Grant Mitchell (EastEnders)
|Portrayed by||Ross Kemp|
|First appearance||22 February 1990|
|Last appearance||9 June 2006|
|Introduced by||Michael Ferguson (1990)
Kate Harwood (2005)
|Book appearances||Blood Ties: The Life and Loves of Grant Mitchell|
|Dimensions in Time (1993)
EastEnders: The Mitchells, Naked Truths (1998)
Grant Anthony Mitchell is a fictional character from the British soap opera EastEnders, played by Ross Kemp. Grant first appeared in 1990, introduced by producer Michael Ferguson to revamp the show. Kemp remained until 1999 when he opted to leave. In 2005 and 2006, Kemp was persuaded to return to the role for brief stints during a period of heavy media criticism aimed at EastEnders. The return proved to be a ratings success, though Kemp has since been sceptical about the possibility of another return.
A popular character, prominent in the series, Grant is portrayed as a tough persona, known for his fiery temper and his tendency to resort to violence. Family is important to him, particularly his relationship with his brother, Phil (Steve McFadden). Grant and Phil known as the "Mitchell brothers" have become household names in the United Kingdom. They have been parodied even in adverts where their gruff, tough talking, cockney accents have been impersonated. One of EastEnders' most popular and highly rated storylines was Sharongate, where Grant discovers that his wife Sharon (Letitia Dean) has been having an affair with his brother.
- 1 Storylines
- 2 Character creation
- 3 Character development and impact
- 4 Reception
- 5 See also
- 6 References
- 7 External links
The second son born to Eric and Peggy Mitchell (Jo Warne and Barbara Windsor), Grant was close to his older brother Phil (Steve McFadden) growing up (there was just over a year between them) and protective of his much younger sister Sam (Danniella Westbrook). Grant was a paratrooper in the army where he undertook a mechanic's course, but being involved in the Falklands War deeply scarred him, so he dropped out and began to adapt to life as a civilian. The memories of war troubled him greatly. He was plagued with nightmares, and was prone to terrible rages as a result.
Grant arrives in Albert Square with his brother Phil in February 1990, as the owners of the local garage, the Arches. After a brief fling with Julie Cooper (Louise Plowright) and getting involved in various dodgy deals, Grant starts wooing the local barmaid, Sharon Watts (Letitia Dean). Sharon is attracted to his machismo, and soon their flirting progresses into a relationship. Fiercely protective of his girlfriend, most of Grant's initial problems in the Square revolve around his over-possessive nature and jealousy. He puts the landlord of The Queen Victoria public house, Eddie Royle (Michael Melia), in hospital after he makes a pass at Sharon; he later becomes prime suspect for Royle's murder in 1991, but Nick Cotton (John Altman) eventually owns up to the crime. In the wake of this, Grant decides to re-enlist in the army, but is rejected when he fails their psychiatric tests.
Despite his hot-headed tendencies, Sharon sees a different side to Grant, and when he proposes marriage to her, she accepts on the condition that he buys her her childhood home, the Queen Vic pub, which he does. Grant marries Sharon in December 1991 and together they run The Queen Victoria. Their marriage is stormy and punctuated with violent rows and fights. Grant is desperate for a child, and when he discovers Sharon is still taking contraception, he smashes up the pub and then disappears. In his absence, Sharon is comforted by Phil and they begin an affair, although this comes to an abrupt end when Grant returns and promises to change his ways. He cannot live up to his promises however, and on Sharon's birthday in 1992, Grant sets fire to the Queen Vic to generate insurance money to pay off debts. He does not check to see if Sharon is out of the way, and she and her dog Roly nearly die in the blaze. The insurance money is insufficient, and Sharon reacts with fury when she discovers what Grant has done. She leaves Grant for a while, and when she return attempts to seize control of the Vic; Grant turns violent, assaults Sharon and her friend Michelle Fowler (Susan Tully) and is imprisoned on remand. While he is in prison, Sharon and Phil rekindle their affair, but neither can confess to Grant, and it ends when he is released from prison. Sharon and Grant patch up their relationship; however, in 1994, Grant discovers a tape on which Sharon talks about her affair with Phil, and plays it to a packed pub at Phil and Kathy Beale's (Gillian Taylforth) engagement party. Grant batters Phil in revenge, leaving him with a ruptured spleen, and bullies Sharon until she fled to America. She returns briefly in 1995 to enact revenge, making Grant realise that he is still in love with her, he chooses to be with Sharon over his family. Sharon is ready to turn him down in front of a packed pub and his family. However, in the end, she cannot go through with it, and stops him from publicly proposing before he humiliates himself. She then confesses to him that she still loves him, before moving back to America, leaving Grant shattered.
