|Portrayed by||Diane Parish|
|First appearance||11 May 2006|
|Introduced by||Kate Harwood|
|"East Street" (2010)
The B&B (2012)
The Ghosts of Ian Beale (2014)
|Other names||Denise Wicks
|Occupation||Post Office assistant
Denise Celeste Fox (also Wicks and Johnson) is a fictional character from the BBC soap opera EastEnders, played by Diane Parish. She made her first appearance on 11 May 2006 and temporarily left EastEnders in early 2008 to give birth to her second child. Her exit coincided with the permanent departures of cast members Phil Daniels (Kevin Wicks), Kellie Shirley (Carly Wicks) and Matt Di Angelo (Dean Wicks). She returned to Walford on 6 June 2008. This is Parish's second role in EastEnders, as she previously played singer Lola Christie in 1998. Her storylines have included domestic abuse at the hands of her ex-husband Owen Turner (Lee Ross); her short-lived marriages to Kevin, which ended in his death, and Lucas Johnson (Don Gilet), which ended with his imprisonment for murder, her relationship with surrogate father Patrick Trueman (Rudolph Walker), a volatile friendship with Kevin's former wife Shirley Carter (Linda Henry), a May–December romance with Fatboy (Ricky Norwood) and a loveless engagement to Ian Beale (Adam Woodyatt).
Brought up by her mother Ada, Denise never knew her father; the only clue she had as to his identity was that he played in a band called "The Five Hectors". The band consisted of Patrick Trueman (Rudolph Walker), Aubrey Valentine (Joseph Marcell), Cedric Lucas (Ram John Holder), Dwight and Earl.
Denise and Lucas Johnson (Don Gilet) had a relationship when they were teenagers and she had his baby at sixteen. Lucas was a drug addict and constantly letting her down. He could not cope with being a father and left Denise to bring up their daughter Chelsea (Tiana Benjamin) alone. Denise met Owen Turner (Lee Ross) in 1989 and fell pregnant in late 1990. Owen and Denise married a few months later, and Denise gave birth to daughter Libby (Belinda Owusu) in July 1991. Owen was a doting father but later became an alcoholic in 1999 and was abusive to Denise. Denise eventually left him, taking the children with her. Their divorce was finalised a year later in 2000.
Moving to Walford in May 2006, Denise has a tempestuous encounter with Kevin Wicks (Phil Daniels); however, an attraction develops and they begin dating. Denise's ex-husband Owen tries to reunite with Libby and he later kidnaps her. He tries to drown himself and Libby but she recovers and Owen is arrested. Denise thinks that Patrick may be her father but a paternity test proves that he is not. When Kevin's ex-wife, Shirley Carter (Linda Henry), arrives in Walford, she causes numerous problems for Denise and Kevin. Shirley reveals Kevin's secret, that he is not the biological father of Shirley's children Dean (Matt Di Angelo) and Carly (Kellie Shirley), and in the wake of this, Kevin flees, abandoning Denise. Upset, Denise threatens to move away, but she is stopped by Kevin, who returns and proposes marriage. Shirley tries to ruin their wedding but is unsuccessful. Denise weathers various problems, including Chelsea and Dean's imprisonment for framing Sean Slater (Robert Kazinsky), Kevin's dishonesty when he attempts to cover their crime, and a feud with her boss at the post office, Zainab Masood (Nina Wadia). Kevin starts selling cars for Phil Mitchell (Steve McFadden), but later discovers they are cut-and-shuts; he tries to destroy the cars but dies in an accident. After scattering his ashes, Denise leaves Walford.
