Video LoadingVideo UnavailableClick to playTap to playThe video will auto-play soon8CancelPlay now
Don’t miss out on the biggest soaps gossip! Get a daily email direct to your inbox with our newsletter
Invalid EmailSomething went wrong, please try again later.Sign upWe use your sign-up to provide content in ways you’ve consented to and to improve our understanding of you. This may include adverts from us and 3rd parties based on our understanding. You can unsubscribe at any time.More infoThank you for subscribingWe have more newslettersShow meSee ourprivacy notice
Charlie Brooks can never escape Janine Butcher – but thankfully her own life is very different.
The 40-year-old, who was the third actress to take on the role, made the iconic character her own and is responsible for some of EastEnders' most dramatic moments.
The most memorable has to be when Janine shoved Barry Evans to his death down a hill – and to this day Charlie still gets "you pushed Barry" shouted at her in the street.
"It is funny, but when you’ve heard it so many times I just think, ‘Oh there we go, there’s another one!’"
After appearing in The Bill and Jonathan Creek, Charlie first set foot in Albert Square in 1999 and remained until 2004, going on to have roles in Bleak House, Robin Hood and 2006 killer nurse drama Beverley Allitt: Angel of Death.
Charlie came back to EastEnders between 2008 and 2012, but her life now has completely changed after she came to a realisation.
Charlie Brooks made a massive change in her life
Charlie shares 16-year-old daughter Kiki with her former partner, Ibiza club owner Tony Truman, 53, who she split from in 2006.
However, the former couple have remained on such good terms that he lives in the flat above Charlie’s Surrey home and he even organised a spectacular garden party for her 40th birthday, after they were bubbled together during the lockdown.
Charlie was seeing architect Ben Hollington for around five years, but they split four years ago.
Having spent so much time with the pair, Tony was actually in tears when his ex broke up with her partner.
Speaking on Yahoo UK' s White Wine Question Time podcast, she said: "My ex partner Ben, who I was with for five or six years, who’s an amazing human being, you know, we woke up on Christmas Day together, all of us.
"Tony would come down, we’d all get into bed and open the presents together with Kiki, cos she adores Ben, and I think it can be problematic.
"I think he probably has more issues with that sort of thing than I do. I've been single for four years, so that’s the longest I’ve ever been single.
"Then I was with Ben before that for five or six years, who was just really accepting. Tony absolutely adored him, we all went on holiday together. Tony cried when me and Ben broke up. He actually cried."
Get the news you want straight to your inbox. Sign up for a Mirror newsletter here.
Charlie's ex-partner Tony lives in a flat above her
Charlie now describes herself as "happily single" and claims future boyfriends will not be put off by the close proximity of her ex as they are "just friends".
"As soon as they met him and knew us together they’d know it’s not a problem," she told The Mirror.
"We are going to grow old together, just in a very different way. He is absolutely my family and nothing will ever change that," she added.
"But whatever happens, no matter how much we fall out, which we have done, big time, it’s not always plain sailing, but 80 per cent of the time it is and he’s a good man and he’s looked after us.
"He’s a character, I love him to bits, he can be an a******e sometimes, but nobody’s perfect are they?"
Their daughter, Kiki, is looking to follow in her mum's footsteps by pursuing an acting career and has already appeared in The Dumping Ground and The Kennedys.
"She knows all about the ups and downs, she’s witnessed them and we speak very openly about it," said Charlie.
"I was blessed with very supportive parents, so I can only offer what I was given to her. But at the same time I also want to encourage her to keep her options open."
Charlie with her daughter and ex-partner Tony
Since leaving EastEnders, Charlie has quit booze, learnt meditation and boosted her confidence.
The actress said giving up alcohol helped her feel healthier both mentally and physically, but there was no incident which sparked the big change.
"There wasn’t one particular moment I decided to give up. But over the years I’d thought, ‘I don’t know if I want to drink anymore’. I just felt it was time for a lifestyle change. There was no big rock bottom. Nothing like that," she said.
"It was just a constant one glass of wine which was never one glass – it was always a bottle. Then I’d feel a bit s****y the next day and think, ‘I want to change that. And so I did.
"It’s the thing people pick up on because drinking is so normalised. But it’s a poison, and I just saw through it. Now there’s more consistency in the way I feel about myself.
"And my weight has stabilised because I actually get up and go for a run or to the gym. So it’s an all-around better balance.”
Charlie has seen only positive benefits ever since making the decision to live a sober life but it has been a "wobbly road" because she is very sociable.
She told Fabulous magazine: "Being sober means I feel awake now, like I’m listening and paying attention.
"And when opportunities present themselves, I’m not afraid to follow them and to be brave, because I believe in myself and I know that it’s all going to be OK. My confidence has come back in bucketloads."
Janine Butcher is returning to EastEnders as Charlie Brooks reprises role
As well as continuing to act, Charlie has also set up her own business where she offers acting training.
Her company – iampro – is an affordable online training resource which offers industry tips and tricks, live events, 1-1 mentoring and Q&As for creatives.
Charlie competed in Strictly Come Dancing in 2011 and famously won I'm A Celebrity the following year, but has remained off our screens for a while apart from some brief roles
Explaining why she moved to the theatre, the actress told The Mirror: "Sometimes you’re working loads, sometimes not. I decided to do theatre because it’s so far out of my comfort zone. You do self-taped auditions for TV all the time and don’t get them, which can be soul-destroying but you just continue!
"It’s important to have a life and for acting not to be the be-all and end-all. I have a great life with great family and friends, so that’s important. And trust that you are where you’re meant to be."
Charlie has admitted it has been hard to shed the character of Janine and people sometimes struggle to recognise they are different.
"I haven’t done many roles, so clearly! Janine is iconic so it’s hard for people to see you in anything else. I think I’m A Celebrity probably helped as people got to see Charlie and Janine are very different," she explained.
Charlie is starring in Lie With Me
(Image: Channel 5)
Last month it was announced that Janine is set for an explosive return after seven years away from Walford.
The iconic villain was last seen in St Pancras in 2014 as she boarded a train to go to Paris, where she joined daughter Scarlett and Diane.
EastEnders bosses are keeping tight-lipped but have major plans for Charlie's return to the soap – and she has been pleasantly surprised by fan reaction to the news.
"I was very surprised when I saw the messages on Instagram. Seeing all the love from fans has been quite amazing. It always makes me think fondly of the character and I’m so happy Janine’s been well received," she said.
But before that the actress is back on our screens this week in nail-biting new drama Lie With Me.
In the four-part Channel 5 psychological drama she plays Anna, who has just moved to Australia with her husband, in a dark story of gaslighting, control, and betrayal – and a lot of sex.
Admitting it is a "bit raunchy", Charlie said: "It’s a sexy thriller about one woman’s struggle to survive in a very controlling relationship. It reveals itself slowly but surely."