Sharon's best friend Michelle Fowler (Susan Tully) has a volatile relationship with Grant but, following Sharon's exit, falls pregnant following a one-night stand with him and then flees to the States without telling Grant that he is to be a father. Grant never finds out the baby is his. Grant goes on to wed a pregnant Tiffany Raymond (Martine McCutcheon) in 1996, although it is unclear whether he or Tiffany's ex-partner Tony (Mark Homer) is the father. When Grant discovers this, he is incensed and throws Tiffany out. He begins a relationship with Lorraine Wicks (Jacqueline Leonard), until a paternity test reveals that Grant is the father of his baby, Courtney (Carissa and Josephine O'Meara). He reunites with Tiffany to be near his daughter, but by this time his marriage has deteriorated. When Tiffany discovers that Grant has had an affair with her mother Louise Raymond (Carol Harrison), she plans to flee to Spain with Courtney on New Year's Eve 1998, but Grant traces her and retrieves Courtney. Tiffany attempts to snatch Courtney but is hit by a car driven by Frank Butcher (Mike Reid), Grant's stepfather, and dies as the clock struck midnight. Grant tries to move on by dating barmaid Nina Harris (Troy Titus-Adams) for a while but dumps her after her past as a prostitute is uncovered.
Grant and brother Phil plan to cheat some gangsters to pay off a debt in October 1999 by intercepting an drug deal and stealing a large amount of cash. Before doing the job with Phil, Grant punches Steve Owen (Martin Kemp). However, the job goes awry when Phil finds out that Grant has slept with his ex-wife Kathy before doing the job. He confronts Grant after the job and Grant admits he did it in revenge for Phil sleeping with Sharon. Phil pulls out a gun, and shoots the steering wheel in their getaway car, causing Grant to plunge the car into the River Thames. Phil is rescued but Grant is not found and presumed dead. A week later it is revealed that Grant is alive. He departed with Courtney and the stolen money to Rio de Janeiro.
Grant returns to Walford in October 2005 with Phil to exonerate his sister Sam Mitchell (now Kim Medcalf) for the murder of Den Watts (Leslie Grantham); she is being framed by the real murderer Chrissie Watts (Tracy-Ann Oberman). Grant manages to put his differences with both Phil and Sharon behind him, forgiving Sharon when she confesses that she aborted his child in 1995. Grant and Phil manage to persuade Sharon, Den's daughter, that Chrissie (Den's second wife) is the real killer. He finds CCTV evidence of Chrissie admitting she is the murderer to gangster Johnny Allen (Billy Murray). Johnny has a grudge against the Mitchell brothers because of their mother Peggy (now Barbara Windsor) and uses the tape as bait to try to kill them. The brothers eventually beat Johnny at his nightclub office in order to get the tape, Sam is released from prison and Chrissie is imprisoned. Following this, Grant returns to Rio.
He returns in March 2006 with his daughter Courtney (now Megan Jossa), citing family and financial problems back in Brazil. Phil tricks Grant to help him in his quest for revenge against Johnny, who killed Sharon's second husband Dennis Rickman (Nigel Harman). Amidst arguing amongst the Mitchell brothers, Johnny, armed with a shotgun, captures them and orders his henchman Danny Moon to take them to a forest and kill them. They are rescued by Danny's brother Jake Moon (Joel Beckett), who shoots his brother dead at the last second - saving Phil and Grant. Jake secretly buries his brother in the woods and Johnny turns himself into the police.
Grant flirts with Jane Collins (Laurie Brett), Ian Beale (Adam Woodyatt)'s girlfriend; he seduces her after getting a job working for Jake at the newly reopened Scarlet nightclub. Their affair ends when Phil catches them together and Grant then has a one-night stand with 19-year-old Chelsea Fox - to his mother's outrage. Shortly after, his estranged Brazilian wife, Carla (Christianne Oliveira), shows up in Walford. Grant and Carla resume their relationship, but Carla's ex-partner Ray (David Kennedy) soon arrives to retrieve £12,000 that Carla has stolen from him. Carla and Ray resume their affair and plan to fleece Grant for £25,000. Grant learns of Carla's scam; unbeknown to Carla he chases Ray away and leads Carla to believe he has fallen for her lies. Grant catches her attempting to steal his money and reacts by dumping her in a litter bin, ending their marriage. Grant and Courtney then leave together for Portugal. In 2010, Sam moves to Portugal with her son Richard to live with Grant and Courtney.