Denise returns in June 2008, but is angry to discover Chelsea is using drugs and is in contact with her father, Lucas Johnson (Don Gilet). Denise is initially hostile to Lucas, but she warns to him when she sees he has changed and they eventually reunite. Denise proposes to Lucas but marriage is impossible as Lucas is still married to Trina (Sharon Duncan Brewster), the mother of his son Jordan (Michael-Joel David Stuart). Trina attempts to seduce Lucas but he accidentally kills her. Denise helps Jordan come to terms with his mother's death, with them believing it to be as a result of an overdose. With Trina dead, Denise and Lucas are able to marry, though further complications arise when Owen is released from prison. He desperately tries to show Denise that she cannot trust Lucas but they marry regardless. Lucas kills Owen on their wedding day and his body is discovered eight months later. Lucas confesses to Denise, claiming self-defence. At first, she agrees to protect him but she later convinces him to go to the police. However, he instead drives her to a canal. When she refuses to submit to God, he strangles her. He murders a prostitute, Gemma (Rita Balogun), and identifies her as Denise, her family believing she committed suicide. Lucas keeps Denise prisoner in the house next door, and after a few weeks she escapes and Lucas is arrested, later being imprisoned for life. Chelsea then moves to Spain with Owen's mother, Liz Turner (Kate Williams) and Libby joins them for a holiday before returning to university. Denise is heartbroken to see her girls leave. Denise's sister Kim Fox (Tameka Empson) arrives saying that she has left her boyfriend Dexter Mulholland (Robbie Gee), and asks to move in with them. Kim and Denise later purchase the house next door and open a bed and breakfast. Denise talks to Zainab, who helps her move on by destroying past memories of Lucas. Denise starts a relationship with Yusef Khan (Ace Bhatti), Zainab's ex-husband, but ends it after realising he is still in love with Zainab. On Christmas Day, Denise opens a present containing a broken toy car and a USB stick with a recording of Phil Mitchell (Steve McFadden) talking about his part in Kevin's death. Denise then starts calling Phil a murderer and tries to get him arrested but fails in doing so.
The bed and breakfast is set on fire by Yusef so Denise, Kim and Patrick are forced to move out. The insurance company refuses to cover the damage, but Patrick then decides to retire and gives the Minute Mart to Denise and Kim. When Zainab inherits all of Yusef's money, she gives it to Kim and Denise to rebuild the bed and breakfast. When the B&B opens, Denise is angry that Kim will not do any work but just flirts with the customers. They have an argument and Denise quits working there, but later returns on the condition that Kim puts in more effort. When Zainab's brother-in-law AJ Ahmed (Phaldut Sharma) arrives in Walford, he attempts to con Denise but fails. The two later have drinks but AJ leaves afterwards. Denise attends Christian Clarke's (John Partridge) stag party where a man gives her unwanted attention. She sleeps with Fatboy (Ricky Norwood) when he defends her from an overly-persistent interest and allows him to walk her home. The next day, Denise is embarrassed and tells Fatboy it was a mistake. However, it is revealed she has feelings for Fatboy and after she welcomes him into her home, they sleep together again. Denise agrees to pursue a relationship with Fatboy if their romance is secret. When Fatboy tries to encourage her to make their relationship public, Denise calls it off, telling Fatboy she will treasure their time together as a good memory. After Denise has a lonely Christmas, Kim and Zainab decide to set up a date for her. However this fails and when Kim's boyfriend Ray Dixon (Chucky Venn) comforts her, they share a kiss. Ray tells Kim about the kiss, but says Denise made the first move, so Kim slaps Denise and says she is dead to her. Denise and Kim reconcile until Ray ends his relationship with Kim. Kim blames Denise so Denise stays with Ian Beale (Adam Woodyatt). When Ray tells the truth to Kim, Denise and Kim reconcile and Denise moves back in with Kim.
When Denise and Ian get locked in the Minute Mart's storage cupboard and share a kiss, it leads to a sexual relationship. This becomes public when Ian's daughter Lucy Beale (Hetti Bywater) reveals it. Denise helps Ian to open a restaurant and supports him when Carl White (Daniel Coonan) threatens him and demands money. Denise moves in with Ian and his children Lucy, Peter (Ben Hardy) and Bobby (Rory Stroud). They are soon joined by Cindy Williams (Mimi Keene), the daughter of Ian's dead ex-wife. Denise begins to feel part of the family, and supports Ian when he intends to testify in court that he saw Max Branning (Jake Wood) tampering with the brakes of Carl's car. However, Ian fails to testify, and Denise is devastated to learn that Ian was intending to lie in court to frame Max on Carl's orders. The return of Ian's ex-wife Jane Beale (Laurie Brett) causes Denise to have doubts about their relationship. She accepts Ian's marriage proposal and during their engagement party, she shares a passionate kiss with Fatboy. They come to their senses when they are surprised by Cora Cross (Ann Mitchell). Fatboy's girlfriend Poppy Meadow (Rachel Bright) learns of the kiss and posts a letter to Ian, before leaving Walford, but it is read by Lucy who challenges Denise. For the sake of her father's mental health, Lucy agrees to keep it a secret. Denise and Ian drift apart from each other due to his busy lifestyle, causing their relationship to deteriorate. After visiting Libby in Oxford, she plans to leave Ian. However, when Lucy is murdered, Denise is forced to stay and support him. Denise is sidelined by Ian and decides to run away without telling him, confiding in Patrick that she feels trapped. However, worried that she will look like a bad person, Denise changes her mind and returns to Ian. Denise continues to feel ostracised and does not attend Lucy's funeral after she sees Ian and Jane comforting one another. Under advice from Libby, Denise tells Ian she can no longer be with him but he begs her to stay. Denise agrees to stay when Ian admits he has taken her for granted, and he encourages her to go with Libby to Spain to celebrate Chelsea's birthday.
