Todd Carty as Mark Fowler (2003)
|Portrayed by||David Scarboro (1985–87)
Todd Carty (1990–2003)
|First appearance||19 February 1985|
|Last appearance||14 February 2003|
|Created by||Tony Holland and Julia Smith|
|Introduced by||Julia Smith (1985)
Michael Ferguson (1990)
|Occupation||Market trader (fruit and veg)|
David Scarboro as the original Mark (1985).
Mark Albert Fowler is a fictional character from the popular British BBC soap opera EastEnders. Mark was an original regular character in the series starting February 1985 but became a semi-regular after his original portrayer David Scarboro was written out of the role in April 1985. Scarboro made brief returns to the role in 1986 and 1987. Scarboro committed suicide in April 1988. The role was recast in 1990, with Todd Carty taking the role. From this point the character was a permanent fixture in the series and Carty remained in the role until the character was written out of the series in early 2003. He started out as a delinquent teenager, but returned to Walford a changed man when he was 22. Contracting HIV forced him to grow up fast and accept his responsibilities. He frequently found it difficult to accept the restrictions of the illness, which finally claimed his life in April 2004.
Mark is the eldest son of Albert Square residents Arthur Fowler (Bill Treacher) and Pauline Fowler (Wendy Richard). Initially, Mark gets involved in drugs with Nick Cotton (John Altman), tries to join a racist organisation known as The New Movement, is a suspect in Reg Cox's (Johnnie Clayton) murder, and generally clashes with his parents. Not knowing what else to do, he abruptly leaves home in April 1985 without telling anyone where he is going. After Mark contacts his parents through a runaways' agency, an extremely worried Pauline and Arthur track him down to Southend-on-Sea in December. Mark is more settled and is working as a mechanic at a go-cart track. He is living with a Swedish woman named Ingrid and her children who call Mark Daddy. He and Ingrid split up soon afterwards and Mark moves on to do farmwork in Wales, Gloucester and finally Newcastle.
Mark returns to Walford several times in 1986 for brief visits. In July, he brings a Welsh friend Owen Hughes (Philip Brock). The duo cause problems after Cassie Carpenter (Delanie Forbes) steals their cannabis and is caught smoking it by her parents, Tony (Oscar James) and Hannah Carpenter (Sally Sagoe), making the Carpenters refuse to speak to the Fowlers. In November, Pauline learns that Mark is in Borstal detention centre for drug offences, burglary and assaulting a policeman. Pauline visits him in February 1987, finding him unrepentant, but he is due to be released in a few weeks. On his release, he briefly returns to Walford, but despite Pauline's pleas, refuses to stay and leaves again. Mark isn't seen until Christmas Day 1987, when he arrives unexpectedly to spend the day with his family. Mark astutely guesses that Den Watts (Leslie Grantham) is his niece's father but keeps this to himself.
Mark returns to Albert Square in September 1990, a changed man. He is more caring and sedate, having grown out of his rebellious stage His new maturity is due to the fact that he has contracted HIV, forcing him to become more responsible. Mark becomes close friends with Diane Butcher (Sophie Lawrence), telling her about his HIV status in January 1991. He believes that he caught the virus from Gill Robinson (Susanna Dawson), his girlfriend in Newcastle, who visits briefly that year but leaves when she sees him with Diane. Mark initially tells Gill that he isn't infected with HIV but later tells the truth. Mark's relationship with Diane never gets serious as she is more a confidante than a girlfriend but she persuades Mark to get counselling at the Terrence Higgins Trust. Mark initially turns on his male counsellor, relaying his bitterness at being a potential AIDS victim but feels the benefits of discussing his status. Diane keeps Mark's secret, which he loves her for and asks her to marry him. However, she gently turns him down and shortly afterwards, leaves Walford to live in France.