In the latter part of 1989 EastEnders executive producer Michael Ferguson, had taken over from Mike Gibbon. Ferguson had previously been a producer on ITV's The Bill — a hard-hitting and successful police drama, which seemed to be challenging EastEnders in providing a realistic vision of modern life in London. Due to his success on The Bill, Peter Cregeen, the Head of Series at the BBC, poached Ferguson to become executive producer of EastEnders.
Following a relatively unsuccessful inclination towards comedic storylines throughout 1989, Ferguson decided to take the soap in a new direction in 1990. Big changes were implemented both off-screen and on-screen. Ferguson altered the way the episodes were produced, changed the way the storylines were conceptualised and introduced a far greater amount of location work than had previously been seen. EastEnders scriptwriter Colin Brake has said that it was a challenging period, but "the results on-screen were a programme with a new sense of vitality, and a programme more in touch with the real world than it had been for a while".
As a consequence of these changes, a large number of characters, including Marge Green (Pat Coombs), Julie Cooper (Louise Plowright), Trevor Short (Phil McDermott) and Paul Priestly (Mark Thrippleton), were axed in early 1990 as the new production machine cleared way for a new direction and new characters. Two major new characters, the Mitchell brothers, made their first appearance in February 1990. Ferguson wanted to introduce a couple of young men who would bring an air of danger, characters who would be "unpredictable" and "bursting with energy". Phil and Grant Mitchell went on to become major long-term characters, rooted firmly at the heart of the series.
To cast Phil and Grant Mitchell many actors were screen-tested together. This was done to assure that the chosen actors — who would work predominantly alongside each other — had a strong rapport and physical resemblance. Producer Corinne Hollingworth has commented: "There were some good actors we had to turn down because we couldn't find the 'right' brother". Ross Kemp was chosen to play Grant. Kemp was an actor with a stocky, muscular build and shaven hair, making him an ideal choice to play one of Walford's latest "tough-men". Steve McFadden was given the role of Phil. Both actors worked well and convincingly together and both shared similar physical characteristics, such as short cropped hair and a "round, open face" — facial characteristics also shared by Danniella Westbrook, who was chosen to play their sister Samantha partly because of this (Westbrook was later recast, with Kim Medcalf taking over).
Of the two brothers Grant was the more volatile, but both had a sense of physical danger about them, and both displayed stereotypical masculinity, thuggish behaviour and a tendency to resolve problems through violence. Grant was originally depicted as the more spontaneous of the Mitchell double-act, often incapable of restraining himself and requiring his elder brother to do it for him. Despite the brothers' closeness, rivalry between them was sometimes evident.
Grant often displayed laddish, thrill-seeking behaviour; drinking, chasing women, clubbing, gambling and living off of his wits. He became restless easily and actively sought the thrill of danger in order to regain excitement in his life, which led to his participation in numerous crimes, fights and affairs. Grant showed sociopathic tendencies at times — impulsive behaviour, a disregard for social rules and an indifference to the feelings of others, particularly the women in his life. He was often portrayed as arrogant and egotistical, with an inflated opinion of his own importance. Because of this, he rarely admitted to being at fault or backed down from an argument. While the character mellowed in his later years, such behaviour was still apparent. However he is not completely without showing rare signs of compassion. An example of this was that he was one of the few people who offered support to Mark Fowler when he was isolated by the rest of Albert Square (led ironically by Grant's mother, Peggy), because of his HIV illness.
Grant took great pride in being a Mitchell, his late father had a local reputation as a boxer. He always strived to live up to the family name and enjoyed the reputation he inherited and maintained. While Grant liked to think of himself as indestructible, he at many times showed emotional vulnerability and a need to be mothered. Indeed, at times he was just as likely to burst into tears as he was to throw a punch. Because of this, he attracted many women, despite the fact that he often treated them as possessions, disregarding their feelings and eliciting exaggerated revenge should they cross him (resulting in spousal abuse and the destruction of all three of his marriages). His quick temper was off-set by a period of genuine remorse and promises that he would change. However, more often than not, Grant reverted to form and when placed under pressure he seemed incapable of controlling his aggression, disregarding all consequences.
Character development and impact
The Mitchell brothers quickly became two of the soap's most popular characters and storylines involving the brothers soon began to dominate the programme. Their arrival heralded a new era for the soap, which aptly coincided with the beginning of a new decade — EastEnders during the 1980s having been very much dominated by the hugely popular Watts family.
