Linda Henry as Shirley Carter (2013)
|Portrayed by||Linda Henry|
|First appearance||5 December 2006|
|Introduced by||Kate Harwood|
|EastEnders: E20 (2010)|
Shirley Carter is a fictional character from the BBC soap opera EastEnders, played by Linda Henry. She first appeared on 7 December 2006. This is Henry's second role in EastEnders, as she previously played prostitute Lorraine Salter (1991–92). Henry took a break from the show in September 2012, departing alongside on-screen daughter, Carly. She returned on 3 December 2012. Shirley is one of several EastEnders characters to appear in the internet spin-off series EastEnders: E20. Some of her storylines have included trying and failing to rebuild relationships with her children Carly (Kellie Shirley) and Deano (Matt Di Angelo), a friendship with Heather Trott (Cheryl Fergison), a volatile relationship with Phil Mitchell (Steve McFadden), the introduction of her son, who at first was believed to be her brother, and his family, an affair with Phil, despite his being in a relationship with Sharon Rickman (Letitia Dean) and accidentally shooting Phil. EastEnders executive producer Dominic Treadwell-Collins has described her as a "new icon" of the show.
Shirley is introduced as the estranged mother of Deano (Matt Di Angelo) and Carly Wicks (Kellie Shirley), and the ex-wife of Kevin Wicks (Phil Daniels). It is established that she abandoned her family while the children were young, and that her first child, Jimbo (Lloyd Richards), died from cystic fibrosis in her absence. Kevin raised the surviving children with no contact from Shirley, and when she attempts to reintroduce herself in 2006, he forbids her from seeing them. She successfully makes contact in early 2007, and although Carly is hostile, Deano proves more receptive, so Shirley moves to Albert Square to be near them. She reveals to Kevin that she had several affairs while they were married, and that Carly and Deano are not his biological children. The pair have sex, but a regretful Kevin later proposes to his girlfriend, Denise Fox (Diane Parish). Shirley brawls with Pat Evans (Pam St. Clement) over her betrayal, leading to them both getting arrested. Shirley tells Denise about the one-night stand, but the wedding goes ahead regardless.
Shirley gets a job as barmaid at The Queen Victoria public house. Deano turns to her for support when he is charged with perverting the course of justice, but rejects her suggestion of running away, and is imprisoned for six months. Soon thereafter, Shirley begins a relationship with Vinnie Monks (Bobby Davro), at the urging of her best friend Heather Trott (Cheryl Fergison). The romance sours when Shirley discovers that he has lied to her about his financial, parental and marital status. She learns that Kevin has been selling cut-and-shut cars, and confronts him. They attempt to dispose of a stolen car together, but are involved in a crash, which kills Kevin. In the aftermath, Carly rejects her mother and leaves Walford. Deano is released from prison, but blames Shirley for all his problems and also moves away.
A friendship develops between Shirley and her boss, Phil Mitchell (Steve McFadden). He supports her through a breast cancer scare, but rebuffs her when she makes romantic advances towards him. Shirley reconciles with Vinnie, but has a one-night stand with Phil. When he rejects her in the aftermath, Shirley plans to leave Walford with Vinnie. Aware that she is in love with Phil, he leaves her behind. An alcoholic, Phil begins drinking heavily and uses Shirley for sex. She supplies him with a false alibi when he is suspected of murder, and moves in with him to help him gain custody of his daughter, Louise (Brittany Papple), which leads to them beginning a legitimate relationship. Zsa Zsa Carter (Emer Kenny) — the daughter of Shirley's sister Tina (Luisa Bradshaw-White) — moves in with Shirley and Phil. Believing she and Peggy have conspired against him to return Louise to her mother, Phil throws them both out. Shirley supports him when he develops an addiction to crack cocaine, even though he has brief relationship with fellow addict, Rainie Cross (Tanya Franks). The ordeal leads to Shirley falling out with Zsa Zsa briefly but they part on good terms when Zsa Zsa later moves to France.
