Samantha Womack as Ronnie in 2010
|Portrayed by||Samantha Womack|
|Created by||Dominic Treadwell-Collins|
|Introduced by||Diederick Santer (2007)
Lorraine Newman (2013)
|First appearance||24 July 2007|
|Classification||Former; regular (returning)|
|Alias||Ronnie Branning (married name)|
|Date of birth||8 July 1974|
Veronica Elizabeth "Ronnie" Branning (née Mitchell) is a fictional character from the British BBC soap opera EastEnders, played by Samantha Womack. Ronnie and her sister Roxy (played by Rita Simons) were introduced by executive producer Diederick Santer in July 2007; Ronnie is the "ice" to Roxy's "fire". An extension of the already established Mitchell family, Ronnie quickly became a prominent character, taking over the soap's club and forming a relationship with her business partner, Jack Branning. Womack filmed her final scenes in May 2011, and made her final appearance on 7 July 2011. In May 2013, it was announced that Womack would reprise her role as Ronnie with a six-month contract. She is set to begin filming in July 2013, with her scenes due to air in September.
Ronnie is the oldest child of Archie (Larry Lamb) and Glenda Mitchell (Glynis Barber). She was raped several times by her father at the age of 13. The following year, she fell pregnant by her boyfriend Joel Reynolds (Cavan Clerkin). Glenda walked out on her family when Ronnie was five months pregnant, as a result of Archie's constant philandering and controlling nature. Archie sent Ronnie to live with distant relatives, where she gave birth to her daughter, Amy, on 26 June 1989. Within hours of the birth, Archie had the baby adopted. Ronnie disowned her father and left home in 1993, aged 19. Ronnie and her sister Roxy (Rita Simons) later moved to Ibiza, where they ran a bar together.
Ronnie and Roxy travel from Ibiza to Walford where they decide to stay and run their aunt Peggy Mitchell's (Barbara Windsor) pub, The Queen Victoria while she is on holiday. Ronnie goes into partnership with businessman Jack Branning (Scott Maslen). They purchase a local club together, and begin an on-off relationship. During a period of separation, Roxy becomes pregnant by Jack after a one-night stand. Ronnie, unaware of who the father is, offers to support her sister and they briefly return to Ibiza. After an argument, Roxy goes to stay with their father in Weymouth, to Ronnie's horror. She is relieved when Roxy returns to the Square but horrified when Peggy announces she and Archie are engaged. Roxy gives birth to a daughter, Amy Mitchell, named after the daughter Ronnie lost. Ronnie is hurt when she learns of Amy's paternity, but ultimately forgives Roxy and Jack.
Ronnie has a tumultuous relationship with employee Danielle Jones (Lauren Crace). On the day of Archie and Peggy's wedding, Danielle tells Ronnie that she is her daughter. Ronnie does not believe her because Archie told her her daughter was dead, and throws her out. She later discovers that Danielle was telling the truth and tries to reunite with Danielle, but she is hit by a car and dies in Ronnie's arms. Ronnie then becomes obsessed with having a baby. She tries to trick Jack and rekindles her romance with Joel, Danielle's birth father, until he tells her that he has had a vasectomy so Ronnie ends their relationship again. She gets pregnant by Owen Turner (Lee Ross), but miscarries when Archie pushes her into the bar during an argument. Archie is later murdered and Ronnie is arrested as a suspect but released without charge.
Ronnie and Roxy's estranged mother, Glenda, returns. When Roxy accuses Ronnie of murdering their father, Ronnie reveals that Archie raped local resident Stacey Slater (Lacey Turner), and did the same to her as a child. Stacey's husband Bradley Branning (Charlie Clements) is posthumously assumed guilty of the murder. On Ronnie's birthday, Jack proposes and she accepts. When the issue of Archie raping Ronnie arises again, Peggy refuses to believe it. She later discovers that Ronnie is telling the truth and Glenda knew about the abuse but did nothing to stop it. Ronnie learns of her mother's complicity and disowns her, though they later reconcile. When Ronnie learns that Stacey killed Archie, she allows her to escape from the country after the police are called, feeling that Stacey has suffered enough.
