Barry Evans (EastEnders)
|Portrayed by||Shaun Williamson|
|First appearance||27 December 1994|
|Last appearance||2 January 2004|
|Introduced by||Barbara Emile|
Barry Evans is a fictional character played by Shaun Williamson. He appears in the BBC soap opera EastEnders between 1994 and 2004. The character is portrayed as a "buffoon." Williamson controversially left the serial after ten years in 2003 after executive producer Louise Berridge refused to allow him time off to star in a seasonal pantomime. Barry is killed-off in an episode that first aired early in January 2004.
Barry arrives in Albert Square in 1994 as an acquaintance of David Wicks (Michael French), and he initially gives David and his married girlfriend, Cindy Beale (Michelle Collins), somewhere to meet in secret. Barry later helps Cindy escape when she is wanted by the police for the attempted murder of her husband, Ian Beale (Adam Woodyatt).
Barry is son of car dealer Roy Evans (Tony Caunter). He moves to Albert Square when Roy and his new romantic interest, Pat (Pam St. Clement), move in together. Barry initially manages Roy's car business, Manor Wood and Roy goes into partnership with David Wicks when he invests in the car lot. Problems arise in 1996 when Pat's ex-husband, Frank Butcher (Mike Reid), returns to the Square and tries to reclaim his wife, his house and his business from Roy. Barry tries to get rid of Frank by hiring a man to torch the car-lot, hoping that Frank will be frightened off. However, Frank had already left and Phil Mitchell (Steve McFadden) is the one trapped inside when the lot goes up in flames. Phil survives and the arsonist is soon caught by the police and soon implicates Barry, who is arrested and subsequently imprisoned as he was trying to leave the country and is released a few months later.
Upon his release, Barry is given a chance to prove his capabilities by running the car-lot on Albert Square while Roy enjoys retirement. Following David's departure the business is renamed 'Evans & Son', much to Barry's glee. Barry is forever searching for the respect and pride of his father, but however hard he tries he always messes things up and ends up trying his father's patience instead. Barry's management of the car lot is no exception. Barry risks the business and his family's savings by handing his monetary assets over to con-woman Vanessa Carlton. Barry is fooled into believing that Vanessa loves him, and after persuading him to invest the money in a fabricated business venture in 1997, she disappears and leaves Barry to face up to a furious Roy. Barry's blunder forces Roy out of retirement and Barry is never able to regain Roy's full trust again.
Losing his job at the car lot, Barry is forced to seek employment elsewhere. He replaces Robbie Jackson (Dean Gaffney), as manager of the local video shop by using dirty tricks. It is around this time that Barry wants a girlfriend and seeks the help of a local dating agency to get it. This leads to him meeting Natalie Price (Lucy Speed). The two grow closer as Natalie sets him up on many disastrous dates. After much bumbling from Barry, he eventually realizes that he has feelings for Natalie and a romance begins. Natalie soon moves in with Barry, Roy and Pat and they marry in a millennium double wedding with Ian Beale and Melanie Healy (Tamzin Outhwaite). Barry and Natalie are happy for a while until Natalie discovers she is pregnant. Barry is over the moon about the news but Natalie isn't so pleased and almost aborts the baby. However, Barry promises to help out with the baby duties so Natalie can keep working and in 2002 Jack (Samuel and Joseph Timson) is born.
Barry has a turbulent time when his half brother Nathan Williams (Doug Allen) comes onto the scene. Nathan, born of an affair between Barry's father and Nathan's mother Jane (Ann Mitchell), resents Barry for having his father's unconditional love as Nathan never knew his father. Meanwhile, Barry is angry with his father for being unfaithful to his mother and their relationship is severely tested. Despite attempts by Barry and Roy to make Nathan feel part of the family, Nathan does his best to exclude and diminish Barry. Things reach a head when Barry discovers that Nathan has kissed his wife and realising Nathan's agenda, Roy disowns him. Barry eventually forgives Natalie but he never trusts her fully again. Although Barry tries to make his marriage work, Natalie doesn't care about him as much as she did and soon strays again with old flame Ricky (Sid Owen). Natalie and Ricky plan to leave Walford with their sons but Barry catches them just as they plan to leave. Realizing that Ricky doesn't care about her as much as she cares about him, so she ends the affair and her marriage. In a cruel twist of fate, Barry's night gets worse when Roy is rushed to hospital and dies not long after from a heart attack. Devastated, Barry blames Pat, whom he never forgave for cheating on his father with her ex-husband, Frank Butcher. During an argument with Pat, she tells him that Natalie never loved him and Barry trashes the house. As Barry is the sole beneficiary of his father's estate, he throws Pat out and leaves her with nothing.
Barry spends a long time, feeling sorry for himself and becomes a bit of a recluse. Barry's employee, Janine (Charlie Brooks), sensing an opportunity to manipulate some money out of Barry and starts worming her way into his affections. Helped by her secret boyfriend Paul Trueman (Gary Beadle), she concocts a plan to make Barry fall in love with her so she can get access to Barry's wealth. Feeling vulnerable since his split with Natalie, Barry falls for Janine and they get engaged. Meanwhile, a mix-up with Barry's doctor makes Barry believe that he is not long for this world so he whisks Janine off to Scotland and they plan to get married on New Year's Eve 2003. However, feeling guilty, Paul ends his relationship with Janine after the wedding. To make matters worse, Barry has discovered that he is not dying, making Janine realize that she is married to Barry and will not get his money for the foreseeable future. The very next day, Barry persuades Janine to go for a romantic walk on the Scottish moors. However Janine, unable to stand Barry any longer, hurls venomous abuse at him and confesses that their relationship is fake and that she has been having an affair with Paul but Barry still wants to be with her and says that he will forgive him if she stays with him. He begs Janine not to leave him and goes to hug her but she pushes him away and he stumbles before falling over a cliff edge, where he hits his head on rocks at the bottom. Janine leaves him to die and inherits his estate.
