Wendy Richards reveals she was unhappy in EastEnders
Wendy Richard has revealed for the first time how desperately unhappy she was in EastEnders. And she had even given up watching the BBC soap while she was still playing Pauline Fowler.
Disagreements over storylines and heavy filming schedules left the 64-year-old actress stressed out. Wendy was relieved to quit.
She said: "I feel better in myself. I have no stress any more.
"It's quite a release. Life is more relaxed. My shoulders were tight all the time before."
She said when her EastEnders exit was announced: "I've loved every minute of being part of this fantastic show." But the true picture is one of overwork and fretting about how the character of Pauline was evolving.
Pauline was last seen on screen on Christmas Day 2006 when son Martin's girlfriend Sonia Jackson (Natalie Cassidy) hit her over the head with a bowl and left her dying in the snow. Before she met her horrible end, producers had wanted Pauline remarry. Wendy felt it would be out of character because Pauline was still in love with late husband Arthur (Bill Treacher).
Now Wendy says: "I consider Eastenders to be in the past, finished. I stopped watching it before I left."
Bill himself revealed last December how the role had left him exhausted. He said: "EastEnders is a great big machine. You can't stop it and it is so hard to get off.
"I was really struggling to cope. The pressure was always on me."
Wendy has moved on and plans to get married for the fourth time - to John Burns, her partner of 12 years. She said he has taught her to relax.
"When I get worked up about something, he'll say, 'Don't get yourself in a state, just stay calm because this will all work out'."
And her health is good after fighting breast cancer twice. She said: "I don't use the word remission but I'm fine at the moment." Childless Wendy keeps in touch with her EastEnders' family, Natalie, Todd Carty and James Alexandrou.
She said: "I don't feel like I've lost my family. We meet up when we can." And she has kept mementoes of her time on the hit soap. Pauline's passport and street trader licence hang in frames in her downstairs toilet.
She has a new role lined up - playing a battleaxe mum in ITV comedy Benidorm, on TV next month. Then she will start filming Miss Marple mystery A Pocket Full of Rye.