Every actor has to start somewhere, and some of our best-known soap stars actually began their screen careers on long lost kids’ TV shows that used to be must-see after school viewing.
EastEnders’ Letitia Dean, Robert Kazinsky and Kellie Blight, Corrie’s Georgia May Foote and Emmerdale’s Chris Bisson all earned their spurs on the small screen when they were very young.
They featured in popular children’s dramas like Grange Hill, T-Bag and Children’s Ward, with one even working alongside the infamous Basil Brush fox puppet.
While a lot of child actors grow up to pursue other careers after their initial taste of fame, this talented bunch have stood the test of time. Let’s take a look at where they began.
Glamorous EastEnders star Letitia Dean has played feisty blonde Sharon Mitchell, on and off, since the soap first hit our screens back in 1985, when she was 17.
By then the seasoned stage school youngster had already been performing professionally since the age of 12 and had cut her soap teeth with a part in Channel 4’s Brookside.
Londoner Letitia, 54, who studied at Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts and the prestigious Sylvia Young Theatre School made her professional debut at the age of 12, appearing on the West End stage as Pepper in the musical Annie. A talented singer, she also took the lead as Sandy in Grease.
She started popping up on TV when she was 13 and her first major part was as schoolgirl Lucinda Oliver in the children’s TV drama Grange Hill between 1983 and ‘84, followed by a stint playing Dawn in Channel 4’s Brookside.
Letitia struck gold when she was cast as the troubled adopted daughter of Queen Vic landlord and landlady Den and Angie Watts in EastEnders, a member of the resident teenage gang, alongside Ian Beale ( Adam Woodyatt) and fellow Grange Hill veteran Susan Tully (Michelle Fowler) and Paul J Medford (Kelvin Carpenter).
She’s had some incredible storylines, not least her love triangle with the Mitchell brothers, Grant (Ross Kemp) and Phil (Steve McFadden), which brought in some of the highest viewing figures the show had ever seen at more than 25 million.
One of the soap’s most popular stars, and a rare original cast member, Letitia has quit and returned to Albert Square several times over the years, appearing in TV dramas, as well as wowing audiences in Strictly Come Dancing, but she’s now been back as an EastEnders regular since 2012.
Robert Kazinsky, 38, has made his name as the EastEnders hardman Sean Slater, but he first came to our screens in a very different guise in the CBBC Basil Brush Show back in 2005, playing the character Sven Garley.
Born Robert Appleby in Sussex, he trained at the Guildford School of Acting and then adopted his grandfather’s middle name, Kazinsky, for his professional career.
He was a regular in Albert Square from 2006 to 2009, and now lives in America where he’s been pursuing a film career. Robert has returned to the soap to reprise the Sean Slater character several times since. The last time was a surprise appearance in April 2022 in a FaceTime call with his mother, Jean (Gillian Wright).
Another spirited EastEnders star with a history of childhood acting success is Kellie Bright, aka Queen Vic landlady Linda Carter, who has been a regular on the square since 2013.
Mother-of-three Kellie, 45, actually made a one-off appearance in the soap as a bridesmaid back in 1986, following her training at Sylvia Young. At the time she was already well on her way as a professional actor, playing the role of Sally Simpkins in the children’s ITV show T-Bag. The series, which ran for seven years from 1985, was all about the young witch character T-Bag and her sister T-Shirt.
Her other early TV credits include Maid Marian and Her Merry Men, and for six years in the 1990s she played Joanna Burrows in the popular ITV sitcom The Upper Hand, daughter of single dad Charlie (Joe McGann) who takes a job as a housekeeper.
A versatile, award-winning actor, Kellie breezed through a wide variety of work, including Bad Girls, Rock and Chips and BBC radio soap The Archers (as Kate Madikane) before landing her EastEnders role.
In true soap style – and obligatory for any Queen Vic landlady – it’s been an emotional rollercoaster ride on screen for Kellie’s character Linda, who came to Walford with her husband Mick (Danny Dyer) and children Nancy, John and Lee.
She has been raped by Mick’s brother, come to terms with her son being diagnosed autistic, suffered in silence while fighting cervical cancer, become alcoholic and faced the break-up of her marriage following an affair.
In between smashing tough storylines, Kellie found time to follow Letitia’s footsteps and take on the Strictly Come Dancing challenge, partnering with professional Kevin Clifton to reach the finals in 2015.
Everyone knows actor Chris Bisson, 46, for his role as Jai Sharma in Emmerdale since 2009, and before that as Vikram Desai in Coronation Street from 1999-2002.
Manchester born Chris made his small screen debut in 1990 playing the popular JJ in Granada TV’s drama Children’s Ward which followed the journeys of young patients and staff members at the South Park Hospital.
Before soap stardom beckoned, Chris’s talent had already earned him film roles as Saleem Khan in East is East and Kash Karib in Shameless, plus appearances in Prime Suspect and Holby City. He also took the I’m A Celebrity Challenge back in 2003, exiting in the second round.
Georgia May Foote
Grange Hill has proved itself an exceptional training ground for young soap stars. Georgia May Foote, 31, best known as Katy Armstrong in ITV’s Coronation Street, found her feet on TV in the popular school drama, playing Alison Simmonds between 2005 and 2008.
Other early small screen appearances included Life on Mars, Doctors, Casualty, Heartbeat and Emmerdale before the actress and model secured her five-year stint in Weatherfield from 2010 to 2015.
After leaving the soap opera in 2015, she entered the Strictly Come Dancing challenge and was runner-up in that year’s show. The Katy Armstrong character was written out of Corrie forever when she was reported to have died in a car accident in Portugal where she’d started a new life.
Always glamorous, Georgie was twice nominated as Sexiest female in the British Soap Awards 2013 and 2014, losing out to Michelle Keegan, who played Coronation Street’s Tina McIntyre.