Ronnie's cousin Sam Mitchell (Danniella Westbrook) gives birth to a son, Richard Mitchell. The baby is revealed to be Jack's, following a brief relationship. Ronnie is also pregnant by Jack. They agree to care for Richard when Sam feels she is unable to but unbeknownst to Jack, Ronnie gives her money with which to leave Walford and raise her son. She and Jack marry and prepare for the birth of their child. Ronnie bonds with Kat Moon (Jessie Wallace) over being abused as children and have given their first child up for adoption. With Jack abroad on business, Ronnie gives birth to a boy called James Branning but he dies of sudden infant death syndrome within hours of being born and as Ronnie seeks help, she swaps her child with Kat's unattended newborn son, Tommy Moon. Ronnie soon regrets her actions but it is too late as James has been found and Jack has returned and met Tommy, thinking he is his son. Ronnie struggles to bond with Tommy and refuses to let anyone see him. She is refused permission to attend James's funeral, but goes anyway and hides from the mourners. At the wake, she returns Tommy to Kat but her intention is misunderstood and leads Jack to think she needs psychiatric help. Ronnie discovers that Michael Moon (Steve John Shepherd) is Tommy's real father and tries to sabotage his relationships with Roxy and Jack to get him to leave Walford. Michael convinces Jack that Ronnie is obsessed with him. Unable to explain her actions, Ronnie agrees that she needs professional help. She visits a counsellor but leaves before the session starts, and lies to Jack about it. Glenda realises that Ronnie is not attending counselling but is forced to leave Walford. Ronnie briefly goes missing, and after Jack brings her home, her behaviour becomes increasingly erratic. After visiting the hospital where James was born, she finally admits the truth and returns Tommy to Kat.
Questioned at the police station about her mental health, Ronnie admits that she has been having flashbacks since Danielle's death. She is remanded in custody and asks Jack to move on. Roxy convinces a reluctant Ronnie to apply for bail, which she is granted. Jack forgives her and they resume their relationship. Michael attempts to frame Ronnie for kidnapping Tommy a second time to ensure she will receive a custodial sentence. She is sentenced to three years in prison, and as she is being taken away, Kat tells her that she forgives her. Ronnie then bids goodbye to Roxy, telling her that she was the one looking after her for the last few years. Ronnie sits alone in her cell, holding Danielle's locket, having finally found peace. Jack attempts to visit Ronnie in prison but she refuses to see him and in December 2011, she files for divorce. In April 2013, Ronnie writes to Jack and Kat, as she will soon be released, and Jack secretly visits her in prison.
Creation and characterisation
In April 2007, The Sun reported that EastEnders would be introducing two glamorous new characters over the summer, sisters Ronnie and Roxy Mitchell. The siblings were created as an extension of the soap's existing Mitchell family, the nieces of matriarch Peggy's late husband Eric. Womack (called Janus until May 2009) and Simons were cast as Ronnie and Roxy respectively. They were the first major signings made by executive producer Diederick Santer, who told the Daily Mirror that the sisters were intended to bring "sexy, dramatic excitement" to the show. He stated, "They may be glamorous young women, but these girls are Mitchells and have all the strength of character and unique moral code the name implies." Simons deemed the two "the next generation" of the Mitchells, "A newer, younger, slightly more modern type". The characters were created by EastEnders' story producer Dominic Treadwell-Collins, who always intended for Ronnie to be played by Womack. In the 2009 documentary "The Secret Mitchell", he cited the actress' beauty, toughness and fragility as facets suitable for the character.
Ronnie is in her thirties, and the elder of the two sisters. Prior to her début, Womack described Ronnie as the more sensible and intelligent sister, stating that she has a "caustic tongue" and trust issues. She commented that the sisters are loyal to each other to the point that Ronnie would kill for Roxy, and attributed her "darker side" to her troubled childhood. A BBC source described Ronnie as the ice to Roxy's fire, and Simons deemed her "armoured", as well as the "less flamboyant, darker" sister, with a more controlling nature. Womack feels that Ronnie is "deeply damaged", describing her as unable to be honest with herself or others as a result of her guarded personality. She explained that she has been taught to hide her feelings and to be a survivor, which she accomplishes by controlling others, concluding that Ronnie is defined by her childhood trauma. The sisters have been compared to the Kray twins, Ronnie and Reggie. Womack has noted that it is no coincidence that the siblings are named Ronnie and Roxy. She describes them as "co-dependent and dysfunctional", as well as "chilling, dark and absolutely in touch with what the other is doing". Treadwell-Collins initially intended for Ronnie to appear enigmatic, cool and guarded, hoping to intrigue viewers before introducing elements of her backstory in order to garner audience sympathy.