Creation and development
The character was originally intended to appear in four episodes, debuting in December 1994. According to Barry's actor Shaun Williamson, the character was originally conceived as a tall, blond haired man. Williamson was neither particularly tall nor blond, and after being called for an audition to read for the part, he thought about dropping out as he was not a physical match. However, the Director stated that "nothing is laid in cement" with regard to the character, so Williamson went ahead with the audition. Williamson has said that Barry was meant to be a vehicle to bring his father Roy Evans (Tony Caunter) into the show, as Roy was being scripted as a new love interest for the regular character Pat Butcher (Pam St Clement); in Barry's first appearance he meets Pat to apologise for a dodgy car he had sold her, paving the way for Roy to be introduced to her. For the next year and a half, Barry made sporadic appearances, in Williamson's own words "popping in and out". When a storyline in 1996 saw Barry imprisoned for arson, Williamson has said that he was uncertain whether his character would appear again; however the character was brought back on a more permanent basis later in the year.
In 1999, executive-producer Matthew Robinson decided to introduce a new love-interest for Barry. He decided to bring back a former character, unrelated to Barry but who had connections with several other characters in the serial. The character was Natalie Price, played by Lucy Speed, who had appeared from 1994-1995. The biggest storyline involving Barry and Natalie in 1999 was their joint double wedding with the characters Ian Beale and Melanie Healy (Adam Woodyatt and Tamzin Outhwaite) - the lead up to which included a hen/stag night celebration episode, which was filmed on-location in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. The episode evoked criticism by the Broadcasting Standards Commission for its inclusion of “almost relentless drunken and promiscuous behaviour, sexual innuendo and drug-taking, before the watershed”, which included Natalie having to acquire three love bites from strangers. The BBC defended the episode, claiming that its content would have “come as no surprise to viewers” and adding that the depiction of this behaviour conformed to an EastEnders tradition - that questionable conduct "only leads to further trouble…One character's quest for drugs led to embarrassment and nausea and a drinking binge led to the calling off of [Barry and Natalie’s] wedding while the prospects for another became bleaker."
Natalie and Barry’s screen wedding was featured as part of the Millennium Eve episodes, which drew in 20.89 million viewers – the biggest soap audience since the character Tiffany Mitchell (Martine McCutcheon) was killed off in EastEnders precisely one year earlier (New Year's Eve 1998). An EastEnders spokeswoman commented: "This is a remarkable endorsement of the power of EastEnders that over 20 million viewers chose to see the Millennium celebrations in Albert Square." The episodes were also broadcast on screens in London's Trafalgar Square, a typical “haunt for New Year's Eve revelers”.
In 2001, a pregnancy was written into the Evanses' narrative. Natalie was shown to be distressed by the prospect of being a mother and planned to have an abortion. Viewers saw a “devastated Barry” react badly to the news in a special extended four-hander episode (written by Christopher Reason and directed by Clive Arnold) – the episode had a maternal theme with the action flitting between Barry and Natalie’s saga and scenes between Steve Owen and his dying mother, which included revelations of child abuse and incest. An EastEnders spokesman said: "We are very proud of the programme. The storylines involving Steve and his mother and Barry and Natalie are the stuff of intense drama. All four actors give incredible performances." The following episode Barry was seen to chase Natalie to the abortion clinic, where he persuaded her to go through with the pregnancy. The scenes between Natalie and Barry have been described as some of “the most powerful moments in soap, with the couple battling to decide the fate of their unborn baby”.
Viewers saw Natalie and Barry’s marriage sour towards the end of 2002 when, in the New Year’s Eve episode, Natalie rekindled a secret affair with her former lover Ricky Butcher (Sid Owen), which continued into 2003. Speed commented “Natalie's always had strong feelings for Ricky. And now she's grown tired of being a mother to baby Jack and Barry." The storyline reached its climax in March 2003. On-screen Natalie's plan to abscond with Ricky were thwarted by Barry’s discovery of the affair, leading to a public confrontation between the three protagonists. Shaun Williamson has commented “Barry is absolutely devastated as his whole life is ripped apart. He can’t believe Nat has betrayed him. He loves his life with Natalie and Jack, and would do anything to make it work as a family again. Losing Natalie is going to be really difficult for Barry, but I think the hardest thing will be losing his son.” The storyline signified the end of the characters’ three-year marriage.
In popular culture
In 2002 the character was featured in a spoof of the Michael Jackson hit video, Thriller, which was made as part of the annual fund-raising event, Children in Need. Shaun Williamson as Barry played the Michael Jackson role, while Lucy Speed as Natalie took on Ola Ray’s role as his date. Unlike the original video - where Jackson was seen to turn into a zombie - the spoof saw Natalie transformed into the walking dead. A dozen cast-members took part in the spoof where they recreated the dance routine made famous in the original video.
Following his stint on EastEnders, Shaun Williamson — the actor who depicted Barry — had a regular role as a comically unemployable version of himself in the Ricky Gervais / Stephen Merchant BBC-HBO comedy series Extras, in which his career has bogged down partially as a result of the incompetence of his agent Darren Lamb (played by Merchant). A frequent running gag is that even Lamb is unable to remember his client's real name, instead referring to him as "Barry off EastEnders", in reference to Williamson's EastEnders character. The character of Barry Evans has also been spoofed in the cartoon sketch show 2DTV.
- Barry Evans played by Shaun Williamson
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