Phil Mitchell

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Phil Mitchell
Phil Mitchell.JPG
EastEnders character
Portrayed bySteve McFadden
Introduced byMichael Ferguson (1990)
Kate Harwood (2005)
Duration1990–2003, 2005—
First appearance20 February 1990
ClassificationPresent; regular
Spin-off appearancesDimensions in Time (1993)
EastEnders, The Mitchells: Naked Truths (1998)
EastEnders: Last Tango in Walford (2010)
EastEnders: E20 (2011)[1]
Phil on Remand (2012)
Profile
Date of birth19 January 1961
OccupationBarman (1990–2003, 2005–10,
2012—)
Mechanic (1991—)
Pub landlord (1991—)
Businessman (1991—)
 
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Phil Mitchell
Phil Mitchell.JPG
EastEnders character
Portrayed bySteve McFadden
Introduced byMichael Ferguson (1990)
Kate Harwood (2005)
Duration1990–2003, 2005—
First appearance20 February 1990
ClassificationPresent; regular
Spin-off appearancesDimensions in Time (1993)
EastEnders, The Mitchells: Naked Truths (1998)
EastEnders: Last Tango in Walford (2010)
EastEnders: E20 (2011)[1]
Phil on Remand (2012)
Profile
Date of birth19 January 1961
OccupationBarman (1990–2003, 2005–10,
2012—)
Mechanic (1991—)
Pub landlord (1991—)
Businessman (1991—)

Philip James "Phil" Mitchell is a long-running fictional character from the BBC soap opera EastEnders, played by Steve McFadden. Phil was introduced to the soap opera on 20 February 1990, and was followed by his brother, Grant, sister Sam and mother Peggy. Phil was one of the major introductions made by executive producer Michael Ferguson, who wanted to bring in some macho, male leads. Phil and his brother Grant became popularly known as the Mitchell brothers in the British media, with Phil initially portrayed as the lesser of two thugs. Storylines featuring the Mitchell family dominated the soap opera throughout the 1990s, with Phil becoming a popular and long-running male protagonist into the 2000s and the 2010s.

Phil's most prominent storylines include his battles with alcoholism and addiction, various feuds and criminal dealings, having an affair with Sharon Watts (Letitia Dean) who was married to Grant (a storyline popularly dubbed Sharongate), a failed marriage to Kathy Beale (Gillian Taylforth), a strong rivalry with his former step-son Ian Beale (Adam Woodyatt), his numerous feuds with the likes of Steve Owen (Martin Kemp), Dennis Rickman (Nigel Harman), Den Watts (Leslie Grantham) and Johnny Allen (Billy Murray), and being stalked by his son Ben, leading to an arrest for the murder of Stella Crawford (Sophie Thompson), who abused Ben before jumping from a factory roof. One of the most culturally significant storylines featuring the character aired in 2001 and was dubbed Who Shot Phil?. The plot saw Phil gunned down in a whodunnit? mystery, with the would-be assassin eventually revealed as his former girlfriend Lisa Shaw (Lucy Benjamin). The storyline captured viewer and media interest and the assassin-reveal episode was watched by 22 million viewers.

Contents

Storylines

Backstory

Phil is the eldest child of Peggy and Eric Mitchell. He endured an unhappy childhood due to his abusive father, whose violence continued until Phil was old enough to fight back. Phil and his younger brother Grant were close, and had a reputation for their thuggish behaviour.

1990–99

Phil and Grant arrive in Walford to open an automobile repair shop, known as The Arches.[2] Phil later goes into partnership at The Queen Victoria public house with Grant and his fiancée Sharon Watts (Letitia Dean), and moves in with them. Phil grows close to Sharon, who turns to him for comfort during Grant's violent outbursts. Sharon and Phil have sex but she chooses to stay with Grant, who remains unaware of their betrayal.[2] Sharon and Grant's reconciliation is brief, and amidst more rowing and physical violence, Grant is arrested and imprisoned. In his absence, Phil and Sharon continue their affair, but when Grant is released a reformed man, Sharon reconciles with him, leaving Phil heartbroken.[3] On the rebound, Phil enters into a marriage of convenience with Nadia Borovac (Anna Barkan), a Romanian refugee, enabling her to stay legally in the UK, with Nadia departing after the wedding.[2] Phil begins a romance with Kathy Beale (Gillian Taylforth), but Nadia returns, needing Phil to prove he is her husband to prevent deportation.[2] She moves in with him while she is investigated. Nadia seduces and sleeps with a drunken Phil; he regrets it, denying it to Kathy after Nadia informs her. Nadia then disappears after Grant threatens to kill her, though Phil later bribes her into agreeing to a divorce.[4]

