EastEnders’ Danniella Westbrook says the BBC made the right decision when they recast her with Kim Medcalf amid drug battle… and that she thanked the actress for ‘keeping Sam Mitchell alive’
Ex-EastEnders actress Danniella Westbrook has spoken candidly about her role on the soap being recast with another actress.
The soap star, 47, appeared on the BBC series as Samantha Mitchell, on-screen daughter of the late Barbara Windsor, making her debut on in 1990 at the age of 16.
She left three years later but returned in 1996; however, her time was cut short when her off-screen behaviour – struggles with drug abuse – got her sacked.
Replaced: Ex-EastEnders actress Danniella Westbrook has spoken candidly about her role Samantha Mitchell on the soap being recast with another actress
She returned again shortly after, but was axed again in 2000 after further disruptive behaviour, admitting she blew £100k on cocaine at the time.
The part was recast between 2002 and 2005, and played by Kim Medcalf.
Talking about this on podcast Soap From The Box on Sunday, Danniella revealed what went on during discussions with the EastEnders bosses at the time
‘I said: “Listen, I just can’t do it!” They said: “Listen, given your track record, we can’t really ask you back, so we are already recasting!”‘ she recounted. ‘I said: “Well, I wouldn’t be able to do it!”
Replacement: The part was recast between 2002 and 2005, and played by Kim Medcalf
‘They said: “Well that’s a blessing, because we were dreading making the phone call. We’re not offering you it, because you’ve been so ill the last few times you’ve come back. We do want to look after your safety first. How do you feel about it?”
‘I said: “Do you know what? You’ve just taken the decision out of my hands and I feel I can put that to bed. Maybe one day, if anything ever comes around, I hope we can all sit down and have dinner and have a lovely time about it, and look at the lovely memories!”‘
Danniella had also recently had a baby at the time.
She returned to the role again, however, making a comeback in 2009 until 2010.
Back in the day: Danniella has suffered a public battle with substance abuse, and struggled to secure acting work ever since her turbulent time while working on the BBC soap as Samantha Mitchell, on-screen daughter of the late Barbara Windsor
At the same time, she met her replacement, Kim, for the first time while both attending the TRIC Awards in London.
‘I had never seen [Kim] before, so I went up to her on the red carpet and I said: “Kim, I just wanted to say well done on the part. I know you took a lot of backlash and everything for stepping in, but you did a fantastic job.
‘”You’re a very talented actress and thank you for keeping Sam alive, keeping her going!” She was a little bit taken aback and said: “Thank you so much.”
Breadline: Ex-EastEnders actress Danniella Westbrook has admitted she was turned down for a job at Aldi, because of her fame
‘EastEnders runs at such a fast pace, so if you don’t bed in fast, you’re gone. [Kim was] used to doing theatre, she’s used to picking up and turning around things quickly, so she hit the ground running and did a great job.’
Diederick Santer, EastEnders’ executive producer in 2009, asked Danniella to return. Kim had left the soap in 2005.
‘All respect to the powers that be at the BBC for letting me go away for 14 years and get well,’ Danniella added. ‘But Diederick wanted it to be me, and once I proved to be well enough for long enough, I came back. I was allowed to remould Sam and bring her back.’
She was back once more in 2016 for the storyline surrounding on-screen mother Peggy Mitchell’s death, which is to date her final appearance.
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