HomeEastenders8 of Soapland's biggest emergency recastings

8 of Soapland’s biggest emergency recastings

While recasting is a typical occurrence in Soapland, it’s less common to see characters switch heads in a hurry. We look back at some of the most notable emergency recastings in this article.

1. Libby Kennedy (Neighbours)

In 2008, Neighbours favourite Kym Valentine was stricken sick by pneumonia and had a collapsed lung while on a journey from New York to Melbourne.

Kym was too sick to return to work, but Neighbours management opted to avoid disruption to scripts by replacing her for a few weeks. Michala Banas, who played Libby on McLeod’s Daughters, stepped in while Kym recovered.

Neighbours, never one to take itself too seriously, picked the ideal moment to return to Kym. When Libby was involved in a rafting accident, she submerged as Michala and resurfaced as Kym.

With an online comedy about “the two Libbys,” the programme poked light of the issue.

2. Hayley Lawson (Home and Away)

Hayley Lawson was one of the main characters on Home and Away from 1998 to 2005, however her final two months on television were a touch unusual for many viewers.

Hayley was played by Rebecca Cartwright for seven years, however in mid-2005, Bec shocked the Australian soap industry by announcing her departure for personal reasons. Hayley’s character was “an crucial element” of the soap’s plots, thus the show’s producers decided to replace her rather than write her off right away.

Ella Scott Lynch stepped into Hayley’s shoes for a two-month stay to help bring the storey to a close and give the character a dignified send-off.

3. Holly Cunningham (Hollyoaks)

Holly has been performed by five different actors since her debut in 1997, making her one of the most recast characters in Soapland. After only a year on the programme, Wallis Day – nicknamed Holly #4 – made the unexpected choice to leave.

Because the producers of Hollyoaks didn’t want to see Cindy’s kid go, Amanda Clapham was cast in the role.

Bryan Kirkwood, executive producer of Hollyoaks, told us at the time: “We are saddened by Wallis’ departure, but we accept her decision. We remade Holly because I thought she was too terrific a character to lose.”

Cindy’s first scene with the new Holly saw her ask her daughter if she’d been busy “playing her videos,” which was a cheeky take on the change.

This was a homage to Tracy Barlow from Corrie, who remained upstairs for a long period playing cassettes in the mid-1980s when original actress Christabel Finch’s family relocated without alerting the producers.

4. Ellis Chapman (Emmerdale)

After an altercation with Hollyoaks cast member Jamie Lomas at the TV Choice Awards, Emmerdale actor Asan N’jie was fired from the show in September 2019. Ellis didn’t receive an exit scene since the decision was made with immediate effect.

Ellis accepted a new job in Dubai in October 2019 and left off-camera, with his brother Billy announcing his decision on-screen. Billy firmly stated that Ellis would be gone for only a few weeks, but fans were unaware that Emmerdale executives were already preparing to bring Ellis back.

Emmerdale confirmed that Aaron Anthony will be taking up the part of Ellis less than a month later, and he was seen arriving from Dubai in time for Christmas.

5. Cheryl Stark (Neighbours)

Caroline Gillmer, who played Cheryl Stark on Neighbours, became unwell in 1995, during a period when her character was extensively embroiled in continuing plots. Rather than rewrites, the show’s producers enlisted former Prisoner: Cell Block H actor Colette Mann to fill in for Cheryl for eight weeks.

In a 2013 interview with Digital Spy, Colette reflected on the behind-the-scenes pandemonium, saying, “I was notified on the Friday that I was beginning on the Monday.”

“As we were filming, the various characters in the sequences were brought in, and someone on the sideline introduced them, explained our relationship, and handed me my lines. For the first two weeks, it was like that. But I believe I improved with time.”

Colette was finally returned for her kindness by Neighbours, who created her own character, Sheila Canning, in 2012. She is still a part of the show’s regular cast.

6. Declan Napier (Neighbours)

Neighbours executives unveiled yet another shocking switcheroo in early 2010. Declan Napier had been played by James Sorensen for three years, but he had decided to quit the programme to pursue a career in the army.

Declan was popular with viewers, and the show’s producers had a lot of significant stories planned for him, so they opted not to cut their losses and hired Erin Mullally to take his place.

James Sorensen promised a low-key recast to Holy Soap at the time: “[It’ll be] nothing over the top.” One day I’m Declan, and the next I’m Erin. It’s quite straightforward.

“That’s how it works; I can’t keep going, so Erin enters and takes over the baton. When there is a straightforward change-over, I believe it is simpler for the audience to accept.”

Until 2011, Erin remained in the role of Declan.

7. Clare Devine (Hollyoaks)

Gemma Bissix is a Hollyoaks legend for her portrayal of the delectably evil Clare Devine, but she wasn’t the first actress to take on the role.

Samantha Rowley portrayed Clare in late 2005 and early 2006. When Bryan Kirkwood took over as Hollyoaks producer in 2006, he made an immediate impact by deciding to recast the character.

Gemma was the first cast member to be employed by Bryan when he took on the top job. Bryan had determined that he wanted a fresh actress on board to take Clare in a new path because she was such an important element of his plans.

“[Samantha] came from a model show of some kind, and that’s when Hollyoaks was chastised for bringing in people who weren’t acting,” Gemma recalled on the Hollyoaks podcast Dog In The Pond. That’s when Hollyoaks was demoted, and it was all about appearances.

“When Bryan arrived, he took it upon himself – he was like Pippa from Home and Away.” She went upstairs with Max one night, and I came down the next morning. I believe they liked the attention it received – it had an impact.”

8. Glenda Mitchell (EastEnders)

Here’s a rare example of a soap recast that was never shown on screen. EastEnders bosses announced Glenda Mitchell’s casting in October 2009, with Jill Gascoine hired to play her.

Jill, on the other hand, stepped down from the role a few days later, claiming that she “lacked the right experience to film such a big continuing drama.”

“I was so looking forward to playing Glenda,” Jill said at the time, “but having spent the last 15 years working in America – largely acting in single dramas and writing fiction – I felt, upon arrival, that I lacked the right experience to film such a big continuing drama.”

“I have a lot of respect for EastEnders and the cast, so I didn’t want to disappoint them or the rest of the cast.”

Glenda was played by Glynis Barber, and she was the only one to appear on screen.

Glynis told Digital Spy at the time, “Glenda is very important in the Mitchell saga, and because I had to come in on such short notice, I was on set shooting 38 pages of dialogue within 24 hours of meeting them.”

“I rushed in, they briefed me on Glenda’s backstory, and I didn’t even have time to read all of the scripts before we began filming. I didn’t even know the entire plot, so I filmed the character on a need-to-know basis for the first week.”


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