Kathy agrees to marry Phil in 1994 despite discovering that he torched Frank Butcher's (Mike Reid) car lot in an insurance scam, accidentally killing a homeless boy trapped inside. Intent on winning him back, Sharon kisses Phil, but he stops the kiss going further. During Phil and Kathy's engagement party, Grant listens to a cassette of Sharon confessing to the affair and plays it at the party. Kathy is incensed, and Grant beats Phil so badly that he is hospitalised with a blood clot to the brain.[3] Phil undergoes surgery, which stirs remorse in Grant. He pressures Phil into blaming Sharon for their affair and Grant chases her out of Walford. Phil and Grant make peace, but things between them are not the same.

Kathy and Phil eventually sort out their differences and marry.[3] Kathy gives birth to their son Ben (Matthew Silver) in 1996, leaving Phil feeling neglected and depressed by Kathy's diverted attention. He turns to alcohol, developing an addiction. He becomes abusive and neglectful of Ben, so Kathy leaves him. Realising what he has lost, Phil gives up alcohol to rebuild his marriage. He attends Alcoholics Anonymous, which helps reveal the basis of his problem—the physical abuse he received from his father and his fear he may abuse Ben. Kathy takes him back but when he attends counselling, he begins an affair with fellow alcoholic Lorna Cartwright (Janet Dibley), who starts stalking him. With his marriage in jeopardy, Phil takes Kathy to Paris, hoping that it will bring them closer, but it has the opposite effect when Phil confesses to the affair with Lorna and Kathy throws her wedding ring into the river.[3] Phil begins sleeping rough, gambling, and blaming Kathy for his decline. Kathy decides to leave Walford for South Africa, letting it be known that an offer of reconciliation from Phil would make her reconsider. Phil waits until the last minute but is stalled by Lorna, who locks herself in his bathroom and attempts suicide. Kathy leaves for the airport and Phil follows but is accosted by Kathy's son Ian Beale (Adam Woodyatt), who persuades him that Kathy is better off without him. Phil agonises over the loss of his son.[3]

To take his mind of things, Phil gets involved in a protection racket with Annie Palmer (Nadia Sawalha), who he is also having casual sex with, but he grows tired of being bossed around by her and quits.[5] He starts seeing Lisa Shaw (Lucy Benjamin), but the relationship stalls when Kathy returns briefly in 1999 and has sex with Grant. Before Kathy returns to South Africa, she asks Phil to leave with her but Phil declines as Grant has planned an armed robbery and Phil refuses to let his brother do the job alone. Infuriated with Phil's loyalty to Grant, Kathy reveals their recent tryst, leading to Phil confronting Grant after the heist and Grant's confession that he slept with Kathy as revenge for Phil's affair with Sharon. While trying to escape the police in a getaway car, Phil pulls out a handgun and shoots at the dashboard, causing Grant to crash into the River Thames. Phil is rescued, but Grant's body is not recovered, though he survives and flees to Brazil.[3] When Grant sends Phil deeds for his half of The Queen Victoria, he sells it to Dan Sullivan (Craig Fairbrass) for £5 to spite Peggy due to her favouritism towards Grant.

