EastEnders star Charlie Brooks looks back: ‘We were just two kids from Wales. That fed into never quite feeling worthy’ | Life and style

Charlie and Ben Brooks
Charlie and Ben Brooks in 1985 and 2023. Later {photograph}: Pål Hansen. Styling: Andie Redman. Hair and make-up/grooming: Sadaf Ahmad. Archive {photograph}: courtesy of Charlie and Ben Brooks

Born in Hertfordshire in 1981, Charlie Brooks is finest recognized for her position as Janine Butcher in EastEnders. Charlie’s appearing expertise started at Ravenscourt Theatre Faculty in Hammersmith, which she attended along with her brother, Ben, whose profession as a baby actor started with main roles in 90s children exhibits Aquila and Samson Superslug. Aged 17, Charlie turned one among EastEnders’ most infamous villains, and he or she has remained a outstanding TV actor. Together with Ben, who’s now a director and author, she has based iampro – a web-based drama and manufacturing college. Charlie is at present touring within the stage adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean on the Finish of the Lane.


My mum was fairly experimental when it got here to trend within the early 80s. I actually rocked some questionable outfits, such because the dungarees on this household {photograph}, that are virtually like lederhosen.

I used to be three when my dad and mom organized for the picture to be taken – the beginning of a protracted interval of annoying my sister. I used to be fairly boisterous as a boy. We lived above a restaurant in north Wales and I might hang around of the window so I may drop issues in individuals’s tea. As soon as, Charlie broke my college folder, so to get revenge I went into her room, which was coated in West Finish posters and programmes, and ripped them up. The Grease one harm specifically. I received in deep trouble.

I actually tried to hang around with Charlie and her pals, however as I used to be simply that bit youthful she didn’t need her little brother anyplace close to her. As we received older, issues modified: we’d typically have a disco at our home with audio system and lights, and we each beloved doing native theatre. I used to play the little cheeky lads, and Charlie would do the extra severe roles. She was at all times adamant about learning at theatre college. A part of the rationale why my dad and mom agreed to let her go was as a result of she had this massive interval of tension – she hated regular college and stored pondering she may see a ghost of the Blues Brothers on the finish of her mattress. To cease her from feeling so scared, I slept subsequent to her for 3 years.

I got here together with Charlie when she went to her audition for theatre college, and one of many tutors requested: “Does he wish to be a part of too?” Possibly there was a scarcity of younger boys on the college, however they actually needed me to enroll. My dream job on the time was to be a pilot, however I noticed appearing as a doable journey so I went together with it.

After that, Charlie and I – 12 and 10 years outdated – left residence and boarded with a woman and her daughter in London. It was an enormous change that bonded me and my sister. We weren’t that streetwise at first – there have been some ropey moments when the youngsters from native faculties noticed our vibrant inexperienced blazers, realised we went to the theatre college, and would take the mick. However we discovered to fend for ourselves. A yr and a half later my mum mentioned she couldn’t be with out us, so she moved as much as stay with us.

These early days in London have been robust for Charlie: I gave the impression to be getting each job I used to be auditioning for, and he or she wasn’t. Then her profession took off. When she first appeared in EastEnders, she used to get plenty of stick as a result of her character was fairly nasty. We’d be out and folks would shout imply issues at her, as if she was truly Janine moderately than an actor. I used to be fiercely protecting of her. The present had an viewers of 17 million individuals on the time, and a few of these individuals felt they’d the correct to say what they needed to her, simply because she was of their front room each night time. I couldn’t get my head round it.

There have been a number of good instances, too. We’ve at all times appreciated to chop unfastened and have fun, and we go to Ibiza yearly. Once we lived in west London, our neighbour hated us as we had events on a regular basis. One time I placed on Phil Collins’ Within the Air Tonight and handed out frying pans and ladles to our pals – when the drum kicked in the entire occasion had one thing to whack. Popcorn was flying and we have been ingesting champagne. It was a very good night time and I’m positive we’ll have many extra.


I’m carrying a jumper gown that my nan knitted. She made plenty of our garments, and I used to hate them as they have been so itchy. Ben is sporting a powerful look. We’re a cuddly, tactile household so me pulling him in for a hug wasn’t only for the digital camera.

He may need received on my nerves once we have been little, however we turned finest pals. We shared a social circle as teenagers and frolicked all through these years. On the backside of my dad and mom’ backyard was a bed room/funhouse, and as all our household are very salt of the earth and love a drink, it turned an open home with tons of individuals round on a regular basis. Me and Ben have been at all times doing performances for mum’s pals.

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I was a bit anxious as a child, so it was very sweet that Ben shared the bed with me when I was 10. As well as the Blues Brothers, I thought I could see a fly moving around the room, when it was probably just a mark in my eye. It would make me stressed, and I’d have a little panic attack and hide by the radiator. Maybe I was an attention-seeker, but I think it was mostly a manifestation of anxiety – I didn’t fit in at school as I wanted so badly to go to theatre school. So I did. And this little shit came along for the ride!

Being in London without our parents wasn’t a comfortable experience. In the break times at school, I remember calling my mum and crying, but I knew how much emotional and financial strife they’d been through to get us there. We were just two little kids from a small town in Wales, and I was lonely. That fed into never quite feeling worthy somehow. I always felt slightly out of my depth. I even felt like that when I was in EastEnders – I was super-confident and grownup in many ways, but inside there was also total fear.

I’m still a work-in-progress, but I’m starting to let the impostor syndrome go now. I feel as if I know myself better, and I stopped drinking, which has helped massively. Me and my brother have had a lot of long conversations about self-doubt, too. When we started iampro, I’d film videos for Instagram and I’d hate doing it – I felt as if I had nothing to say. He’d say: “Charlie, you’ve got so much experience, you can do this!” Ben has been an amazing person to get a pep talk from over the years.

When I had my daughter, Kiki, I was quite young, and Ben was off travelling, so we had our separate lives for a bit. It’s been brilliant to get back to seeing him more and running our own company. Business and family can be complicated, and at the start I would often think: “I want my brother to be my brother and not a colleague.” But we’ve got a good balance now, one that requires a huge level of understanding. I am so proud that we really take the time to listen to each other, something that brings us closer. Our relationship is, and always has been, really special.

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