Mark Fowler

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This article is about the EastEnders character. For the former FCC Chairman, see Mark S. Fowler.
Mark Fowler
Mark Fowler.jpg
Todd Carty as Mark Fowler (2003)
EastEnders character
Portrayed by David Scarboro (1985–87)
Todd Carty (1990–2003)
Duration 1985–87, 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)
Classification Former; regular
Profile
Occupation Market trader (fruit and veg)
Mark Fowler (David Scarboro).jpg
David Scarboro as the original Mark (1985).

Mark Albert Fowler is a fictional character from the popular British BBC soap opera EastEnders. Mark, an original regular character when the series started in February 1985, 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, and Todd Carty taking on 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.[1] Initially a delinquent teenager, he became a changed man when he was 22. His 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.

Storylines[edit]

1985–87[edit]

Mark is the 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), attempts 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. With no solution to these problems in sight, he abruptly leaves home in April 1985 without informing his parents. He leaves Walford without telling anyone where he is going, and isn't seen again until eight months later. After Mark contacts his parents through a runaways' agency, an extremely worried Pauline and Arthur track him down to Southend-on-Sea in December 1985. Mark has settled, and has found work as a mechanic at a go-cart track. He is living with an older, Swedish woman named Ingrid and her children, who know Mark as Daddy. He and Ingrid split up soon afterwards and Mark moves on to do farmwork in Wales and then Gloucester and finally Newcastle.

Mark returns to Walford several times in 1986 for brief visits. In July 1986, he comes with his Welsh friend Owen Hughes (Philip Brock). The duo cause problems after the school-girl Cassie Carpenter (Delanie Forbes) steals their cannabis and is caught smoking it by her parents, Tony (Oscar James) and Hannah Carpenter (Sally Sagoe). The entire Carpenter family refuse to speak to the Fowlers for a while after. In November, Pauline receives news that Mark is being held in Borstal detention centre for drug offences, burglary and assaulting a policeman. Pauline visits him in February 1987, and finds him to be unrepentant, but he is due to be released in a few weeks. After his release, he briefly returns to Walford, but despite Pauline's pleas, he refuses to return home permanently. Mark isn't seen until Christmas day 1987, when he shows up unexpectedly to spend the day with his family. Mark astutely guesses that Den Watts (Leslie Grantham) is his niece's father, although he keeps this to himself. This is the last time Mark is seen for several years. He spends his time drifting and travelling the country on his motorbike.

1990–2003[edit]

Mark returns to Albert Square in September 1990, a changed man. He is more caring and sedate, having left his rebellious stage behind. His gained maturity is due to the fact that he had contracted HIV while living away from the Square, which forced him to become more responsible. Mark develops a close friendship with Diane Butcher (Sophie Lawrence) and initially keeps his secret hidden from everyone. However, as he and Diane grow closer, he finally decides to tell her the truth about his HIV status in January 1991. He believes that he had come into contact with the virus through Gill Fowler (Susanna Dawson), his girlfriend in Newcastle, who turns up briefly in the middle of the year, but disappears when she sees him kissing Diane. Mark initially tells Gill that he isn't infected with HIV but later he tells the truth. Mark's relationship with Diane never becomes serious, not for her at least. She is a useful confidante however, and manages to persuade Mark to go for counselling at the Terrence Higgins Trust. Mark initially turns on his male counsellor, relaying all his bitterness at being a potential AIDS victim, but eventually feels the benefits of discussing his status. Diane keeps Mark's secret. He loves her for it 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 had told his parents about being gay and HIV-positive, Mark decides to tell his parents. By this time, he is in a relationship with 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. They sit in stunned silence while he scatters helpful leaflets around the house and then flees to the countryside. When he returns, he faces his mother's irrational terror and hostility from his father. Arthur's ignorance is apparent initially, as he is often scared that he will catch HIV from Mark. He goes to great lengths to bleach all the cutlery that Mark has used to avoid infection. Mark's mother and sister Michelle Fowler (Susan Tully) are understandably distraught, but are instrumental in helping Arthur understand Mark's illness, and are a huge support to Mark during this time. Mark's relationship with Rachel ends in 1992, and the animosity at home thrusts Mark back into the arms of his girlfriend Gill, who moves to London and becomes seriously ill. Gill's HIV has already 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 is truly in love with 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), departs. He also begins an on/off relationship with his sister's house-mate Shelley Lewis (Nicole Arumugam), however Mark is hesitant to tell her about his HIV status. During November 1993, whilst on a trip to Amsterdam, Shelley makes it clear to Mark that she wants to have sex with him. Mark is finally forced to divulge that the reason he can't have sex with her is because he is HIV positive. Shelley is furious with him for not trusting her enough to tell her in the first place, and tells him she never wants to see him again. Mark takes the rejection badly and he begins neglecting his health by not taking his HIV medication. During Christmas that year, he is rushed to hospital after collapsing. When Shelley finds out that Mark is ill, she rushes to him and confesses that she really cares for him and so they recommence their relationship. Shelley wants Mark to meet her family and go on holiday with her parents. She becomes infatuated with him and tries to spend as much time with him as she can. Mark fears that the relationship is moving too quickly and he soon tires of Shelley. By March 1994, Mark decides to finish the relationship, but when he tries to end it, Shelley resorts to emotional blackmail, saying that she risked her own health being with him, so he owes her. When this doesn't work, she threatens to tell the rest of Walford about his HIV status, but when Mark calls her bluff she does not go through with her threat and decides to leave Walford instead.