2000–07

Phil and Dan's allegiance ends after Dan tells the police about a motor scam Phil has been involved in, and Phil cons Dan into giving control of the pub back to Peggy.[3] Phil is unsupportive when Lisa has a miscarriage and she becomes unstable. He turns his attention to her best friend Melanie Healy (Tamzin Outhwaite) and they sleep together. Phil grows jealous when Melanie reunites with Steve Owen (Martin Kemp) and becomes abusive to Lisa. Thinking a baby will improve things, Lisa stops taking the contraceptive pills. However, Melanie overhears Phil stating he does not want another baby, so she encourages Lisa to end the relationship, confessing to their affair. Lisa leaves Phil, but unknown to him, she is pregnant with his baby. Mark Fowler (Todd Carty) persuades her to pretend the baby is his.[3] Phil gains many enemies: Lisa; Steve, who has discovered Melanie slept with Phil; Ian, who wants revenge for Phil's bullying; Mark, who wants to avenge Lisa; and Dan. On Steve and Melanie's wedding night, Phil is shot in the back by someone hiding in the bushes, collapsing in a pool of blood.[3] Steve is prime suspect and is arrested. However, it was not Steve and after being discharged from hospital a month later, Phil confronts the real culprit, Lisa. She had stolen Steve's gun in a moment of madness. Realising he drove Lisa to it, Phil decides to let her off and frames Dan for the deed with the help of Ritchie Stringer (Gareth Hunt), who supplies Dan with the gun used to shoot Phil. Not realising he is being set-up, Dan holds Phil at gunpoint, demanding money. However, the police arrive, arresting Dan for attempted murder.[3] Steve is called as a witness at Dan's trial, and Phil persuades him to give a false testimony, further implicating Dan, but to everyone's astonishment he is found 'not guilty'. Dan seeks revenge, kidnapping Mel, the only common link between Phil and Steve, and threatens to kill her unless they each give him £100,000. Steve and Phil work together to rescue Mel but Dan escapes with the money.[3]

Phil begins a second relationship with Sharon when she returns in 2001; they run The Queen Victoria together. Phil wants children, but Sharon reveals she is infertile and before ending their relationship, she tells him Lisa's baby, Louise (Rachel Cox), is really his daughter. Phil confronts Lisa, demanding to be part of his child's life. Steve and Mel offer to take Lisa to California, but when she is unable to leave, Steve absconds with Louise. Phil chases after Steve in his car until Steve crashes into a wall. Phil rescues Louise but cannot save Steve, who dies when the car explodes.[3] Phil knows he must win Lisa back from Mark to gain custody of Louise, and Lisa is easily swayed. Phil slowly begins excluding Lisa from Louise's life, so in desperation, Lisa flees to Portugal with Louise. Phil's nephew Jamie (Jack Ryder) helps her escape, earning him a beating from Phil. Phil goes to Portugal and returns a month later with Louise. Some of Phil's neighbours suspect he has murdered Lisa.[3]

Phil falls for Kate Morton (Jill Halfpenny), not knowing she is an undercover police officer, investigating Lisa's disappearance. After gaining a confession from Phil that he manipulated Lisa into handing over Louise, Kate reveals her true identity, and says she loves him and will quit her job, but Phil threatens to kill her.[3] Kate disappears, but several months later, Phil finds her working undercover for gangster Jack Dalton (Hywel Bennett). Phil saves Kate's life when Jack orders her dead, with Jack calling off the hit but telling Phil to kill Dennis Rickman (Nigel Harman) as repayment. Phil corners Dennis at gunpoint, but Dennis promises to kill Jack instead, so they can both be free of him, which he does.

Phil and Kate marry, but Lisa returns on their wedding day, demanding access to Louise. She plans to shoot Phil again, but fails. She breaks down until Den Watts (Leslie Grantham) vows to get revenge on Phil for her. Den plans an armed robbery and coaxes Phil to join him, but Den sets Phil up and he is arrested. Kate is forced to give Louise to Lisa, who disappears. Phil cannot forgive Kate for this and their marriage ends. Phil escapes from prison and confronts Den, who supplies Phil with money to survive 'on the run'.[3] Phil returns 18 months later needing more money; he attacks Ian, who calls the police and Phil is arrested. However, the case falls through after Grant pays a witness to change his testimony and Phil is released. Johnny Allen (Billy Murray) makes an enemy of Phil after threatening Peggy. Dennis gets involved in the feud when Phil reveals Johnny has threatened Dennis's wife Sharon. Dennis beats Johnny, but Johnny has Dennis murdered, leaving Phil feeling responsible and vowing to make Johnny pay. Phil and Grant confront Johnny, but he escapes and a car chase ensues. The brothers' squabbling allows Johnny to capture them, and Johnny orders Danny Moon (Jake Maskall) to kill them. However, Danny's brother Jake (Joel Beckett) shoots Danny, killing him, and Johnny surrenders.