One of the most notable and popular early storylines involving Grant was a love triangle between him, his brother and his wife Sharon (played by Letitia Dean). Despite the fact that Sharon married Grant initially, EastEnders writer Tony Jordan has revealed in The Mitchells - The Full Story that the love-triangle storyline had been planned since Phil and Grant's introduction, after the writers came to the realisation that Sharon was perfect for them both. This storyline was slow burning and was spread over several years, providing a plethora of dramatic tension along the way. The episode in which Phil betrayed his brother with Sharon occurred in September 1992 in one of the soap's notorious three-handers. Sue Dunderdale directed the episodes and the performances of McFadden, Kemp and Dean have been described as memorable and filled with high-tension drama. Things finally came to a head in 1994 with some of EastEnders' most popular and renowned episodes, which have been dubbed "Sharongate". The episodes — which were watched by 25.3 million viewers — centred around Grant's discovery of the affair and his startling reaction. The repercussions of Phil's betrayal contributed to many subsequent storylines involving the brothers throughout the 1990s. Writer of Sharongate, Tony Jordan, has stated that of all the storylines he has penned for the soap, Sharongate is the one he is most proud of. He comments "Three of the strongest characters that have ever been in EastEnders are the Mitchell brothers and Sharon... when we actually blew that story it was incredible... being able to reach that many people with your work is what makes EastEnders exciting." Sharongate has also proven a popular storyline with viewers and it was voted the sixth top soap opera moment of the decade in a poll of 17,000 people for What's On TV magazine.
Volatile marriage to Tiffany
From 1996 to 1998 viewers were gripped by Grant's combustible marriage to Tiffany Raymond (played by Martine McCutcheon). Their relationship was a typical portrayal of unrequited love on Tiffany's side and was fraught with tragedy and drama. For Grant it was more a marriage of convenience, allowing him access to his daughter, Courtney. Grant's poor treatment of Tiffany included physical and emotional abuse and two affairs, one of which was with her mother Louise (played by Carol Harrison) and the other with Lorraine Wicks (played by Jacqueline Leonard). Their volatile relationship made headlines in July 1997 amid reports that EastEnders bosses were considering airing a highly controversial storyline that saw Tiffany brutally raped by Grant. The plot, which was slated to be aired on Christmas Day 1997, evoked high criticism from female MPs and children's groups, TV clean-up campaigners and church officials, who were all expressive in unanimous condemnation about the BBC's "cynical ploy to win the seasonal ratings war over arch-rival Coronation Street." Labour MP Anne Clywd suggested that the BBC should "reconsider" and Michelle Elliott, director of the children's charity Kidscape, said: "This is an appalling, outrageous, utterly nauseous example of rape for ratings." Reports also alleged that actor Ross Kemp was not happy about the plot either and threatened to quit the role unless the scripts were altered. Subsequently, the plot never came to fruition.
The following year EastEnders topped the ratings at Christmas 1998 when Grant was accused of the attempted murder of Tiffany, and the following Monday 15.7 million viewers tuned in to see Grant make a first court appearance. The year finally culminated with the death of Tiffany — killed in a motor accident, while trying to reclaim her daughter from Grant. 22 million viewers tuned in to see Grant and Tiffany's final clash on New Year's Eve 1998.
The Mitchell car crash; Grant's first exit
In 1999 Kemp decided to leave EastEnders after almost ten years playing Grant. The storyline signifying his departure played heavily on the Mitchell brothers' fragile and damaged relationship. After discovering that Grant had vengefully slept with his wife Kathy Mitchell, Phil went ballistic with a handgun causing the car Grant was driving to career at high speed into the River Thames. The episode was written by Tony Jordan, directed by Paul Annett and was watched by 19.5 million viewers. Shot in London's Docklands, the scenes required stunt doubles, divers and crash test dummies and it has been hailed as "one of the soap's most dramatic storylines ever."
Initially viewers were left uncertain as to whether Grant survived the crash, but the character was not killed off and a week later viewers saw Grant depart along with his daughter Courtney for a new life in Rio, Brazil. A spokesperson from the BBC confirmed "the door is always open for a return."
Kemp never ruled out a return to the show and after nearly six years away he was lured back to EastEnders for a fixed period in order to reunite the Mitchell family on-screen. Executive producer, Kate Harwood, commented: "We are so pleased that Ross will be back on the show. His character is one of the most iconic and popular in the history of soap. The impact of his return for the inhabitants of Walford should not be underestimated. It is going to be fireworks from the start."
Grant's high-profile return, which aired in October 2005, helped boost the show's flagging ratings to 13 million viewers and a 52.9% audience share for his first on-screen episode. He was only in the show for a period of three weeks initially, but his contract was subsequently extended for a further three months beginning in the Spring of 2006. The character was involved in numerous storylines including the unveiling of Den Watts' (Leslie Grantham) killer, an affair with Ian Beale's (Adam Woodyatt) girlfriend, Jane Collins (Laurie Brett) and a series of episodes dubbed "Get Johnny Week", which saw the Mitchell brothers embroiled in a vendetta against gangster Johnny Allen (Billy Murray). The character bowed out once again in June 2006, following the destruction of his third marriage to deceitful Brazilian, Carla (Christianne Oliveira).