Reunited, Shirley and Phil buy a house on the Square, and she acts as a mother figure to his son Ben Mitchell (Joshua Pascoe) and ward Jay Brown (Jamie Borthwick). Phil has an affair with his aunt (by marriage) Glenda Mitchell (Glynis Barber), but proposes to Shirley after having a heart attack. Glenda later reveals the affair prompting Shirley to call the wedding off. Phil persuades her to go to the registry office with him, but in the middle of her vows, Shirley changes her mind again. She tells Phil that she wants to be with him but cannot marry him and will leave for good if he has another affair. Phil buys Shirley the local café as a present, but she is dismayed when she discovers that Phil is friends again with Rainie. Shirley offers Rainie a job in the café, but uses it as a ploy to convince Phil that Rainie is taking drugs again. After much scheming, Shirley successfully ends the friendship between Phil and Rainie. Phil starts receiving photographs of a boy and silent phone calls, and when Rainie tells Shirley that she knows about them, Shirley accuses Rainie of being behind them. Phil tells Shirley that he has told Rainie about it, and about an incident from his past when he torched the car lot in an insurance scam and killed a homeless boy. Shirley is angry that Phil told Rainie instead of her, saying she would not have been shocked. Phil continues to be contacted by the anonymous stalker, and becomes increasingly suspicious of many people. On Christmas Day, Shirley overhears Ben talking about the black envelopes in Heather's bag and confronts him, as only she, Phil, Heather and the stalker know about the envelopes. Ben admits that he was the stalker and begs Shirley not to tell Phil. Shirley tells Ben to move away after Christmas. That night, the local bed and breakfast explodes with Phil inside and he is taken to hospital after inhaling smoke. Shirley does not tell Phil that Ben was responsible, but is horrified when he is arrested for Kevin Wicks's murder as a result of a USB stick featuring a recording of a conversation Phil had about Kevin's death, that Ben sent to Kevin's wife Denise as a Christmas present. Phil is released due to lack of evidence, and Ben promises Shirley that his hate campaign will end. However, after a fall out with Phil, Ben goes to the police and tells DCI Jill Marsden (Sophie Stanton) that Phil forced his ex-partner Stella Crawford (Sophie Thompson) to jump off a building on their wedding day in 2007. Ben stalls Phil's escape and he is arrested and charged for murder. Ben denies telling the police, but it soon emerges that he did, so Shirley throws him out of the house. She tells Phil this, who asks her to get Ben back on side, which she attempts to do by telling him she regrets throwing him out and that she still cares for him, however, it does not work.
When Heather gets engaged to Andrew Cotton (Ricky Grover), Shirley does not like him, and Heather often chooses to spend time with her instead of Andrew. Andrew struggles to accept their friendship, but she tells him he will have to deal with it. Shirley visits Phil in prison and learns that his charge has been reduced from murder to manslaughter but he will plead guilty to get a reduced sentence. She then discovers from the solicitor that he was attacked in prison, so Shirley then tries harder to get Ben to appear in the witness box as she thinks Phil would eventually be killed in prison. On Heather's hen night, Andrew spoils the party by dragging Heather out and Shirley throws a drink in his face and he nearly hits her which Heather sees. That night, Shirley gives Heather a choice: to walk away with her or Andrew otherwise they're finished. Heather chooses Andrew, so they fall out. Unknown to Shirley, Heather is murdered by Ben with a picture frame with her and Heather on. Shirley later finds Heather's lifeless body and has a breakdown as she treated her badly the previous day. She is taken to the police station and is interviewed, and watches Heather's body being carried out of her flat the next day. Shirley then confronts Andrew and accuses him of murdering Heather. When Andrew's aunt Dot Branning (June Brown) states that she believes Andrew is innocent, Shirley bans Andrew and Dot from the Heather's funeral. Shirley notices that a picture frame she gave to Heather is missing. She contacts the police who establish that this was the weapon used to murder Heather. On the day of Heather's funeral, Shirley is furious when she sees Andrew preparing to attend and warns him away from the church. During the service, Shirley pays tribute to her best friend, listing all the things she loved about her. Afterwards, when going through Heather's things, she finds the train tickets Heather was planning to use to leave with Andrew and realises he is innocent. Apologising to Dot, Shirley decides to unite with Andrew to find Heather's real killer.