On Denise's return, things are much better between her and Ian and he arranges for them to visit Libby in Oxford for a weekend. As she is about to leave, Patrick tries to stop her, but fails and later leaves a message on Denise's answerphone, asking for her to call him as soon as possible. However, she then receives a call that Patrick has suffered a stroke and they return to Walford. When he leaves hospital, he stays with Ian and Denise, as Denise wants to care for him. Denise is then told by prostitute, Rainie Cross (Tanya Franks), that she had sex with Ian on the night that Lucy died. Feeling betrayed, Denise does not allow Ian to explain himself and locks herself in the Minute Mart. On returning home, she discovers that Cindy has returned and that Ian has delivered her newborn daughter. She tells Ian that she forgives him, but the next day, she leaves him and takes Patrick back to live in his own house again, declaring that Ian is not the man she loved anymore. Going into Patrick's house Denise is devastated to discover that the house has been broken into. Denise struggles with caring for Patrick alone, despite support from her colleague and friend Shabnam Masood (Rakhee Thakrar). She finds that Denise has been stealing alcohol from the shop, but decides to not report it if Denise returns the value. Patrick is devastated by the news that he may lose his allotment, so Denise goes there, intending to maintain it for him, only to dig up Lucy's phone and purse. Although hesitant, she returns them to the Beales.
On New Year's Eve, a pregnant Kim surprises Denise, and in an act of revenge, accuses Ian of ruining Denise's life. The next day, Kim discovers bruises on each of Patrick's arms and realises Denise had violently beaten him and confronts her. At the pub, Denise gets drunk, and after hearing of Emma Summerhayes' (Anna Acton) death, drunkenly slurs that Lucy's killer would be jailed if Emma had done her job properly. In anger of Denise's disrespectfulness, Ian says that despite what Kim said, Denise has been ruining her own life. On arriving home, she tells Kim she cannot be Patrick's carer anymore.
After an argument with Denise in the Vic, Kim goes into labor and gives birth to a daughter named Pearl. Although she disowns Denise, they eventually reconcile the next day. After Kim holds a christening for Pearl, she tells Denise that her husband doesn't exist and she made him up because of fear of being alone. However, Kim's confessions to Shirley, Kat Moon (Jessie Wallace), Linda Carter (Kellie Bright) and Patrick reveal that she lied to Denise and that she left her husband when she found out that he was a criminal.
Creation and development
Casting and introduction
On 7 November 2005, the BBC announced that Diane Parish had been cast in EastEnders as a "sassy, strong" character with links to the established Wicks family, who would be "a force to be reckoned with." Parish had previously appeared in the serial as singer Lola Christie in 1998. In January 2006, Parish's character was revealed to be Denise Fox, who would embark on a romance with fellow newcomer Kevin Wicks (Phil Daniels). Tiana Benjamin was cast as Denise's daughter Chelsea, and spoke of her admiration for Parish, eagerly anticipating the opportunity to work with her. Lara Gould of the Sunday Mirror described the new characters as the "feisty Fox family", revealing that Denise would have a second, younger daughter, Elizabeth ["Libby"], played by Belinda Owusu. Gould reported that the family would "arrive in Albert Square with a bang and [...] cause friction from the off", expanding: "The Fox girls don't take any nonsense – they'll be a force to be reckoned with." Lee Ross was later cast as Denise's ex-husband and Libby's father Owen Turner. Kris Green of media and entertainment website Digital Spy described Owen as having had "a disappointing life", revealing that Denise had separated from him as a result of his heavy drinking.
