Martin Fowler is the longest-serving character in the history of EastEnders, as the character was played by different actors for the past 30 years.
When the character was first introduced in 1985, he was played by actor Jon Peyton-Price until 1996 when James took over.
And from 1996, James Alexandrou took up the role on BBC’s flagship soap opera.
Before storywriters decided to send the character off travelling with his on-screen wife Sonia, he appeared in 707 episodes of the soap.
Speaking after his departure from the show in 2007, James said: “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.”
But the character did make a return to EastEnders in 2014, and when he did so, the whole of Walford seemed obvious to the fact that he had returned with a brand new face.
Taking up the reins of the character, it was James Bye that resumed the EastEnders storyline, as the character’s relationship with Stacey Slater blossomed.
Since leaving the show, James Alexandrou has yet to return to Albert Square, but he has remained in the industry, and is working as hard as ever.
Regularly updating his social media, James’ fans are often surprised at his changing appearance as he takes on various acting roles.
From bright ginger locks to a lush head of blonde curls, James’ various roles have seen him transform over the years.
The 31-year-old has appeared in shows such as Silent Witness and Casualty.
He also impressed audiences with his theatrical ability and his accomplishments with his turn as Romeo in the Globe Theatre’s production of Romeo and Juliet.
But in recent months, James’ activity has been more centred on behind the camera and the production side of television.
Last year he worked as a director for TV shorts such as Within Her Eyes and One More.
But when Martin Fowler made a return to EastEnders, James was in the running to make a return also, but he has since stated that it wasn’t the right time for him, saying that returning to the role that he’d played since 1996 would be “like someone asking you to go back to school”.
When James spoke to the Nottingham Post, he said: “They were talking for a while about me going back. They made it very clear that they were bringing the character back and they would really like me to go back but it just wasn’t right for me at the time.”
But that’s not to say that he doesn’t have very fond memories of his time playing Martin Fowler on EastEnders, saying: “It’s the place where I spent 10 years of my formative years.
“The attraction in it would be to see some of my old mates and have a bit of nostalgia, and that wasn’t enough at the time to do it.”
James Alexandrou isn’t the only actor that has played a member of the Fowler family that is almost unrecognisable these days. Susan Tully, who played Michelle Fowler, also looks worlds apart from how she looked when she was on the streets of Albert Square.
Susan Tully was first hit our screens as Michelle Fowler where it all began for Eastenders, on the first episode all the way back in 1985. Much like her on-screen brother, Tully’s career in front of the camera began at an early age, when she hosted the live television children’s programme, Our Show, at the age of nine.
She later went on to work with Bill Oddie on The Saturday Banana.
She was cast in the children’s drama Grange Hill as the character Suzanne Ross for three years from 1981 to 1984. At sixteen, Tully had left Grange Hill and was about to go to Sixth Form College when her next big acting break came.
She was cast as Michelle Fowler in a new programme called Eastenders in 1985, and was involved in memorable storylines such as falling pregnant at the age of sixteen after having an affair with 39-year old Den Watts.
However, after a ten year stay on the show, Tully left the show when her character decided to move to Alabama after falling pregnant with Grant Mitchell’s child.
In December 2016, EastEnders recast the role of Michelle Fowler to actress Jenna Russell after Tully repeatedly turned down offers to return.
According to What’s on TV, The show’s executive producer, Sean O’Connor has said that Tully gave her blessing for the recast to take place.
Tully, now 49 and unrecognisable from her wavy-brown days on Eastenders, left acting behind in the late 90s to take up directing.
She began directing for television and has since carved herself out a very respectable CV at the helm of shows such as London’s Burning, 55 Degrees North and a directorial return to Eastenders in 2004.
She was also a director for the Bill from 1999 to 2004 and in the years since then she has directed shows such as Funland, Secret Diary of a Call Girl, Lark Rise to Candleford, Silent Witness, Stella, Good Cop and Getting On.
It seems that Susan Tully, who directs under the name “Sue Tully”, has managed to carve out a second career for herself behind the camera, and much like her on-screen sibling Tony Carty, she has spent her entire life in the entertainment industry, with hopefully many more a contribution to come.