When Shirley and Andrew become obsessed with finding Heather's killer, Ben starts to become paranoid and so manipulates Phil into ending his relationship with Shirley. She decides to offer a cash reward for any information on Heather's death, but is confronted by the leading investigator, DS Luke Crisp (Rufus Wright), who tells her she is hindering the police investigation by creating false leads. Shirley then becomes drunk when Phil tells her that he never loved her, and passes out at the home of Phil's enemy, Derek Branning (Jamie Foreman). Derek implies for a time that they both had sex, but Shirley soon learns the truth. Shirley moves into the flat that Heather died in, and becomes a recluse, unable to move on from the death of her best friend. When she hears Phil drunkenly arguing with Ben, she talks to Phil in private and initially refuses to take Phil back but he tells her that he loves her and will always put her first, so she agrees to move back with him. Shirley discovers a birthday card Ben wrote to Heather and is reminded that it was Heather's birthday. The next day, Shirley wears Heather's clothes, tells Phil that she is bored of him and gets drunk. To focus Shirley, Phil gets her a van to sell fast food, but she gives it over to Andrew. She discovers from Denise that Carly has had a baby, and is upset that Carly did not tell her. Carly rejects Shirley when she calls her. When Shirley does a charity abseil to raise money for George, Phil helps her to conquer her fear of heights, and she proposes to him. Shortly after, Shirley visits Denise and finds the photo frame that was used to kill Heather on Denise's fireplace. She tracks it to the charity shop, where Jean Slater (Gillian Wright) donated it from items given to her by Phil. Shirley concludes that Phil killed Heather, and talks to Ben about it. Ben unwittingly reveals information that only the murderer would know, and Shirley then realises that Ben killed Heather. She attempts to drown him in the bath until Phil stops her. Following a confrontation with Phil, she is incensed to discover that both he and Jay knew the truth. Phil convinces her not to call the police and to talk to Ben, but Ben is already at the police station and has confessed. Shirley confronts Jay about his assisting Ben with the murder and hides the photo frame for him, but later changes her mind to bring Heather's murderer to justice. Unable to cope with Phil's betrayal Shirley ends their relationship. Shirley starts drinking and Phil sees that she needs help, so calls Carly, who at first rejects Shirley because of her drunkenness, but when she learns the truth about Ben, Carly and Shirley make amends. Shirley meets her grandson Jimmy, accepts a heartfelt apology from Jay, and goes to stay with Carly.
Shirley later returns to Walford in December and discovers Phil, Sharon Rickman (Letitia Dean) and Lola Pearce's (Danielle Harold) plan to get Lola's daughter Lexi Pearce back, as she has been taken from Lola by Social Services, but Shirley warns Lola not to trust Phil. Shirley is employed at McKlunky's fast food working alongside Liam Butcher (James Forde). Liam joins a gang and as part of his initiation, Liam is told to mug Shirley. She realises it is him and gives him some money, and tells his mother, Bianca Butcher (Patsy Palmer), of the incident and his whereabouts. Shirley develops a friendship with Jean, both finding comfort in one another. Shirley loses her job when two men deliberately drop food on the floor and she reacts by pouring drinks and food over them.
Shirley admits to Jean that she hates herself as she is still in love with Phil despite his involvement in Heather's death. She discovers that Phil has been paying her bills at the B&B and reacts furiously, and demands money from him. When Phil is involved in a car accident and bound to hospital, Shirley suspects that Carl White (Daniel Coonan) is getting involved with all his businesses and stands in his way. On the day she plans to emigrate to Greece with Phil's money, she confronts Carl, who vows to deal with her. Denise and Jean speculate that Shirley has gone without saying goodbye, not knowing that her belongings have been discarded in a bin. Several weeks later, Carl implies to Phil that he has harmed Shirley. He takes Phil to a block of run-down flats where they find Shirley and her sister Tina Carter (Luisa Bradshaw-White). It is revealed that Carl threatened Shirley to stay away from Walford or he would harm Phil's family. Carl leaves, and Phil pleads with Shirley to return to Walford. She decides to return to Walford with Phil, and gives Tina £50, begging her to leave her abusive girlfriend Fiona "Tosh" Mackintosh (Rebecca Scroggs). Tina follows Shirley to Walford and though Shirley wants Tina to leave, Phil agrees to let them both stay at his house.
Shirley moves into the Queen Vic when her brother Mick Carter (Danny Dyer), and his family, buy the pub. When she meets her estranged father, Stan (Timothy West), after twenty five years, it is revealed that Tina and Mick were put into care and Shirley's mother hit her as a child. Stan gives her £10,000 for treating the rising damp in the cellar of the pub. In return she is given a 20% stake in the pub and her name put over the door. Shirley is under the impression that her son is working in Australia and is shocked when her father tells her Deano is much closer to home and is now going by his given name, Dean. He has visited Stan and given him his mobile phone number. Stan gives it to Shirley and asks her to call him. The following week, when she makes the call, revealing who is calling, the line goes dead. When Shirley's maternal aunt Babe Smith (Annette Badland) visits Walford she reveals that Dean is staying with Stan, so Shirley goes to see Stan. She is informed by her manipulative father that Dean left days ago.
Shirley is angered when Stan injures himself and so invited to live in the Vic until he recovers. Their relationship thaws a little when Shirley witnesses Stan's quick-thinking after Mick and Linda's daughter Nancy (Maddie Hill) suffers an epileptic seizure. Following this, Stan tries to make amends by arranging for Dean and Shirley to meet. However, the reunion goes badly and Shirley blames Stan. Shirley is unnerved when Mick starts asking questions about how his mother tried to drown him as a baby. Whilst distracted by this, she neglects Dean, frustrating him. Mick believes that it was in fact Stan who tried to drown him and so tries to throw him out, despite Shirley pleading with him not to. Shirley admits that it was her that tried to drown him when he blames Stan, although Mick forgives her. In the process, Phil discovers Mick is in fact Shirley's son, the result of a teenage pregnancy.