Following Kathy's death in 2006, Phil's son Ben (now Charlie Jones) returns to live with his half brother Ian. Phil tries to build a relationship with Ben and they slowly begin to bond, eventually leading to Ben moving in with his father. Phil begins a relationship with Stella Crawford (Sophie Thompson), but she psychologically and physically abuses Ben, manipulating him into persuading Phil to propose to her. The abuse is revealed by Ben during the wedding ceremony, and Stella flees to an abandoned warehouse with Phil in pursuit, where she jumps from the roof to her death.

2008—

Phil proposes to his girlfriend Suzy Branning (Maggie O'Neill) when she falsely tells him she is pregnant. Phil does not believe his friend Shirley Carter (Linda Henry) when she tells him Suzy is conning him; he stays with Suzy until he discovers she has schemed with his malevolent uncle Archie Mitchell (Larry Lamb). Although still troubled by lapses in alcoholism due to numerous family upsets, Phil begins to settle into a relationship with Shirley, who becomes a mother figure for Ben and Louise after she runs away from Lisa to be with Phil. Phil is parted from both his children in 2010: Ben is sent to a juvenile offenders' unit for assault and Louise is returned to her mother by Peggy, who fears Phil is unfit to parent. Depressed, Phil begins a sexual relationship with Rainie Cross (Tanya Franks), a drug addict; he starts using crack cocaine, developing an addiction. Peggy tries to wean Phil off drugs against his consent by locking him inside her home; however, Phil, who is suffering withdrawal symptoms, escapes and confronts Peggy. Following a row, Phil sets Peggy's pub on fire. Within minutes the pub is ablaze and the roof collapses on Phil. He is rescued, but Peggy departs Walford the next day, realising Phil is better off without her.

Shirley supports Phil through recovery. They steal large amounts of money from Phil's cousin Roxy Mitchell (Rita Simons) so they can buy a house together. Roxy's mother Glenda Mitchell (Glynis Barber) finds out, but instead of telling Roxy, Glenda propositions Phil and they embark on an affair. When Phil discovers Glenda has also slept with his enemy Ian Beale, he threatens to inform Ian's wife unless he pays him £5,000. Phil's bullying of Ian almost costs him his life: when Ian discovers Phil having a heart attack, Ian threatens to let Phil die but eventually helps Phil for Ben's sake. Phil reevaluates his life following his near-death experience and proposes to Shirley. Shirley initially accepts, but when she discovers Phil's infidelity with Glenda, she forgives him but refuses to marry.

