this year, another recasting decision was made as Sonny Kendall replaced Shay Crotty and became the fourth actor to play Kat Slater's eldest son, Tommy Moon.

Other soap characters to have been portrayed by a number of youngsters include Lucy Beale, Lauren Branning, Ben Mitchell, Martin Fowler and Steven Beale.

In spite of being replaced, a number of the soap's child actors have gone on to remain in the limelight.

Lucy Beale – Melissa Suffield

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Ian Beale's eldest daughter Lucy was originally played by Melissa Suffield from 2004 – 2010.

She later claimed to have been axed from the role aged 17 for her wayward behaviour off-screen, telling The Mirror: "They said they were letting me go, and that I was out of control.

"They said I had the show's reputation to uphold and there were standards which I wasn't meeting.

"It wasn't technically a sacking but they didn't renew my contract.

"The feeling was that, 'We think you need help – and need to help yourself'."

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Following her release from the soap, Melissa starred in a few episodes of Casualty in 2012.

Last year, the 28-year-old gave birth to her first child River Jefferson Carter-Robinson.

She has since accumulated quite the Instagram following after proudly displaying her post-baby figure and encouraging other women to feel proud of their lumps and bumps.

After departing EastEnders, Melissa was replaced by actress Hetti Bywater.

Lucy Beale – Hetti Bywater

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Hetti joined EastEnders in 2012.

The 27-year-old actress played Lucy for three years until she was memorably killed off in 2014.

Lucy's death sparked a major whodunnit storyline, with her murderer eventually unmasked as her half-brother Bobby Beale in the soap's 30th anniversary episode.

Following her exit, Hetti claimed to have "hated" the character.

She said during a fan Q&A on Instagram: "I'm glad Bobby killed Lucy too, I hated her."

Lauren Branning – Madeline Duggan

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Before Jacqueline Jossa took over the role in 2010, Lauren Branning was played by child actor Madeline Duggan.

Madeline joined EastEnders as the eldest daughter of Max (Jake Wood) and Tanya Branning (Jo Joyner) in 2006.

Following her exit from the show, Madeline went on to appear in Silent Witness, The Tunnel and TV miniseries The Smoke.

Her last acting credit was in 2019.

Last year, the 27-year-old actress revealed she was "very glad" to have been replaced as Lauren on the BBC One soap.

Madeline said on Twitter: "I understand it more now lol.

"I looked like a baby in that ep and I was tiny and didn’t grow (still only 5’2) so I get that they wanted someone older to play different story lines & I'm very glad it happened.

“I was very young and it give (sic) me options to do other things and get an American agent and enjoy some teenage life without being on screen lol worked out for the best.”

Ben Mitchell – Charlie Jones

Ben Mitchell was originally played by Matthew Silver.

The son of Phil Mitchell (Steve McFadden) and Kathy Beale (Gillian Taylforth), Silver portrayed the role from 1996 – 1998, before being replaced by Morgan Whittle in 1999.

Whittle portrayed the character until 2001, when Ben left Walford alongside his mother Kathy to begin a new life abroad.

Ben returned to Albert Square in 2006 after the supposed death of Kathy, with the role recast and given to Charlie Jones.

Charlie saw Ben through a number of dark storylines, including his abuse by evil step-mother, Stella Crawford (Sophie Thompson).

He eventually left the soap in 2010 after Ben was sent to a juvenile detention centre for beating Jordan Johnson (Michael-Joel David Stuart) over the head with a spanner.

Said to be distraught and needing to be consoled after being axed at aged 13, a EastEnders spokesperson said: "It's common practice in continuing drama to recast actors employed as children to take on more challenging adult storylines."

The 25-year-old has continued to act and recently appeared in the BBC adaptation of Noughts and Crosses.

Ben Mitchell – Joshua Pascoe

Joshua Pascoe took over the role of Ben Mitchell in December 2010.

He played the role for two years until 2012, when it's believed he was axed from the series after reportedly being arrested for an alleged sex assault.

It's believed no charges were brought against Joshua.

The young actor's iteration of the character left the Square when he was arrested and charged with the manslaughter of Heather Trott (Cheryl Fergison).

Ben Mitchell – Harry Reid

Harry Reid joined EastEnders in 2014 as yet another iteration of Ben Mitchell.

He was a fan favourite until being shockingly recast and replaced by Waterloo Road star and current Ben Michell actor Max Bowden, as the soap allegedly wanted to take the character in a 'fresh direction'.

Harry filmed his final scenes as Ben in late 2017 and exited the soap in 2018.

Speaking about his exit, he previously told Digital Spy: "They told me that they were going to recast him about a week before it was announced.

"To be honest, I was shocked because I didn't expect that they were going to recast the role. I was told that they weren't going to recast."

