Soap stars who tried to crack America (and those who flopped) as EastEnders favourite looks unrecognisable at Baftas

EX-EASTENDER Himesh Patel looked every inch the Hollywood star at this weekend’s Bafta party.

Fans couldn’t believe the 31-year-old actor used to be the studious Tamwar Masood in the BBC soap.

Since leaving in 2016, Patel has enjoyed great success Stateside; he starred in Danny Boyle’s Yesterday, Christopher Nolan’s Tenet, and played Jennifer Lawrence’s boyfriend in Don’t Look Up.

He's not the first soap star to crack the movie world, following in the footsteps of the likes of Nathalie Emmanuel from Hollyoaks.

But it's not easy making American casting directors swoon – as others such as Michelle Ryan know all too well.

Here we look at the soap stars who made it in the US – and those who tried and flopped.

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Ben Hardy

One of seven actors to play Ian Beale’s son Peter, Ben Hardy quit EastEnders in 2015 and just four later he was on the red carpet at the Oscars.

He starred in the Oscar nominated Bohemian Rhapsody as Queen’s drummer Roger Taylor.

Ben, 31, from Bournemouth, has also landed roles in 6 Underground, with Ryan Reynolds, and in the Marvel X-Men film.

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Nathalie Emmanuel 

Nathalie has enjoyed great success in the US

As Sasha Valentine in Hollyoaks, Emmanuel gained plenty of experience of performing troubled scenes – because the character had numerous drug addictions.

Emmanuel, 33, from Southend-on-Sea in Essex, quit in 2010 to pursue a movie career and within three years had landed a key role in Game of Thrones.

Now she is in huge demand, starring in five Fast & Furious blockbusters and two hit Maze Runner movies.

Anna Friel 

Friel’s place in soap history was sealed when she had the first on screen lesbian kiss in Brookside.

She admitted she feared she'd "never work again” after ditching the Liverpool based drama in 2015 – but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

The 45-year-old actress, who divorced both David Thewlis and Rhys Ifans, has an Emmy for TV drama Marcella and a Golden Globe nomination for US series Pushing Daisies.

Rachel Shenton 

In Hollyoaks her character Mitzeee Minniver was a wannabe glamour model who ended up in prison.

But 34-year-old Rachel Shenton was destined for bigger things. Her own real life tragedy led her to win a best live action short film Oscar for The Silent Child in 2017.

It was based on the tale of her late dad, who had gone deaf after undergoing chemotherapy for cancer.

After his death Rachel learned sign language and qualified as an interpreter, which inspired her to write the flick.

Matthew Marsden 

Hunky mechanic Chris Collins was a Coronation Street favourite, but rather than sliding out from underneath a car for his entire career, Marsden headed to La La Land.

It paid off, with the 48-year-old actor nabbing roles in action movies Black Hawk Down, Rambo, Resident Evil and Transformers. 

Matthew, who is now a US citizen, has met lots of stars and said: "I met Arnie at the Rambo premiere and he said, 'Congratulations on your movie'."

Alex Ferns

Despite playing one of EastEnders’ most despicable characters – wife-beater Trevor Morgan – Ferns has proven to be a popular actor.

Since departing Albert Square in 2002, the 53-year-old actor has appeared in top movies such as Legend and The Legend of Tarzan.

Now he is in the box office hit The Batman as Gotham City’s Police Commissioner Pete Savage.


Patsy Palmer 

Bianca Jackson was one of EastEnders most memorable characters thanks to her repeatedly screaming "Rickaaaaaaay!” to her husband.

The 49-year-old Londoner first quit in 1999, but couldn’t escape the role and returned for a second stint in 2008 which ended six years later.

The mum-of-three now lives in Los Angeles where she DJs and has a hair range, rather than acting opportunities.

Adele Silva 

The former Emmerdale actress has discovered that there can be a stigma attached to appearing in soaps.

The 41-year-old actress played Kelly Windsor in the rural drama from 1993-2011, but after securing roles in a couple of small British movies, she headed for Hollyoaks in 2015.

In 2020 she moaned: "I’ve trained at so many different acting schools and still people have a snobbery towards certain soap actors,” after missing out on a role for being "too soapy".

Michelle Ryan

It looked like Ryan was going to be a big Hollywood star when she landed the role of the Bionic Woman in 2007.

She had given up the part of Zoe Slater in EastEnders because she dreamed of making it in Hollywood.

But the TV series was cancelled after just nine episodes due to poor ratings, and instead the 37-year-old actress has had to make do with occasional roles in forgotten British movies such as Cockneys Versus Zombies.

Michael Greco 

Greco was the longest running member of EastEnders' Di Marco family before his character Beppe left in 2002.

The 51-year-old actor reportedly lined up meetings with executives in Los Angeles, but admitted: “When I left I kind of lost my way. And I just left acting to became a professional poker player."

In 2007 he starred in panto at Poole's Lighthouse Theatre.

Nikki Sanderson 

Corrie’s cobbles were trodden by Sanderson’s feet for six years as Sarah Platt’s best pal Candice Stowe until 2005.

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The glamorous 37-year-old actress admitted to dreaming of making it in Hollywood. 

But instead she returned to soapland in 2012 as Maxine Minniver in Hollyoaks.

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