Towards the end of the year, following the example of his friend Joe Wallace (Jason Rush) who told his parents that he is gay and HIV-positive, Mark decides to tell his parents. By this time, he is dating Rachel Kominski (Jacquetta May), who advises him against it, but Mark is tired of the pretence. On Boxing Day Mark tells Pauline and Arthur that he is HIV-positive but they do not react well, so Mark leaves helpful leaflets around the house and leaves for a while. On his return, he faces his mother's irrational terror and hostility from his father. Arthur's ignorance is apparent initially as he is scared that he will catch HIV from Mark, going to great lengths to bleach the cutlery that Mark has used to avoid infection. Mark's mother and sister, Michelle Fowler (Susan Tully), are distraught but help Arthur understand Mark's illness and support Mark during this time. Mark's relationship with Rachel ends in 1992 and the animosity at home makes Mark look for his ex-girlfriend Gill, who is now living in London and is seriously ill. Gill's HIV has progressed into AIDS and her deterioration is rapid. She is diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and is placed in a hospice. Mark realises that he loves her and asks her to marry him. Mark and Gill marry in June 1992 and their honeymoon consists of one night in a hotel, before Gill is readmitted to the hospice where she dies. A devastated Mark spends the rest of the year in shock and begins drinking heavily. Mark later befriends local teenage tearaway Mandy Salter (Nicola Stapleton) but their friendship is severely tested when she becomes obsessed with him. Mark, still grieving for Gill, is horrified when he discovers that Mandy has been reading his late wife's diary and has dressed up in her clothes. Despite this, he later invites Mandy to live with him after Kathy Beale (Gillian Taylforth) throws her out. On Christmas Day, Mandy leaves Walford to meet her mother but is attacked by her stepfather; Mark arrives in the nick of time to rescue her and invites her for Christmas dinner at the Fowler household.
During 1993, Mark takes over running the family fruit and vegetable stall in the market after his uncle, Pete Beale (Peter Dean), leaves. He also begins an on/off relationship with his sister's house-mate, Shelley Lewis (Nicole Arumugam), but is reluctant to tell her about his HIV status. In November, while away in Amsterdam, Shelley makes it clear to Mark that she wants to sleep with him so he has to tell her that they can't because he is HIV positive. Shelley is furious that he didn't trust her enough to tell her before now, saying angrily that she never wants to see him again. Mark takes this badly and stops taking his HIV medication. He is consequently rushed to hospital that Christmas after collapsing and when Shelley finds out, she visits him and admits that she cares deeply for him, so they reconcile. Shelley wants Mark to meet her family and go on holiday with her parents, becoming infatuated and wanting to spend as much time with him as she can. Mark fears that the relationship is moving too quickly and in March 1994, decides to end it but Shelley resorts to emotional blackmail, reminding him that she has risked her health by being with him, so he owes her. When this doesn't work, she threatens to tell everyone in Walford about his HIV status, but Mark calls her bluff and she chooses to leave Walford instead.
In 1994, Joe dies of an AIDS related illness and while visiting him in a hospice Mark meets a Scottish woman named Ruth Aitken (Caroline Paterson), who also visiting a friend. They go for a drink together to drown their sorrows, beginning a relationship and for once Mark has found a woman that can deal with his HIV status. However, Ruth's father, Hugh is a strict Presbyterian minister, who refuses to give his blessing to her relationship with Mark and disowns her when she announces their engagement. They marry in Scotland but despite claiming otherwise, Ruth is not happy about not starting a family. In 1996, Mark has to confront the Square's prejudices, when his HIV status becomes public knowledge. The ignorance concerning the illness doesn't help and, led by Peggy Mitchell (Barbara Windsor), the residents boycott Mark's stall, fearing they will catch the virus from his produce. Pauline defends her son, leading to a vicious fight with Peggy but she can't diffuse the prejudice and Mark comes home one day to find the words "AIDS scum" graffitied on his wall. Angered by this, he presents his neighbours with a few facts about his illness in The Queen Victoria; firstly telling them that he doesn't have AIDS but is HIV positive and that it is a non-contagious virus, forcing them to acknowledge their bigotry. Peggy remains uncertain but realises that Mark might appreciate some support when she is diagnosed with breast cancer.
In 1997, Mark and Ruth foster a six year old girl, Jessie Moore (Chelsey Paden), but returning her to her mother is too heart-breaking and leaves their marriage in trouble. When Mark's cousin Conor Flaherty (Seán Gleeson) shows an interest in Ruth, Mark gets jealous and the relationship falls apart. After they split, Ruth succumbs to Conor's charm and gets pregnant with his child. They leave Walford together in 1999, leaving Mark heart-broken. In 2000, Mark's feud with Nick Cotton (John Altman) resurfaces after he discovers that Nick has given ecstasy to his brother, Martin Fowler (James Alexandrou. Mark snaps and after spiking Nick's drink, leads him up to the Walford viaduct and watches as Nick falls to the ground, severely crippling himself. Nick wants revenge, enlisting his son Ashley (Frankie Fitzgerald) to help him. Ashley steals Mark's motorbike and tries to run Mark over but Nick drained the brake fluid from the bike and Ashley crashes into the launderette, killing him instantly. Nick leaves the Square shortly afterwards and never sees Mark again.
