8 soap recasts that didn't work out, from EastEnders' Michelle to Hollyoaks' Holly

As soap fans, we’re no strangers to our favourite characters occasionally getting a new face – it’s just part and parcel of investing so much time into long-running TV shows.

Viewers are surprisingly adaptable when a new actor takes over a character we’ve grown to know and love – meaning most soap recasts are, on the whole, a success. Sometimes we even grow to love the new version of our favourite character more. Shocking, we know!

But there are also times when recasting a character, for whatever reason, ends in disaster. Either the new cast member just doesn’t gel like their predecessor did, the new actor isn’t right for the role, or the replacement is just so completely different to the original one that viewers hate it.

Here are eight Soapland recasts that left fans cold…

1. Michelle Fowler (EastEnders)

When EastEnders bosses announced they would be bringing back the role of Michelle Fowler, fans rejoiced – until they realised that Susan Tully wouldn’t be making a Walford comeback, but rather a brand new actress would play the much-loved character.

To be fair, with such big boots to fill, Jenna Russell didn’t stand much of a chance from the offset. Add in the fact that storylines like Michelle’s fling with her student Preston were slightly questionable, the return of such an iconic character wasn’t quite what we’d hoped it would be. As a result, it was no great surprise when it was announced that Michelle would be leaving again after just a year.

Having said that, we still love the dynamic between Michelle and best mate Sharon Mitchell – no amount of face swapping could ruin their bonding over a bottle of pinot or two!

2. Libby Kennedy (Neighbours)

This is a soap recast with a bit of a difference, because it was only ever going to be temporary. When Kym Valentine collapsed on a flight home from New York and was later diagnosed with pneumonia, she was ordered to take immediate leave from filming Neighbours in order to recover. But that left the soap bosses with a huge dilemma, because Libby was in the middle of some big storylines and couldn’t just be written out.

The decision to bring in Michala Banas was slightly controversial, and fans of course weren’t happy. Fortunately, she was only there for five weeks before the Libby we knew and loved returned to Ramsay Street and all was right with the world once again.

3. Tommy Duckworth (Coronation Street)

When Chris Fountain of Hollyoaks fame joined the cast of Coronation Street in 2011, we had high hopes for the new face of Tommy Duckworth, who’d previously been played by child actors Darryl Edwards and Joseph Aston.

Chris was thrilled to be cast as the grandson of the late Jack and Vera and son of Terry Duckworth, telling us: “I’m delighted to be joining Coronation Street, especially as I’m playing a Duckworth. I’m looking forward to upholding one of the most celebrated names in soap. I can’t wait to start filming.”

While his time on the cobbles seemed to be a hit with fans, it all ended badly when Chris left the show under a cloud of shame in 2013 when he shared some very inappropriate videos on YouTube.

Considering Corrie is a family show, bosses were left with no choice but to let Chris go with immediate effect after his rap videos contained lyrics advocating violence towards women.

4. VJ Patterson (Home and Away)

Summer Bay fans were outraged when Leah Patterson-Baker’s son was recast yet again in 2014, but this time the controversy was all down to the fact that VJ seemed to age about 10 years between recasting.

An astonishing 11 actors had played the role of VJ – but fans loved the bond that Felix Dean clearly had with Ada Nicodemou, who played his on-screen mum, while he was on the show from 2007 until 2014.

But producers decided they wanted VJ to have a more grown up look – and they certainly achieved that! Matthew Little was cast in the role in 2014, with a gap of only a few months between him and Felix. Matthew did slowly win fans over before he left last year, but some viewers never did accept the recast.

5. Johnny Carter (EastEnders)

When the Carters arrived in Albert Square in 2013, we were excited to see what their youngest son Johnny would get up to. But despite some memorable moments like coming out as gay to his family, or getting shot by a pensioner, it feels like we’ve never really got to know what makes Johnny tick.

First the role was played by Sam Strike, who left after only one year to pursue other acting roles. But then just 14 months later, the BBC announced that Ted Reilly would be taking over the part of Linda Carter’s ‘sausage’.

But even with a new actor, fans still felt there was something missing for the character. Perhaps the problem with Johnny was a lack of storylines rather than a reflection on the actor, however.

6. Declan Napier (Neighbours)

There was uproar amongst Neighbours fans when James Sorenson left the role of Ramsay Street’s Declan Napier in 2010. Not only was he hugely popular, but over the three years he’d been on our screens, he’d had some of the best storylines that Neighbours had shown in a long time. From getting his teenage girlfriend pregnant, to her dying not long after the baby’s birth, leaving him as a single dad – it was all go in Declan’s life!

When James left the show to build a career outside of acting, Neighbours bosses decided the character of Declan was too good to let go and so the decision was made to recast.

When Erin Mullally joined the cast as the new face of Declan, fans weren’t happy as they missed Jaes too much and the character was written out only a year later.

7. Holly Cunningham (Hollyoaks)

Holly is one of the most recast characters in Soapland, but while current actress Amanda Clapham is making a huge success of the role, that hasn’t always been the case. Before Amanda joined the soap in 2013, Wallis Day was cast as Holly – leaving fans feeling uneasy because she was clearly too old for the role.

Stephanie Waring, who plays Holly’s mum Cindy, told Digital Spy at the time of Wallis’s casting: “Wallis is actually older than Holly, so I’m not happy about having an 18-year-old daughter, because I don’t look old enough!

“But obviously Holly is 14, so she’s a lot younger than Wallis. I was 18 when I was playing Cindy as 15, so it’s the same sort of scenario. Wallis reminds me of me, but she’s a lot more beautiful than I was!”

8. Vicki Fowler (EastEnders)

Despite the fact that fans now look back fondly on the time Vicki Fowler was brought back to Albert Square in 2003 played by actress Scarlett Johnson, at the time her reception wasn’t great.

Having spent her time away from the Square across the pond, Vicki came back to Walford with a questionable American accent that was criticised by press and fans alike, mainly because it seemed to disappear overnight.

The soap’s attempt to bring Vicki back fell flat and Scarlett left after just one year. When Michelle returned to the Square last year, fans were keen to see Vicki follow in her footsteps, apparently forgetting the flop of her last return. Perhaps absence does make the heart grow fonder after all?

Digital Spy Soap Scoop video – hit play below for all the latest EastEnders spoilers, as Vincent turns traitor and Michelle faces false allegations.

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