Actress Tamzin Outhwaite is making a dramatic return to EastEnders – more than 15 years after she was last seen fleeing Albert Square.
Tamzin became a household name playing Melanie Owen in the BBC One series from 1998 until 2002.
She is being brought back as one of the first major moves by returning soap boss John Yorke who was also in charge when she was last in the soap.
Tamzin’s return to Walford has been teased on the soap’s Twitter page over the last couple of days, but virtually no one predicted Mel was the character coming back.
Speaking about her return to Walford, Tamzin said “When I got the call from John asking if I would consider coming back to EastEnders, it was something I just couldn’t refuse.
“John created Mel’s most memorable storylines so it is an honour that he has asked me to return.
“EastEnders is in my DNA and I always knew deep down that someday I would revisit Mel; she is a strong independent woman with lots more stories to tell.
“To be stepping back into Mel’s shoes nearly twenty years after I first started feels just perfect.”
Last seen in April 2002, Mel fled Walford when everything started to fall apart.
If losing her beloved husband, Steve Owen, was not enough heartbreak for Mel, his web of deceit and lies were soon uncovered and Mel found herself facing a long stretch in prison as she was unknowingly implicated in her late husband’s drug dealing.
As other betrayals by those closest to her came to light Mel took desperate measures and she fled the country, losing Phil the small matter of her £30,000 bail money in the process.
Tamzin will begin filming again in the role of Mel in the next few weeks and will appear on screen in the New Year.
John Yorke, Creative Director, EastEnders said: “Tamzin is one of EastEnders’ biggest stars, so it’s particularly exciting to welcome her back to Walford for an incredible storyline – one that will awaken a lot of old ghosts, some great memories, and a whole new series of adventures too.
“We’re thrilled and flattered to have Tamzin back and we can’t wait to reveal just where she’s been, and just who Melanie Owen is now.”
A show source said Mel’s return would “turn a few heads as well as tear open old wounds” and is one of a host of big storylines planned by Yorke to boost ratings.
He was a scriptwriter on the show in the Nineties before becoming an executive producer from 1999-2002.
The insider added: “John has now been back at EastEnders for a few months and his impact will start to be seen more and more on screen. He has got some huge shocks lined up around Christmas and the Mel will be back on screen in January.
“He is determined to get people talking about the soap and get more people tuning in and re-signing Tamzin is just the beginning.”
During her previous time at EastEnders, Tamzin cemented herself as an EastEnders icon.
She was involved in some of the shows biggest storylines including Who Shot Phil, her love affair and subsequent marriage with Steve Owen and who can forget her ill-fated relationship with Ian Beale.
Since leaving EastEnders, Tamzin has gone on to star in countless television, film and theatre roles including Red Cap and New Tricks on TV and Sweet Charity on London’s West End stage.
* EastEnders continues on Thursday on BBC One at 7.30pm