Shirley forces Phil to keep her secret and, when Phil's girlfriend Sharon is attacked at her new bar, Shirley is disgusted to learn that Phil arranged the attack. After he confides in her, Shirley admits she still loves him but Phil instead decides to propose to Sharon, who accepts. When Shirley discovers this, she threatens to tell Sharon everything but Phil begins blackmailing her, wanting money in return for his silence about Mick. Unable to raise the money, Shirley attempts to steal from Dean at the opening of his new salon, but is caught in the act. As relations with Dean break down completely, Shirley vanishes, and returns with Heather's young son George Trott (Harrison Stagg) for a visit to give his father some time to himself. On returning George to Darren, she stays with them for several weeks, but returns to Walford ahead of Phil and Sharon's wedding. Phil discovers Sharon has been conning him out of his money and sleeps with Shirley, declaring he will leave Sharon at the altar for her. He changes his mind at the last minute. Shirley discovers a gun in Sharon's possessions. At the wedding reception she announces the affair and later tells Phil that Sharon was planning to kill him with the gun she has found. In an ensuing struggle with Sharon, she shoots Phil, and Aunt Babe organises her escape, leaving Dean behind after he attempts go with her. This event puts so much emotional strain on Dean that he drunkenly rapes Linda while they are left alone, misinterpreting her consolation.
Mick and Dean bring Shirley back to Walford when Stan admits he has terminal pancreatic cancer. They meet Shirley's old flame, Buster Briggs (Karl Howman), and Dean works it out that he is Buster's son. They plan to run away together but Mick has Buster arrested for breaking his bail conditions as he is on day release. Buster is also revealed to be Mick's father making him and Dean full brothers. When Shirley and Mick go to Babe's house to confront her, they find Shirley's mother Sylvie (Linda Marlowe) hiding inside. Sylvie has Alzheimers and tells Mick she is not his mother. He believes this to be resulting from her disease. Fearing the secret of Mick's birth will out, Shirley tells Babe to keep Sylvie away from Walford. Shirley cannot believe that Dean raped Linda when Dean claims that they had an affair, and she accuses Linda of lying. When Mick finds out, he attacks Dean. Stopping the attack, Shirley reveals that Dean is Mick's brother. Mick refuses to speak to her the following day and her plans to leave Walford with Dean are scuppered. After Mick and Linda leave the square for a while, Shirley returns to the Vic as the sole licencee to ensure that Nancy and Lee do not get into trouble for selling alcohol without one present. Nancy is not keen on the idea at first but complies to keep on the right side of the law, although she is still adamant that Dean does not get in. Shortly after Mick and Linda return and report Dean for rape, Shirley reveals, in front of Stan, Babe, Sylvie and Mick the reason why she kept her identity as Mick's mother a secret: her pregnancy with Mick was scorned by Sylvie, who attempted to force a miscarriage by pushing Shirley down the stairs, and it was unsure of how Stan would take it having had problems with their marriage, prompting Shirley to desire to keep Mick despite her mother and Babe's ideas. Shirley was forced to raising Mick as her baby brother, and Stan's son, out of fear that she would never see him again. Mick is shocked to to learn the truth, but soon visits Shirley at Denise's, apologizing for taking it so hard and deciding to give her another chance, as long as Dean keeps his distance from him, revealing the report in the process.
Shirley begins to spend more time trying to help Dean with his worries over Linda's accusations of rape. Dean is arrested by the police but released after questioning and he accuses Linda of lying. Shirley is angered when the officers search Dean's room, but agrees to keep quiet about what happened for Mick's sake. She begins to fear that her sudden absence from Dean is what triggered him to rape Linda, and arranges for Dean to leave London as soon as possible. Dean soon leaves after being threatened by Mick, and Shirley is unaware when Dean returns a few days later and tries to set fire to The Vic and threaten Nancy in the cellar. After Mick chokes him unconscious, the cellar is later found empty, leaving his whereabouts under a shroud of mystery. Police arrive at The Vic the next week, informing her that a young man matching Dean's description is in a bad way in hospital after a car accident. Shirley denies that it is Dean, but then travels to the hospital with Nancy to identify the young man. She realizes the man is not Dean, and has a heart to heart with Sharon in the café, who encourages her fight for both her sons. Shirley reveals that Dean missed his bail hearing and wants to tell him Stan's deteriorated but Tina advises against this.
