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Denise Van Outen: ‘I turned down EastEnders in the 1990s’


EastEnders newcomer Denise Van Outen, who is set to play businesswoman Karin Smart, has revealed in her first newspaper interview she once turned down a role in EastEnders in the late 90’s.

The EastEnders guest star said: “The first offer was when I was presenting The Big Breakfast in the late Nineties. But I’ve always had to turn it down, often because of other work. There was another offer when I was pregnant, then I had a baby so I was tied up. But I always said, ‘One day, please God let me end up in Albert Square’.”

Her wish was granted in January, two days after she returned from a charity bike ride in Vietnam. She got an unexpected call from executive producer Dominic Treadwell-Collins and instantly agreed.

The actress said: “It was all very quick. All I was told is the character had a history with Phil Mitchell and was going to come in and cause trouble.”

“Normally the best storylines for women in a soap are if you either play the bitch or the slut. If you’re going to go in and do a soap you want to stir things up a bit. I didn’t want to be wearing tracksuits and Reebok shoes — she’s a power dresser and a businesswoman.”

Speaking about her first day on set, Van Outen said: “I had never met him before and it was straight away, my first scene on my first day. Jake actually said to me, ‘This is a bit of an icebreaker’. But you just have to go for it. There’s a lot of kissing and touching involved. I was running my hands all over his head. But he’s a real sex symbol in the gay community so it was fine. We just ended up laughing about it and it felt quite fun.”

Denise has also been reunited with former stage school friends Samantha Womack (Ronnie Mitchell) and Letitia Dean (Sharon Mitchell).

She says: “We were all sitting outside on a break and started laughing because it was almost like being back at school, except we’re all a LOT older!”

Denise also praised Danny Dyer, who plays Mick Carter. She previously starred alongside Dyer in the 2012 movie Run For Your Wife, which grossed just £602 in its first weekend at the British box office – damaging both their reputations.

“We had to acknowledge our film careers were over after that! I’ve got to say, we had the best time making it. On paper, it should have been great. But some things just don’t work on film.” said the actress.

“Danny can always make me laugh. He’s from Canning Town, where my family are from, so our humour is the same. He keeps trying to get me and Jake, who also did Strictly, to start doing the samba during our scenes.”

EastEnders airs Denise’s first scenes as Karin Smart on Friday the 10th of April at 8pm on BBC One and BBC One HD.

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Tommy Giffen