Both Mitchell sisters featured heavily in a BBC marketing campaign preceding their arrival. Several promotional trailers aired on the BBC network in summer 2007. Using the slogan "The square, under new management", one such trailer depicted both sisters as party girls, dancing, serving tequila in The Queen Victoria public house, shocking the older residents with their raunchy antics and squirting men with a soda syphon to the tune of "The Girls" by Calvin Harris. Two other trailers featured Ronnie and Roxy individually. To the instrumental sound of "Little Green Bag" by George Baker, each sister discussed their sibling, giving snippets of information on their personality and the dynamics of their relationship. Discussing Ronnie, Roxy stated that her sister would go to great lengths to prevent her from getting hurt. In turn, Ronnie said "Roxy will always be my kid sister. Fights, broken hearts, over the years we've had them all. She can be quite a handful, and she's definitely gonna stir things up around here. But remember, wherever Roxy Mitchell is... I'm right behind." The promotion was received favourably by Leigh Holmwood, television journalist for The Guardian, who referred to it as "a very slick marketing campaign indeed." Holmwood observed that the upbeat trailers contrasted EastEnders' reputation for depressing storylines, writing "Maybe the arrival of Roxy and Ronnie will herald a new golden age for the soap? Or maybe the BBC marketing department is just very good at putting a trailer together..."
In addition to the trailers, the BBC planned a "glitzy" EastEnders BBC Radio 1 competition to promote the sisters' arrival, called "I love R&R" (Ronnie and Roxy). It ran from the end of June 2007, and included online promotion and video via the website Iloverandr.com. The prize consisted of VIP tickets to a special party, which was to be attended by EastEnders actors and Radio 1 DJ Dave Pearce. Despite inviting the winners to attend, Radio 1 cancelled the event due to orders from BBC director general Mark Thompson, who called a halt to all BBC radio, TV and online competitions following a review of its programming, which uncovered scores of editorial breaches. Radio 1 reportedly decided to cancel the promotion as a "precautionary measure". Winners were instead told that they would receive a tour of the EastEnders set, and the website was closed down on 26 July 2007.
Upon her introduction, Ronnie's loss of a child was initially kept as "a very dark secret". She was depicted reacting with jealousy to Roxy's pregnancy, and Womack stated that the forthcoming explanation for this would clarify to viewers why Ronnie is "so damaged and guarded." The secret was linked to a photograph carried in Ronnie's locket, which was revealed in May 2008 to be of the daughter she had lost.
The animosity between Ronnie and her father was explored in July 2008, when Lamb made his first appearance as Archie. Womack believes that the introduction of Archie was "fundamental to Ronnie and how she was perceived by the audience. This was the underbelly of why everything had gone wrong in her life, and so these scenes were always going to be really, really important." Archie made a death threat against Ronnie, and told her that Amy had died 13 years previously. Lamb commented that Archie had hoped to rectify his problems with Ronnie, but in actuality exacerbated them as she brought out his vicious side. He believes Archie's relationship with Ronnie suffered when he realised that he could not control her. In the EastEnders Revealed documentary "The Secret Mitchell", an EastEnders storyliner suggested that Archie views Ronnie as damaged goods, and is somewhat disgusted by her. Santer stated that Archie told Ronnie her daughter had died as a way of controlling her.
In a plot twist, it was revealed to viewers that Archie had lied, and that Amy was alive. She was introduced to the series under her adopted name, Danielle Jones, in August 2008. Danielle arrived in Walford seeking Ronnie, but kept her true identity a secret through fear of rejection. Series writer Simon Ashdown described her as "hurt and broken by her life", and hoping to charm Ronnie into liking her before revealing the truth. Crace observed that Danielle was intrigued by Ronnie and the Mitchells, but also worried that she was too different to them and may be a disappointment to Ronnie. Danielle became pregnant, which was used as a plot-device to bring the two closer together, with Ronnie supporting her when she chose to have an abortion. The writers deliberately played on the tragedy of Ronnie being unaware that she was encouraging the abortion of her own grandchild. Ronnie failed to attend Danielle's second clinic appointment, which Crace stated left her character "hurt and distraught" and less willing to confide the truth in Ronnie than ever. On Ronnie's part, Womack assessed that her character was unaware why she had bonded with Danielle. She deemed her totally unaware of any physical resemblance between herself and Danielle, and stated that she had never entertained the notion that Danielle might be her daughter.