Nancy tells Shirley she fears that Mick may have killed Dean. When Shirley confronts Mick, Dean returns with Buster who announces that he has booked one-way tickets to Greece for him, Dean and Shirley. Shirley learns that Stan may have to be moved to a hospice and allows Dean to visit to say goodbye to him. She has a heart-to-heart with Phil, who encourages her to do whatever she can to allow Dean to face up to his responsibilities. She calls the police and informs them that Dean is at the hospital, where he is promptly arrested. When Buster works out that she called the police, he confronts her. Mick tries to reconcile with her but Shirley sends him away. The next day, Shirley is invited by Tina to Stan and Cora's last minute wedding. However, when she sees Mick is not happy at her bringing Buster as her plus-one, she decides not to go after all, but Buster tells her that she should stop throwing her life away by turning her back on her family. When she learns of Jim Branning's death and sees how much it upsets his daughter Carol Jackson (Lindsey Coulson) and her daughter and Tina's girlfriend Sonia, Shirley has a change of heart and rushes to be with Stan at the hospital in the middle of the night while the wedding has been postponed until the next day.
Shirley's creation was announced in September 2006, at which time she was described as being "brassy, rough, tarty and tough-as-old-boots" by media entertainment website Digital Spy. Henry, who had appeared in the serial during the early 1990s as prostitute Lorraine Salter, said: "I'm thrilled to be joining EastEnders. I'm both nervous and excited as I've watched it for many years". Created as an extension of the established Wicks family, Shirley's arrival was welcomed by her son, Deano. Di Angelo deemed his character "very fond" of his mother, keen to forge a relationship with her, and attributed Deano's childish characterisation to her absence during his formative years. Other relatives were less enthused by her arrival: Shirley developed a rivalry with Wicks matriarch Pat (Pam St. Clement), which culminated in a physical fight and their arrest in April 2007. Digital Spy 's Dek Hogan highlighted a similarity between the two, and commented prior to their fight that Shirley was "so like Pat was when she first arrived it's frightening."
A friendship developed between Shirley and local businessman Phil Mitchell in 2008, as she underwent a breast-cancer scare. Reluctant to seek medical help, Shirley admitted to Phil that she was afraid, and he responded with "genuine kindness". Their friendship developed into romance, and Shirley was later able to save him from an addiction to crack cocaine, which Henry felt reflected the strength of their relationship. Although Shirley was wounded to discover he had been unfaithful to her, Henry explained that, regardless of the tough façade her character projected, she still loved him. She characterised Shirley as "a strong, proud woman [who] wouldn't stay with someone for [the wrong] reasons", and suggested they could survive the affair: "It will need effort to make it work and they'll never have the perfect relationship, but neither Phil nor Shirley would want a completely quiet life."
Henry has been nominated for several television awards for her portrayal of Shirley. She and Fergison were nominated in the Best On-Screen Partnership category at the 2008 British Soap Awards, and Digital Spy Soap Awards, and for Best Double Act at the 2009 TV Times Awards. Henry was shortlisted in the Best Soap Actress category at the 2009 TV Quick and TV Choice awards. At the 2009 Inside Soap Awards, Shirley was nominated in the Best Bitch category. Henry was also shortlisted in the 'Best Actress' category at the 2012 Inside Soap Awards.
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Early in Shirley's tenure, Hogan advised viewers to "rejoice in [her] wonderful nastiness". He found her an "unpleasant" addition to the series, and though he commended Henry's portrayal, he hoped to see more possibility of redemption for Shirley, as "It's difficult to buy into a character that comes across as unremittingly unpleasant." Hogan called her "the most convincing drunk" in the programme for twenty years, but noted, "that really doesn't make her any less annoying and her scenes are a pain in the neck to sit through." Tess Lamacraft from The Sun 's Buzz magazine questioned Shirley's motivations in accepting Phil's infidelities. She could not decide whether Shirley was "stupid, desperate or just madly in love" with him.
In the British media she has been referred to as "Shirley Terrahawk" due to her resemblance to a character from the Terrahawks. Jim Shelly once branded her the "human Terrahawk" in the Daily Mirror and "an alcoholic Terrahawk" in The Guardian. John McKie from the Daily Record said that Phil getting together with "Shirley the Terrahawk" was grotesque. Kevin O'Sullivan from the Sunday Mirror said that "Shirley Terrahawk went into theatrical meltdown" after Heather died; adding that it was "hilarious overacting" on Henry's part.
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- Shirley Carter at BBC Online
- Shirley Carter at the Internet Movie Database
- Shirley Carter at What's on TV