Phil reacts badly when he discovers Ben (now Joshua Pascoe) is gay, showing a preference for his relative Billy's (Perry Fenwick) foster child, Jay Brown (Jamie Borthwick). Jay is so enamoured with Phil that he changes his surname to Mitchell, becoming Phil's surrogate son. Ben secretly enacts revenge on Phil for this rejection, terrorising him by anonymous text and letters, inferring he has evidence to incriminate Phil for past misdemeanours. Among other deeds, Ben sends Denise Fox (Diane Parish) evidence revealing Phil supplied the cut and shut car responsible for her husband Kevin Wicks's (Phil Daniels) death, in 2008. Denise's attempts to get Phil imprisoned fail; however, DCI Jill Marsden (Sophie Stanton), who has hoped to imprison Phil for many years, gets involved in the investigation and is told by Ben that Phil forced Stella Crawford to jump to her death in 2007. Phil is remanded in prison on suspicion of Stella's murder and Ben delights in the distress he causes his father. It is Ian who eventually gets Phil released after discovering Ben is setting-up his father; however, Ben mistakingly believes Heather Trott (Cheryl Fergison), Shirley's best friend, is responsible for informing the police about the set-up. Fearful and angry, Ben retaliates by murdering Heather, just as Phil returns to confront him. Blaming himself for Ben's actions, Phil (with Jay's help) covers-up the murder to look like a burglary. To protect Ben, Phil spurns a grieving Shirley, allows his neighbours and family to become murder suspects, and intimidates Ian into keeping silent after Ben confesses to him. During her charity abseil on top of The Queen Victoria, Shirley proposes to Phil and he accepts. At their engagement party, Sharon Rickman returns begging for help, as she has left her fiancé John Hewland (Jesse Birdsall) and has left her son Dennis Rickman Jr (Harry Hickles) behind. Phil helps her to rescue Dennis, and they return with Phil to Walford. When Phil returns home, he discovers that Shirley has uncovered the truth about Heather's death. After a furious confrontation, he tries to convince her not to hand Ben in to the police. However, Ben confesses to the police and he is charged with Heather's murder. Jay is released on bail but charged with perverting the course of justice. Phil orders him to change his statement so that Ben will not be sent to prison, but Jay refuses and Phil disowns him. Phil does however convince his cousin Roxy to lie in her statement. His solicitor Ritchie Scott (Sian Webber) then tells him that Ben could face up to a minimum of 10 years in prison. Shirley then ends her relationship with Phil as she is unable to cope with his betrayal. Phil visits Ben in prison with Ian in the hope to persuade Ben to retract his confession. However, Ben refuses to do so, insisting it is the right thing to do and that he needs to be punished. Ben then refuses to have any contact with his family until his release.

Creation

Phil in his early days in the show.

In late 1989 EastEnders acquired a new executive producer, Michael Ferguson, who took over from Mike Gibbon. Ferguson had previously been a producer on ITV's The Bill which seemed to be challenging EastEnders in providing a realistic vision of modern life in London. Due to his success on The Bill, Peter Cregeen, the Head of Series at the BBC, poached Ferguson to become executive producer of EastEnders.[2]

For the roles of Phil and Grant Mitchell many actors were screen-tested together. This was done to assure the chosen actors – who would work together – had a strong rapport and physical resemblance. Producer Corinne Hollingworth commented: "There were some good actors we had to turn down because we couldn't find the 'right' brother."[6] Steve McFadden, an actor who had worked extensively in television, was cast as Phil. His shape, skills in stage fighting and a variety of sports including boxing, football and karate made him an ideal choice to play one of Walford's latest "tough-men."[6] Ross Kemp got the role of Grant. Both actors worked well together and shared similar physical characteristics, such as short cropped hair and a "round, open face" – facial characteristics also shared by Danniella Westbrook, who was chosen to play their sister Samantha because of this.[6]

Personality

Of the two brothers Phil was initially calmer, but both had a sense of physical danger about them, displayed stereotypical masculinity, thuggish behaviour and a tendency to resolve problems through violence. Phil was originally depicted as the thinker and the most streetwise of the pair, often bailing his more spontaneous brother out of trouble, although later plotlines drove the character down a darker, more destructive route.[6] Phil can be violent, but unlike Grant, he occasionally showed restraint when dealing with various enemies encountered – exacting revenge over time, using mind games or getting others to do his dirty work.

Phil has occasionally shown sadistic traits. His bullying of Ian Beale is often done as a means of deriving pleasure.[7] Equally the ceaseless degradation of Lisa showed a particularly malicious side to the character. While Phil has shown compassion to the women in his life, he frequently finds he is unable to give them the emotional security needed to sustain the relationship. Several women have left him due to this and his inability to put their needs before his family's.