In the aftermath of her abortion, Danielle was depicted as being increasingly emotionally unstable and angry with Ronnie, believing that she deserved to belong to the Mitchell family. The writers had Archie discover her secret as a test of his character, experimenting with whether he would be despicable enough to conceal the truth. Lamb deemed Danielle "a huge threat" to Archie's position as patriarch of the Mitchell family. As such, Archie lied that Ronnie was suffering from depression and convinced Danielle not to reveal the truth for the sake of her mother's mental well-being. Danielle accepted the lie, believing it to explain Ronnie's "hot and cold" reaction to her, and attempted to care for Ronnie and help her recover. Crace explained that despite their turbulent relationship, Ronnie was all Danielle had ever wanted.
The ultimate revelation of Danielle's identity was set at Archie's wedding to Peggy. Santer explained: "Weddings are great because they bring the community together. A wedding gives you a stage, it gives you an event, the context to play things out, so it felt right that these big Mitchell stories would collide at Peggy's wedding." Writer James Payne concurred that setting the reveal at the wedding helped to make the moment "as dramatic and sensational" as it could possibly be. In the episode, Danielle announces that she is Ronnie's daughter in front of the entire wedding reception party. She is met with disbelief, and thrown out by Ronnie. Soon thereafter, however, Ronnie discovers that Danielle has an identical locket to her own. Having given the matching locket to her daughter, Ronnie realises that Danielle was telling the truth. She hurries to find her, but just as they are about to be reunited, Danielle is run down by local resident Janine Butcher (Charlie Brooks), and subsequently dies in Ronnie's arms. Although different outcomes to the storyline were considered, Santer explained that Danielle dying best preserved Ronnie's status as EastEnders' "tragic heroine character". Treadwell-Collins felt that to allow Ronnie to have her daughter, the "one thing that is key to her character" would serve to progressively weaken her character, and Santer agreed that while it may initially be touching, ultimately the relationship would become boring. In December 2009, Archie was murdered in a "whodunit" storyline. Santer hoped that his death would bring Ronnie closure, but suggested conversely that it might damage her further.
Relationship with Jack Branning
|This section requires expansion. (March 2011)|
Even before Ronnie made her first appearance on-screen, the press hinted towards a future relationship between her and an upcoming character, Jack Branning. Jack Branning was introduced in October 2007, and his association with Ronnie was developed after he became her business partner at the soap's club, "R&R". A flirtatious romance was established, which led to the start of a relationship in early 2008. The on-screen affair between Ronnie and Jack has reportedly been hard for actors Samanatha Womack and Scott Maslen, as off-screen they are close friends — Womack's husband is best friends with Maslen, and Womack is best friends with Maslen's wife. Womack has commented, "I was very honest and verbal about [being freaked out] [...] Our first kissing scene felt really uncomfortable, it was terrible, but we're over it now [...] Both our sons are slightly freaked out that one mummy seems to be kissing the other daddy, but they've been on so many film sets that they're used to us doing ludicrous things."
In the storyline, Ronnie's association with Jack caused aggravation with her family, due to Jack's rivalry with her cousin Phil, and resentment from her sister, Roxy. However, the relationship ended less than a month after it began. Roxy told Ronnie that Jack cheated on her with his ex-wife, Selina, she decided not to move in with him, and punched him. In an interview in the TV Times, Womack commented, "She [Ronnie] has a problem with physical violence. Any time she's up against it or feels she's been lied to, she lashes out".
Despite this, the characters' on/off romance was resurrected later in the year, facilitating a plot twist whereby Jack, angered after another breakup with Ronnie, was seduced by Roxy as revenge for Ronnie interfering in her love life. This resulted in a "who's the daddy?" storyline, which began in April 2008 and continued throughout the year, with both Jack and Sean Slater (Rob Kazinsky) potential candidates for the father of Roxy's unborn child, though Ronnie remained unaware of Jack and Roxy's liaison. Rita Simons, who plays Roxy, said: "Jack winds Roxy up by suggesting that Ronnie controls her, so she decides to prove him wrong - and kisses him. Afterwards it's really awkward between them. They can barely look at one another." In the storyline, Roxy and Jack agreed to keep their affair secret, while Roxy appropriated Sean Slater as the father, and married him. 