He added: "It is a shame and it is frustrating because I still love the character of Ben.

"For me he's one of the most exciting characters to play on the Square. Max has landed a great part and I wish him the best of luck, because I'm sure he'll have a lot of fun with it."

The 29-year-old hasn't acted on television since.

Tommy Moon – Shay Crotty

Kat and Michael Moon's secret love child Tommy Moon has been played by four different actors since his birth in 2010.

In June this year, Shay Crotty revealed he was being replaced in the role after serving as the character for more than three years.

He wrote on Instagram: "Thank you @bbceastenders for having me and making me part of the team!!

"I've had the best years with you, I've learnt so much and had the best time both on and off set with the best family."

Tommy has since been portrayed by child actor, Sonny Kendall.

He is currently involved in a juicy storyline with the returning soap legend Janine Butcher (Charlie Brooks).

Last month, Tommy's online friend was revealed to be his secret half-sister and Janine's daughter, Scarlett.

Peter Beale – Thomas Law

Introduced in 1993, Lucy's twin brother Peter Beale was played by a number of actors in his early life.

From 1993 – 1996, he was portrayed by Francis Brittin-Snell.

In 1997, the role was recast and Peter was played by Alex Stephens.

Joseph Shade took over as the youngster in 1998, playing the role until 2004 where he was replaced by James Martin for the next two years.

In 2006, Thomas Law joined the cast.

The young actor was involved in a number of storylines, including Peter's first romance with Lauren Branning.

He was written out of the soap in 2010 alongside Lucy actress Melissa Suffield, as the twins went to live with their grandmother.

Despite claiming to have been told by soap bosses that the 'door was being left open', Peter was recast in 2013 when Ben Hardy joined the soap.

28-year-old Thomas has continued to act. Earlier this year, he appeared as DC Eddie Martin in the second season of ITV drama The Bay.

Peter Beale – Ben Hardy

Ben Hardy took over as Peter Beale in 2013.

The actor portrayed the character through the who killed Lucy mystery, before exiting Albert Square for New Zealand in 2015 when Ben decided to quit the soap.

On his decision to quit EastEnders, Ben told talkRADIO in 2019: "The problem with being in it for so long was that I found myself getting a little bit complacent.

"I started to feel myself getting lazy as an actor. I needed to give myself a kick up the a**e and get out there."

Since leaving EastEnders, Ben has ironed out a Hollywood career.

In 2016, he was cast as Angel in X-Men: Apocalypse and in 2018, he played Walter Hartright in the BBC adaptation of The Woman in White.

He has also starred in Hollywood films including 6 Underground and Bohemian Rhapsody.

He will star alongside Gugu Mbatha Raw and David Oyelowo in forthcoming TV thriller, The Girl Before.

Martin Fowler – James Alexandrou

Martin Fowler was portrayed by actor Jon Peyton Price from 1985 – 1996.

He was then recast, with Price being replaced by actor James Alexandrou as they looked to mature the character.

Alexandrou portrayed the character through a number of dramatic storylines including having a baby with Sonia (Natalie Cassidy) and killing Jamie Mitchell (Jack Ryder) in a car crash.

He left the soap in 2007, after deciding to explore other opportunities.

He said at the time: "I've decided to leave the show to experience other aspects of my industry..

"Having turned 21, I felt it was a good time to leave. I owe everything to the show and would love to come back one day – that's if EastEnders would have me."

Despite his words, Alexandrou's role was recast.

He has since appeared in Silent Witness and Casualty.

Martin is now played by James Bye, who has played the character since 2014.

Steven Beale – Aaron Sidwell

Steven Beale was murdered in 2017.

During his time on the show, the character was played by four different actors.

With Edward Farrell, Stuart Stevens and Edward Savage portraying Steven in his younger years, Aaron Sidwell took over the role in 2017.

He was rumoured to have exited the show before his contract came to an end, sparking reports of an issue between him and producers or the show's storylines.

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Aaron later put those rumours to bed.

He previously tweeted a statement, part of which read: "There have been some incorrect reports about me for some time now. Regardless of what you've read or believe I didn't sign a year long contract back in March. I signed 6 months.

"A decision both I and my representation were happy about as it gave us the chance to continue working on other opportunities.

"Whilst my storyline has been incredibly challenging given my personal situation this has not lead (sic) to me quitting the show in protest."

He has since appeared as Fiyero in the stage musical Wicked and in a few episodes of Doctors.

However, he recently revealed he had fallen on hard times during the pandemic, writing: "I could, quite seriously, earn £0 in 12 months. #SelfEmployed #FallenThroughTheCracks #FatherOfTwo #AlwaysPaidTax (sic)."

EastEnders airs Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday on BBC One

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