Mark grows fond of Lisa Shaw (Lucy Benjamin), who is in a rocky relationship with his enemy, Phil Mitchell (Steve McFadden). When she leaves Phil, she moves in with Mark and they begin a relationship, much to Pauline's despair. Together, they tell people that Lisa is expecting Mark's baby, even though Phil is the real father. Mark is happy to help Lisa raise the baby so Phil will no longer be part of Lisa's life. When asked about the problems Mark's HIV status would have caused, they tell people that Mark underwent sperm washing, and people are fooled for a while. Mark loves Lisa so much that he stays with her after she shoots Phil (who survives), and proposes to her in 2001 shortly after baby Louise's birth. However, Sharon Watts, tells Phil the truth about Louise's parentage and he vows to take an active role in his daughter's upbringing. Mark and Lisa marry in March 2002, but their happiness is short-lived. Lisa is still in love with Phil and he uses this to get closer to Louise. After Sharon discovers Phil's intentions, she talks Phil out of his plan and he ends the affair with Lisa, but Mark finds out and leaves the square. After five months of marriage, Lisa leaves Mark and resumes her affair with Phil.
In January 2003, Mark's doctor tells him that his body is rejecting his medication that delays the onset of AIDS. He accepts that he is going to die, and decides to leave Walford rather than let his family watch him die a slow and painful death. He makes a tearful farewell to his family and friends and rides off out of Albert Square in February 2003. News of his death reaches Walford in April 2004 and he is given a heart-felt send-off by the residents of Walford.
Character creation and development
Mark Fowler was one of the original twenty-three characters invented by the creators of EastEnders, Tony Holland and Julia Smith. Mark was a member of the first family of EastEnders, the Beales and Fowlers, and Holland took the inspiration for some of the series' earliest characters from his own London family and background. Mark's original character outline as written by Smith and Holland appeared in an abridged form in their book, EastEnders: The Inside Story.
|“||Mark will be leaving school at Easter and is fairly certain to be joining his dad in the dole queue. Mark is a very tough little lad, and at a very dodgy stage in his development...There's a kind of amoral streak in his nature...The area does have a brutalising effect on a lot of its youngsters (page 55)||”|
Several young actors were seen and read for the part of Mark (including Gary Hailes, who would later play the gay barrow boy, Barry Clark). On paper, David Scarboro was the least likely to get the job as he was relatively inexperienced, having previously only appeared in a little-known made-for-television film and Grange Hill. His reading was not a huge success as he mumbled most of his lines. However, Holland and Smith were taken with his appearance, particularly his "piercing eyes", which reminded them of James Dean. They felt that he would be "dynamite on-screen", and his likeness to their vision of the character was uncanny, so they offered him the role.
Mark was originally scripted to be a wayward delinquent and was due to feature heavily within the first year of the series. However, as soon as the regular gruelling schedule of EastEnders production established itself, it became clear that Scarboro was not happy in the role. The stress of the heavy workload and the sudden fame that came to all the actors became difficult for him to cope with. He became unhappy with the schedule and his scripts and refused to play Mark as a racist as was intended. Holland and Smith decided to write the character out of the show to allow the actor to come to terms with the situation better. On-screen, Mark was being implicated in the murder of Reg Cox (Johnnie Clayton) and was being tempted into heroin by Nick Cotton (John Altman). Fearing Nick and the police, Mark ran away from home in April 1985. As this had not been the original plan for the character, it meant a hectic period of re-writing early in 1985. The first fifty-odd scripts were reworked to accommodate this major change. Many of the stories intended for Mark were subsequently given to Kelvin Carpenter (Paul J. Medford), Ian Beale (Adam Woodyatt) and Mark's sister Michelle (Susan Tully) - which partially explains why her character became so prominent in the first year. It still left a gap though, because several of Mark's functions in the serial, as slightly the eldest of the youngsters, could not have been taken over by the others. A new character needed to be introduced to restore the balance to its original shape, which is why the character of Simon Wicks (Nick Berry) was introduced. This meant introducing the audience to a character and a story approximately a year before it had been originally intended.
Scarboro returned to the show briefly in December 1985 in a storyline that saw Mark's parents, Pauline (Wendy Richard) and Arthur (Bill Treacher) search for him in Southend. The storyline's intention was to help highlight the problems some parents face when their teenage children disappear from home. He returned again for brief stints in 1986 and 1987. His final appearance as Mark was on Christmas Day 1987. However, the actor was never to make a full-time return and Scarboro committed suicide in 1988.