Character development and impact

The original character was actually based on a real life friend caleed Paul stobbs now working for the BAU under the name MC Bamba, when the character came up on the soap steve Mcfaden got the job for his unusual looks which portrayed Paul Stobbs and the character of Phil Mitchell was born

The Mitchell brothers quickly became two of the soap's most popular characters and storylines involving them began to dominate the programme. Their arrival heralded a new era for the soap, which aptly coincided with the beginning of a new decadeEastEnders during the 1980s having been very much dominated by the hugely popular Watts family.[8]

Sharongate

One of the most notable and popular early storylines involving Phil was a love triangle between him, his brother and his brother's wife Sharon (played by Letitia Dean). Despite the fact that Sharon was married to Grant, EastEnders writer Tony Jordan revealed in The Mitchells - The Full Story that the love-triangle storyline had been planned since Phil and Grant's introduction, after the writers decided Sharon was perfect for them both. This storyline was slow burning and spread over several years, providing a plethora of dramatic tension along the way. The episode in which Phil betrayed his brother with Sharon occurred in September 1992 in one of the soap's notorious three-handers. Things finally came to a head in 1994 with some of EastEnders most popular and renowned episodes, which were dubbed "Sharongate" – centred around Grant's discovery of the affair and his reaction. The repercussions of Phil's betrayal contributed to many subsequent storylines involving the Mitchell brothers during the 1990s. Sharongate has also proven a popular storyline with viewers and it was voted the sixth top soap opera moment of the decade in a poll of 17,000 people for What's On TV magazine.

Alcoholism

Among the many issues Phil has been used to cover is alcoholism and the consequences the condition has upon the sufferer's life. The relationship between alcohol abuse and domestic violence was explored between Phil and his wife Kathy (played by Gillian Taylforth) culminating in the slow deterioration of their marriage, which gripped viewers throughout 1997. Of particular note is an episode where Phil attends Alcoholics Anonymous (February 1997), an "alien and uncomfortable arena" where he was forced to talk about his condition, expose his vulnerability and reveal the basis of his problem – the physical abuse he'd received from his father and his fear that he will do the same. Writer Jacquetta May, who once played Rachel Kominski in the show, evaluated the episode in an article about social realism, education and the moral messages within EastEnders storylines, commenting: "The episode blames his destructiveness on the 'male' response to self-hate: violence. It says that unless problems are worked through (the female method), they will be repeated generation after generation".[9] This particular episode has also been used in a study by the Stirling Media Research Institute, where men were asked questions about the violence contained within a spectrum of broadcast television material. The study reported that much group discussion centred on the Alcoholics Anonymous group scene, which was, for the most part, seen as an accurate depiction of an AA group therapy session. In addition, Phil's portrayal of a suffering alcoholic was also seen as realistic and a "typical portrayal of bottled-up masculinity".[10]

The Mitchell car crash

Phil's disposition altered during the early 2000s when a darker more menacing side to his personality began to surface. This change was perhaps a consequence of Grant's departure, who up until this point had always been depicted as the more selfish, thuggish and nastier of the two. The storyline signifying the departure of Ross Kemp played heavily on the Mitchell brothers' fragile and damaged relationship. After discovering that Grant had vengefully slept with Kathy, Phil went ballistic with a handgun causing the hijacked Vauxhall Astra they were driving to career at high speed into the River Thames, in an episode that was watched by 19.5 million viewers.[11] Shot in London's Docklands, the scenes required stunt doubles, divers and crash test dummies and it has been hailed as "one of the soap's most dramatic storylines ever."[12]

Who Shot Phil?

Phil Mitchell immediately after being shot.

Phil's behaviour earned him a number of sworn enemies in Albert Square and by 2001 the character had become one of the soap's nastiest villains.[13] In an interview with The Guardian McFadden commented on his alter ego's descent into villainy "Phil's been had over by a lot of people, so now he feels like he can do it back. It's his history".[14] However the character finally received his comeuppance in one of EastEnders most highly anticipated storylines, dubbed "Who Shot Phil?". Phil was gunned down outside his home in March 2001 in a "Dallas-style" whodunnit mystery. Various key characters were in the frame for the deed and viewers were left guessing for weeks as to which of them was the real culprit. Several outcomes were allegedly filmed[15] and it was reported that only a few TV executives knew the identity of the would-be assassin – even the actors were kept in the dark.[16] A spokesman commented "The cast are only getting their own scripts. They are not being told anyone else's storylines. Not even Phil knows who shot him. It's top secret."[16] Script writers were reportedly given private security after a writer's laptop was stolen in what was believed to be an attempt to gain the identity of the assailant.[16] The storyline captivated the public's imagination leading to thousands of bets being placed at the bookies across the UK – bookmaker William Hill said there was about 50,000 bets on who was responsible.[16]