Later in 1994, Mark's friend Joe Wallace dies of an AIDS related illness, and after a trip to the hospice to see him, he runs into a Scottish woman named Ruth Aitken (Caroline Paterson), who is visiting her friend in the hospice. After a brief conversation the two decide to go to a pub to drown their sorrows. They begin a relationship and for once Mark seems to have found a woman who can deal with his HIV status without getting hysterical. Ruth is the daughter of a strict Presbyterian minister, who refuses to give his blessing to her relationship with Mark and disowns her when she announces in 1995 that she is planning to marry him. They marry anyway - in Scotland - soon after. However, problems in their marriage begin to surface. Ruth persuades Mark - and herself - that she is happy about not having any children, but it soon becomes apparent that she is fooling herself.

In 1996, Mark is forced to confront the Square's prejudices, when the residents discover his HIV status. The depth of ignorance concerning the illness doesn't help matters and, led by Peggy Mitchell (Barbara Windsor), the residents begin boycotting Mark's fruit and vegetable stall, fearing they will catch the virus from his produce. Pauline springs to her son's defence and she and Peggy are involved in a vicious slap fight, but even Pauline can't diffuse the prejudice, and Mark returns home one day to find the words "AIDS scum" graffitied on his wall. This is too much for him and he decides to present his neighbours with a few facts about his illness in The Queen Victoria; firstly by telling them that he doesn't have AIDS but is HIV positive and that it is a virus and not contagious, then forcing them to acknowledge their bigotry. Peggy remains uncertain, but is forced to realise that Mark might appreciate a bit of support when, at the end of the year, she is diagnosed with breast cancer.

In 1997, Mark and Ruth begin fostering a six year old girl named Jessie Moore (Chelsey Paden), but having to return her to her mother proves too heart-breaking, and by this time their marriage is in crisis. When Mark's cousin Conor Flaherty (Seán Gleeson) shows an interest in Ruth, Mark becomes jealous and the relationship falls apart. After they split, Ruth succumbs to Conor's charm and becomes pregnant with his child. She leaves Walford in 1999 with Conor, leaving Mark heart-broken.

In 2000, Mark's feud with Nick Cotton (John Altman) resurfaces after he discovers that Nick had given his brother, Martin Fowler (James Alexandrou), ecstasy. Mark snaps and after spiking Nick's drink, leads him up to the Walford viaduct and watches in delight as an intoxicated Nick plunges to the ground, severely crippling himself. Nick is vengeful and enlists his son Ashley (Frankie Fitzgerald) to take revenge on Mark. Ashley steals Mark's motorbike and attempts to run Mark over with it, but Nick had drained the brake fluid from the bike the night before. Ashley crashes into the launderette and is killed. Nick leaves the Square shortly afterwards and never sees Mark again. Mark grows fond for Lisa Shaw (Lucy Benjamin), who is in a rocky relationship with his enemy, Phil Mitchell (Steve McFadden). When she leaves Phil, she turns to Mark. Mark takes her in and they begin a relationship, much to Pauline's despair. Together, they concoct a plan to pretend that the child she is carrying is Mark's, even though the real father is Phil. Mark offers to raise the baby so Phil can be completely erased from Lisa's life. To facilitate their lie, Mark insists that he'd taken all the relevant precautions in relation to his HIV, stating that he had undergone sperm washing, and they fool everyone for a while. Mark loves Lisa so much that he stays with her after she shoots Phil (who survives), and Mark proposes to her in 2001 shortly after baby Louise's birth. However Phil discovers the truth about the child's parentage from Louise's god mother Sharon Watts (Letitia Dean), and 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 very much in love with Phil and Phil knows this so he seduces her in order to have more access to Louise. After Sharon discovers Phil's intentions, she talks Phil out of his plan and he ends the affair with Lisa, but Mark still finds out and leaves the square for a while. After just five months of marriage, Lisa leaves Mark after resuming her affair with Phil.

In January 2003, Mark's doctor tells him that his body is rejecting the medication he is using to prolong his life and put off the onset of AIDS. He soon accepts that he is going to die, and decides to leave Walford rather than let his family see him endure 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[edit]

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.

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.[2]

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.[2][3]

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.[3]

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.[3] 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."[3] 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.[3]

Mark became the first mainstream soap character to be diagnosed as HIV-positive. The storyline came after a government request to "spread the word".[4] Mark's story also helped dispel the myth that HIV is an automatic death sentence.[citation needed] 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.[5] 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.[6] 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."[7][8]

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.[9]

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.[10]

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."[9]

Reception[edit]

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.[11]

References elsewhere in popular culture[edit]

The character of Mark Fowler has been spoofed in the cartoon sketch show 2DTV.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Wilkes, Neil. "Carty's exit from the square revealed". Digital Spy. Retrieved 22 March 2011. 
  2. ^ a b c Smith, Julia; Holland, Tony (1987). EastEnders - The Inside Story. Book Club Associates. ISBN 0-563-20601-2. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Brake, Colin (1995). EastEnders: The First 10 Years: A Celebration. BBC Books. ISBN 0-563-37057-2. 
  4. ^ "Policy makers stake a claim to TV soapbox", Scotsman. URL last accessed on 2006-10-16.
  5. ^ "Which issues have been highlighted by EastEnders?", BBC. URL last accessed on 2006-10-16.
  6. ^ "is the truth stronger in fiction?", Telegraph. URL last accessed on 2006-10-16.
  7. ^ "TODD CARTY", The Mirror. URL last accessed on 11 November 2007.
  8. ^ "Carty's 30 years on TV", BBC. URL last accessed on 11 November 2007.
  9. ^ a b "How well does TV and film tackle disease?", Aegis. URL last accessed on 2006-10-16.
  10. ^ "EastEnders' Mark: Was it time to go?", BBC. URL last accessed on 2006-10-16.
  11. ^ Nissim, Mayer. "Carty: 'Wendy like a second mum to me'". Digital Spy. Retrieved 22 March 2011. 

External links[edit]