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Lee Ryan joins EastEnders: UK Eurovision stars that became soapstars

In 2011, Blue represented the United Kingdom at the Eurovision Song Contest in Düsseldorf. The boyband scored a 5th place finish in televoting alone, the UK’s most successful televoting placing since the 50/50 system was introduced in 2009. Blue also achieved an 11th place finish overall, the country’s third highest finish this century. Now it has been announced that band member Lee Ryan will join one of the UK’s most popular television shows, the soap opera EastEnders. Lee isn’t the only UK Eurovision act to have dabbled in British soapland…

Lee to play ‘Woody’ Woodward this Spring

For now, Lee’s role at EastEnders is only short-term. He will play a new character called ‘Woody’ Woodward. The show’s executive producer, Sean O’Connor, said the following about the role:

“He’s going to ruffle some feathers and obviously break some hearts, so there’s a great deal to look forward to as soon as he bursts onto the square. Lee is a perfect casting for Albert Square and we knew straight away we wanted him for the role.”

Lee becomes the third Blue member to join a soap in the last few years. Duncan James joined Channel 4’s Hollyoaks last year. Furthermore, Simon Webbe nabbed a part in Scottish soap River City. Perhaps Antony will be in Coronation Street at some point? In fact, British media reported Antony would be interested in a Coronation Street role last summer so you never know!

A message to your heart…

The most substantial connection between EastEnders and the Eurovision Song Contest in recent years came in the form of Samantha Womack. In 1991, performing then as Samantha Janus, she represented the United Kingdom with her uptempo pop song A Message To Your Heart. Ironically, despite the uplifting melody of the song, her message was a plea for help for those less fortunate.  Her finish of 10th place at Eurovision was one of the UK’s worst finishes to date at the time. This was despite Terry Wogan’s commentary (as heard in the video clip below) stating that Samantha was the “hot favourite” to win the 1991 contest with odds of 4/5.
Despite fearing that the “failure” would end her career, Samantha has gone on to become a very successful actress. After making her name in the acting industry in 1995 in the TV series Game On, Samantha found herself playing roles in many shows. In 2007, she joined EastEnders and played a part in some of the show’s most memorable, emotional and controversial storylines. Her time as Ronnie Mitchell on EastEnders made her become a fan favourite and fans despaired when her character was killed off on New Year’s Day at the beginning of this year.

It’s not just EastEnders either!

Digging a bit deeper, Coronation Street actress Kym Marsh also has Eurovision roots. Originally part of reality show winning band Hear’Say, Kym eventually started a solo music career. After a couple of hits, Kym’s solo career needed a boost and in 2006 she entered the British national selection Making Your Mind Up. Unfortunately for Kym, she could only finish in 4th place. Daz Sampson went on to win the selection and represented his country in Athens with Teenage Life. In fact, Blue’s Antony Costa was also in the 2006 national selection as a solo artist. He finished runner-up to Daz.
While this pretty much marked the end of Kym’s music career, she first appeared in Coronation Street just a couple of months after the national selection. More than 10 years on, her character Michelle Connor is one of the soap’s leading ladies and Kym has become a household name in soapland!

These are just a few connections between soapstars and Eurovision entrants that we know of! If we dug even deeper, we are sure there would be even more links to be found. If you know of anymore, let us know in the comments section below or via our social media pages @escXtra!

Ryan Cobb

My first memory of watching the Eurovision Song Contest was back in 2001 and, over the years, my passion and enthusiasm for the contest has very much turned into an obsession. I adore music and I love geography, so this contest is a natural fit for me. If la la loving Eurovision was a crime, I'd certainly be a criminal!

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