An estimated 22 million viewers watched EastEnders on 5 April 2001 to find out that Lisa Shaw – Phil's ex-girlfriend – was the culprit.[17] The episode caused the third-largest power surge on record,[18] and the Liverpool and Barcelona UEFA Cup semi-final was postponed for 10 minutes to accommodate a special 40 minute edition of the soap.[19]

Temporary exit (2003)

In February 2003, it was confirmed that Steve McFadden would be taking a year hiatus. McFadden sad: "I’m going to stick my mechanic’s overalls in a locker while I take a look at a few other projects. EastEnders will always be No1 in my heart and I look forward to returning to Albert Square." Executive producer Louise Berridge went on to say that she was "looking forward to Steve returning in 2004".[20] In July 2004, it was announced that McFadden had delayed his return.[21] In February 2005, it was confirmed that McFadden would return.[22] His return scenes aired in September 2005.

Drug addiction

In June 2010, it was reported that Phil would develop an addiction to crack cocaine after his troubled personal life leads to depression.[23] The report followed the news that Lucy Benjamin was to return for a single episode, reprising her role as Lisa, the mother of Phil's daughter Louise (Brittany Papple).[24] In the storyline, Phil gains custody of Louise after she is dropped off in Walford by an unseen person, however, Peggy eventually returns Louise to Lisa after Phil punches his mother in the face. A spokesperson for the show said "Lisa Fowler was a major part of Phil's life – she knows him as well as anyone, so she won't be happy about him looking after his daughter. With their history, you know that this storyline is going to be an explosive episode in the Mitchells' history."[24] Phil also loses his son Ben (Charlie Jones), who makes a temporary departure from the show in order for the part to be recast.[25] Subsequently, Phil becomes addicted to crack cocaine. Producers worked closely with drug and alcohol charities, including Addaction and DrugScope. Viewers never see Phil take drugs to make sure the episodes are suitable for all audiences. Martin Barnes, chief executive of DrugScope, commented: "If EastEnders sensitively reflect the impact that drug use has on Phil, it could help."[23] The storyline also sees Phil become more violent. McFadden explained:

"All he can see is Peggy's betrayed him. She knows how much he fought for custody, for contact and how important it was for him to see his children. He's really angry about it and feels the world is against him. [...] What he's really doing is self-harm which is a common response to anger. People do crazy, mad things like this when they're desperate. It's very ugly and disturbing. [...] He's hit his kids and his mum, so yes, [worse violence is] something he's capable of."[26][27]

McFadden decided to lose weight for the storyline by going on a crash diet, saying that food would not be one of Phil's priorities.[28]

Other storylines

The character continues to be featured heavily in high-profile storylines which have included various feuds, police enquiries, armed robbery, kidnapping, numerous affairs and relationship problems and an ongoing plot concentrating on the character's struggles to bond with his children. 2005 saw the highly anticipated screen return of both of the Mitchell brothers – six years since they last appeared together. 13 million viewers tuned in to see their return giving the BBC a 52.9% audience share,[29] a massive coup for the show which had come under heavy criticism in the British media after it drew its lowest audience in more than five years (6.6 million viewers tuning in to one episode in September 2005).[30]

Reception

Popularity

The character of Phil is arguably one of the soap's most popular, particularly with female viewers, making him one of the soap's unlikeliest sex symbols.[31][32] He has featured in some of the show's most memorable and highly viewed storylines and he is the second longest running male character to appear in the soap, surpassed only by Ian Beale. Phil along with Grant was voted as the second most popular King Of Soaps in a Channel 4 poll in 2002.[33]