Cot death, baby swap and departure
|This section requires expansion. (January 2011)|
On 6 January 2011, The Sun newspaper reported that Womack had quit her role in the series due to her unhappiness with the baby swap storyline. Her departure was later confirmed by the BBC and she is to leave the role in May 2011. However, Womack denied that her decision had anything to do with the storyline. Her contract ends in May 2011 and she will take a break from the series that had already been agreed. Womack's agent said in a statement: "There's no truth whatsoever in any suggestion that Sam is 'quitting' Eastenders [sic] over the current storyline. Her contract comes to a natural end later this year and she will be taking a break from the show; this has been agreed with the producers for several months. Sam has had an incredibly happy and fulfilling time on EastEnders over the last few years. She has huge respect for the show, writers and producers and has thoroughly enjoyed playing such a complex role that has been involved in so many tough and challenging storylines."
It was reported by the Daily Star Sunday that when Max Branning (Jake Wood) and his daughter Abi (Lorna Fitzgerald) are injured in an accident, Ronnie visits Max in the hospital where she gave birth to James, sees the midwife who delivered the child and it triggers the start of the baby swap reveal storyline.
It was reported that her last storyline would evolve around Michael Moon becoming obsessed with her and stalking her, which will build up to her on-screen exit later in the year.
In April 2013, Womack said of her departure, "I think it was definitely the right time to give the character a break. The danger is that if you get one character who is subject to so much trauma, angst and depression, it becomes difficult to play it realistically."
In April 2013, Womack said that she would not rule out a return to EastEnders, and even though Maslen was due to leave, she said Ronnie would still have reasons to return with Roxy still being there. She said, "I think she could go back if Jack wasn't there, because it was always the Mitchell sisters. I know Ronnie had a love affair and she got married, but what I loved about the character was her relationship with her sibling. It was nice being with another woman and doing most of our scenes together. That was a relationship on the show I really enjoyed. There are no plans [for Ronnie to return] at the moment but I definitely wouldn't rule it out. I love the show and I love the character. I miss the character enormously." On 17 May 2013, show bosses announced that Womack would return to EastEnders as Ronnie for six months. It was said that Ronnie's return will form a major part of summer and autumn storylines. Speaking of her comeback, Womack said: "I am thrilled to be returning to the role of Ronnie for the next six months. Ronnie is coming out of prison and her reappearance in [Albert] Square is going to create havoc. I can't wait to be a Mitchell once again!" EastEnders' executive producer Lorraine Newman added: "We're delighted to announce Samantha Womack's return to Albert Square. The Mitchell sisters are a fabulous pairing and it will be an absolute delight to have Ronnie and Roxy back together on screen. However, Ronnie's departure wasn't without controversy for many residents in Walford, and her return will be sure to ruffle quite a few feathers." Womack will film her first scenes in summer 2013.
Following their introductory episode in July 2007, both Mitchell sisters were received favourably by Mark Wright of The Stage. He commented that they established themselves quickly, deeming them "in the same tradition of strong soap women that 'Enders seems to have been lacking since the exit of Kat Moon", a popular character who left the serial in 2005, but returned along with Alfie Moon in 2010. He added that Womack "brings a calm but firm presence to the table as Ronnie."
Radio Times included Ronnie in their November 2009 feature profiling bunny boilers. As Ronnie's behaviour has grown more desperate on-screen they stated: "Initially the more sensible of the Mitchell sisters, Ronnie has spiralled into instability since daughter Danielle's death, becoming E20's own succubus, trying to trick any man into getting her pregnant." They commented on the fact she has tried to fall pregnant with Jack, Ryan, Joel and Owen and joked that she should try it on with Darren Miller. Holy Soap recall Ronnie's most memorable moment as being finding out Danielle is her daughter and her subsequent death.
Womack won the 2008 Daily Star Soaper Star "Best Newcomer" award for her portrayal of Ronnie. She and Simons were awarded the "Best On-Screen Partnership" accolade at the 2008 Digital Spy Soap Awards, and were nominated in the same category at The British Soap Awards, where the following year, Womack was nominated "Best Actress". Ronnie and Danielle's relationship was named "Best Storyline" at the 2009 Inside Soap Awards, and "Best Soap Storyline" at the TV Quick and TV Choice Awards, where Womack was additionally shortlisted for the "Best Soap Actress" accolade. At the All About Soap Bubble Awards, Ronnie and Jack were nominated for the "Fatal Attraction" award in 2008, and Ronnie was nominated in the "I'm a Survivor" category in 2010.
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