Subsequently, the role was recast in 1990 to the actor Todd Carty, renowned for his role as Tucker Jenkins in Grange Hill. At this time, Mark returned to the series as a permanent character. The most notable storyline involving Mark was the revelation that he had contracted HIV. Mark discovered he was HIV positive in 1991, and informed his family of this on Christmas Day that year. There then followed a traumatic journey as he struggled first to come to terms with the news, then track down his previous partners to inform them that he was infected with the virus. The problems didn't end there, however, as Mark then had to battle with the fear and ignorance of those living around him including his parents. Many of Albert Square's residents initially rejected him when they found out that he was HIV positive. Mark married one of his ex-partners Gill (Susanna Dawson), who had also been infected with the virus but in her case it had progressed to AIDS, and she subsequently died the day after the wedding. The episode in which Gill died (written by Debbie Cook and directed by Leonard Lewis) has been chosen by writer Colin Brake as one of the most memorable episodes of 1992. In his book, EastEnders: The First Ten Years Blake comments, "Although in many ways the episode was sad and downbeat it was not without its positive aspects, as Mark talked to his sister about his own mortality." Susanna Dawson, the actress who played Gill, found the experience of playing a person living with, and dying from, AIDS so intense that she co-produced an educational video based on the subject for use in schools and wrote a book, The Gill and Mark Story, to accompany it.
Mark became the first mainstream soap character to be diagnosed as HIV-positive. The storyline came after a government request to "spread the word". Mark's story also helped dispel the myth that HIV is an automatic death sentence. He lived with the condition for 13 years before dying of an AIDS related illness. The Terrence Higgins Trust worked with the production team for the duration of Mark's story. Despite all the public health campaigns concerning HIV transmission, the biggest peak in requests for testing in Britain was seen in January 1991 when Mark Fowler was diagnosed HIV-positive. Carty has commented: "I feel that the storyline educated people at a time when there were lots of misconceptions about HIV and AIDS…My main concern was that they'd get it right and, overall, I think they did - because it showed someone living with HIV, as opposed to dying of it."
The storyline was widely applauded for the way it handled the plot and the following issues that the scriptwriters explored, from antiretroviral drugs, safe sex and prejudice. The storyline was so successful in raising awareness that a 1999 survey by the National AIDS Trust found teenagers got most of their information about HIV from the soap.
The character of Mark remained in the show for a further 13 years after his reintroduction, and featured in an array of storylines including two failed marriages, which were scripted to highlight the difficulties that can occur in a relationship when one partner has HIV and the other does not. Ultimately Mark overcame the stigma and he enjoyed several years of happy, healthy living before finally succumbing to an AIDS-related illness and dying in April 2004 off-screen. EastEnders executive producer Louise Berridge said Carty had made a "fantastic contribution" to the soap and Mark has been a "pivotal figure" on Albert Square, but the character had finally run its course.
Campaigners have since suggested that Mark's HIV storyline could have been handled better in the latter years. Lisa Power, head of policy at the Terrence Higgins Trust, said "in some ways the storyline was not reflective of what was happening at the time as the condition was more common among the gay community". She also said "he was perhaps killed off too early as advancements in drugs are helping people live for much longer... Saying that, one decent soap episode is worth a thousand leaflets in schools. That is why we would always go out of our way to help scriptwriters. TV and films can be very powerful."
Carty had said that the late EastEnders star Wendy Richard was like a mother to him. "When I was filming my goodbye scenes, those tears were real. Seeing Wendy break down was one of the most poignant moments. The whole day was so emotional - I had to hold it together and stay strong for Wendy". Carty had also told The Mirror that the pair had struck up a 20-year friendship after they were cast.
References elsewhere in popular culture
- Wilkes, Neil. "Carty's exit from the square revealed". Digital Spy. Retrieved 22 March 2011.
- Smith, Julia; Holland, Tony (1987). EastEnders - The Inside Story. Book Club Associates. ISBN 0-563-20601-2.
- Brake, Colin (1995). EastEnders: The First 10 Years: A Celebration. BBC Books. ISBN 0-563-37057-2.
- "Policy makers stake a claim to TV soapbox", Scotsman. URL last accessed on 2006-10-16.
- "Which issues have been highlighted by EastEnders?", BBC. URL last accessed on 2006-10-16.
- "is the truth stronger in fiction?", Telegraph. URL last accessed on 2006-10-16.
- "TODD CARTY", The Mirror. URL last accessed on 11 November 2007.
- "Carty's 30 years on TV", BBC. URL last accessed on 11 November 2007.
- "How well does TV and film tackle disease?", Aegis. URL last accessed on 2006-10-16.
- "EastEnders' Mark: Was it time to go?", BBC. URL last accessed on 2006-10-16.
- Nissim, Mayer. "Carty: 'Wendy like a second mum to me'". Digital Spy. Retrieved 22 March 2011.