During a period of heavy media criticism aimed at EastEnders throughout 2004 and 2005, the character—who was on a hiatus from the show—was reintroduced twice in what was branded by the press as a bid to "boost flagging Enders"[34] and "revive the soap's ailing ratings".[35] His first return in April 2005 was generally well-received, with media comments such as "the excellent, bug-eyed Steve McFadden proves nobody does psychotic thug better than him" and "McFadden's blistering performance on Tuesday defies that old cliché of a soap being bigger than its stars".[36] Of the Mitchell brothers' highly publicised return in October 2005, one reporter commented "Soapville must confess that we did get goosebumps and feel properly excited when we first saw the Mitchell Brothers back on the Square...After all, you associate them with the golden days of Enders".[37]

In addition the character has been praised for being good value, realistic, consistent within his character and convincing.[38][39] In 2009, Phil Mitchell came second in a poll by British men's magazine Loaded for 'Top Soap Bloke'.[40]

In 2011 McFadden was nominated for 'Best Actor' at the British Soap Awards 2011 for playing Phil.[41] as well as be nominated at the Inside Soap Awards for 'Best Actor' in 2011.[42]

Criticism

Phil Mitchell, spoofed in 2DTV.

Although popular with many, the character has also garnered much criticism over the years. In November 2005 the character was blamed for turning children into playground bullies by Dr. Sally Henry, who claimed that impressionable children look to male soap characters as role models and subsequently copy their violent behaviour.[43] Indeed the character's violent behaviour evoked concern from viewers in October 2002. A scene in which Phil beat his godson Jamie was criticised for being too realistic by TV watchdogs. The Broadcasting Standards Commission upheld 31 complaints from viewers, saying that the scenes were too strong for a programme shown before the 9 pm watershed.[44]

A certain level of criticism was aimed at the character due to the stark personality change he underwent circa 2000.[45] One reporter commented "Formerly the milder-mannered sibling, Phil has gone from Abel to Cain without an intervening period of plausibility. And it doesn't suit him".[46] His violent tendencies have also been spoofed by the television series 2DTV. There were mixed reviews for the highly publicised storyline (dubbed Get Johnny Week) involving the Mitchell brothers reunion in 2006. It was criticised as "patchy" and "awkwardly written...unveiling a common weakness in the EastEnders camp, that character continuity can often fall by the wayside when you are dealing with larger characters".[47] Additionally, the show was criticised for turning the brothers into a comical farce by incorporating uncharacteristic humour into their dialect, which was described as "cringeworthy".[37]

In August 2010, scenes showing Phil and Rainie taking the drug crack cocaine prompted over 200 complaints from viewers who felt the scenes were inappropriate. The BBC responded by saying "EastEnders in no way – and at no point – glamorises or condones the use of drugs, and furthermore we took great care to avoid any demonstration on how to prepare or take drugs. We feel that Phil's decline will highlight the destructive nature of drugs, and rather than encourage drug use, will act as a deterrent."[48] A former cocaine addict, Sarah Graham, agreed with the BBC, saying "I think it's really important that a mainstream character like Phil Mitchell is doing this storyline. [...] I'm not surprised that there have been so many complaints about seeing this on one of our favourite soaps. The episode showed the brutal reality of addiction. [...] I can see that many people will be worried about children watching these scenes. [...] With that in mind, I think they should put the Frank drugs helpline number on after the programme."[49]

A proportion of viewers possibly feel the criticism is justifiable as the character came second in a Channel 4 poll of The Five TV Characters We Most Love To Hate in 2001—beaten only by Mr. Blobby.[50]

See also

References

  1. ^ "Series 3: Meet the cast". EastEnders: E20 (BBC Online). http://www.bbc.co.uk/eastenders/e20/about/series_three_cast.shtml. Retrieved 25 June 2011. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Brake, Colin (1995). EastEnders: The First 10 Years: A Celebration. BBC Books. ISBN 0-563-37057-2. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Smith, Rupert (2005). EastEnders: 20 years in Albert Square. BBC books. ISBN 0-563-52165-1. 
  4. ^ "EastEnders TUE 04-JAN-94 episode description". Walford.net. http://archives.walford.net/0932.htm. Retrieved 3 December 2006. [dead link]
  5. ^ "EastEnders TUE 02-JUN-98 episode description". Walford.net. http://archives.walford.net/1625.htm. Retrieved 3 December 2006. [dead link]
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