In 2011, Kemp told Radio Times that he has no plans to return to EastEnders: "I enjoy the fact that I've far more control over my destiny than I ever had when acting. I didn't even watch the soaps when I was in them because it's like a coal miner coming home and staring at the coal scuttle—I was never a great lover of watching myself act."
The character of Grant Mitchell has been hailed as "one of the most iconic and popular in the history of soap". In a study by the Stirling Media Research Institute called Men Viewing Violence, participants branded Grant "a fascinating character" because of his complexity and likened him and Phil to a soap operatic version of the notorious East End criminals, the Kray Twins. He has become one of EastEnders biggest sex-symbols — described by the magazine, Women Republic, as "an ideal bit of rough... the antithesis to the pretty boys who spend longer in front of the mirror than we do." He was also voted the second most hunky man in British soap by gay readers of the magazine, attitude, who described him as "a dashing big, bad bully boy." In addition, Grant and Phil were voted as the second most popular King Of Soaps in a Channel 4 poll in 2002 and Grant was voted as one of the Top Ten TV Hard Men in a separate poll.
In a 2003 poll, three years after Grant's initial departure, the character was voted the soap hero most viewers wanted back on their screens, gaining the vote of one in five people. Leigh Bennett of NTL, the cable TV firm behind the survey, said: "Fans crave quirky characters who inject humour and drama." Grant's long awaited return eventually happened in 2005, during a period of heavy media criticism aimed at EastEnders. The character was reintroduced along with his brother Phil in what was branded by the press as a bid to "revive the soap's ailing ratings." Of the Mitchell brothers' highly publicised return, one reporter commented "Soapville must confess that we did get goosebumps and feel properly excited when we first saw the Mitchell Brothers back on the Square... After all, you associate them with the golden days of Enders". Their return was voted as one of the Golden TV Moments of 2005 in a BBC poll.
Kemp has won several awards for his role as Grant. He was named 'Best Actor' at the 1999 and 2006 British Soap Awards, as well as the 1998 TV Quick and TV Choice Awards. Collecting his award, he commented: "People have a go at all soaps, but the people you see on screen are giving their all 52 weeks a year." Kemp also received 'Most Popular Actor' nominations at the 1996, 1997, 1998 and 2006 National Television Awards, and British Soap Award nominations for 'Villain of the Year' in 1999, and 'Spectacular Scene of the Year' in 2006, for Grant's brush with death in 'Get Johnny Week'.
The character has been the focus of varying EastEnders merchandise in other media, which includes the VHS EastEnders - The Mitchells - Naked Truths and EastEnders: Blood Ties - The Life and Loves of Grant Mitchell, a novelisation written by Kate Lock, which chronicles facts about the character, explores his background and attempts to explain the source of his aggression and vulnerability.
Although popular with many viewers, the character has garnered criticism, mainly regarding the way his anti-social behaviour is sensationalised by the programme makers. In November 2005 the character was blamed for turning children into playground bullies by Dr. Sally Henry, who claimed that impressionable children look to male soap characters as role models and subsequently copy their violent behaviour.
In addition, the character's predisposition to violence has allegedly been criticised by actor Ross Kemp. In 1998, press reports claimed that Kemp had asked producers to tone down Grant's violent behaviour because "it was insulting the viewers' intelligence."
Grant and Phil's brotherly confrontation — marking Grant's initial exit in 1999 — was panned by critics. Ian Hyland of the Sunday Mirror branded the storyline a "farce... hardly a fitting exit for Walford's dodgiest geezer since Dirty Den." He mocked the episode's stunts, commenting: "There are so many post-watershed dramas on TV that do these kind of scenes properly that Phil and Grant ended up looking like two little kids playing on a building site. Instead of wasting all their time on this ridiculous ending they could have made it a heart-wrenching farewell..."
There were mixed reviews for the highly publicised storyline (dubbed "Get Johnny Week") involving the Mitchell brothers reunion in 2006. It was criticised as "patchy" and "awkwardly written... unveiling a common weakness in the EastEnders camp, that character continuity can often fall by the wayside when you are dealing with larger characters". Additionally, the show was criticised for turning the brothers into a comical farce by incorporating uncharacteristic humour into their dialect, which was described as "cringeworthy."
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