Denise went on to marry Kevin, acting as stepmother to his children Carly (Kellie Shirley) and Dean (Matt Di Angelo). Parish briefly departed from the show to take maternity leave, and when Daniels declined to renew his contract, he, Shirley and Di Angelo were written out permanently, coinciding with Parish's temporary exit. In Denise's absence, Chelsea reunited with her estranged father Lucas Johnson, with Don Gilet cast in the role. Upon Parish's return, Denise and Lucas ultimately reunited, with Gilet commenting: "He's found a woman who's strong-willed, strong-minded, a good mother to their shared child and to Libby and [Lucas' son] Jordan (Michael-Joel David Stuart). It's kind of ideal and he's worked so hard for it. Nothing, but nothing, should stop that - he deserves to have this. It's one of these situations where he likes the idea that he's earned this relationship. That seems to be more of a priority than the pure love he has for her. He loves what he's earned and he's now this respectable person who wants to hold on to what he has by any means necessary."
When Lucas' ex-wife Trina (Sharon Duncan Brewster) began interfering in their relationship, Lucas was instrumental in her death, and went on to kill Owen when he came close to discovering the truth. In May 2010, Green reported that in an upcoming episode, Lucas would be seen to strangle Denise and dispose of her body in a canal. He questioned whether Parish was to be written out of the soap, following the announcements that both Benjamin and Owusu would be leaving EastEnders later in 2010. Discussing the storyline, Gilet refused to reveal whether Lucas would kill Denise, but indicated that events may not be as they seemed. Parish commented: "It looks really bad as he gets Denise in a headlock and chokes her. If she survives, it'll be a miracle." Following the episode where Denise appeared to be strangled by Lucas, entertainment journalist Sharon Marshall appeared on This Morning, saying there would be "twists and turns" but would not confirm whether Denise was dead or alive. It ultimately transpired that Lucas had faked Denise's death to hold her hostage in a basement. Parish found it difficult to keep details of the storyline a secret, and struggled to lie when questioned by members of the public.
Questioned about the future for Denise following the departure of her daughters, Parish responded: "She is lost without her babies, but then her sister Kim comes along and she's a brilliant distraction. As for men, I think Denise should give them up and get a cat, but I'm sure she'll end up in another destructive relationship." She told Daniel Kilkelly of entertainment website Digital Spy: "I don't think she'll be looking for a new man any time soon. I think she's just going to take it easy on the man front. I think what needs to happen with the family is that everybody just needs to find their own way to find their own peace. I think that's the future really for all of them."
In October 2012, it was confirmed that a new storyline would see Denise and Fatboy (Ricky Norwood) spend the night together after he rescues her when she gets unwanted attention from a man. Norwood told Inside Soap, "I don't think Fatboy is looking for love—but he's happy to be swept off his feet by Denise, who's this hot older woman he never imagined he could be with. Denise is a scorching woman—she's got a dynamite body and a beautiful smile. She's way out of his league, but there is a lot of chemistry between them. I think they'd make a really good couple. That would be cool. Fatboy may be young, but he's got an old soul and he's not just some young boy messing about. There is potential there if Denise could see it, but because of the age thing, I think she might worry that people were saying things about her. Right now, she's just enjoying herself." Norwood added that while the pair's relationship was sexual, a serious future for them could be possible. They met for an afternoon of passion on 16 October 2012 but ended the affair a few days later when Denise told him that she will think of it as a 'great memory'. In January 2014, Denise and Fatboy kiss passionately during her engagement party to Ian Beale in The Queen Victoria.
Relationship with Ian Beale
In February 2013, it was reported that Denise would enter a relationship with EastEnders long running character Ian Beale, portrayed by Adam Woodyatt. Ian has been married four times in the past, including a marriage to Denise's friend Jane Beale (Laurie Brett). They grew close over a number of months, but she initially rejected Ian, scared of her family's reaction to her new romance. However, they began secretly dating, and became an open couple soon afterwards. On the match, Parish said that Denise had 'always had a soft spot for Ian', but also commented that 'whether they go the distance in the next few months remains to be seen'.
Denise eventually moved in with Ian when she fell out with her sister Kim Fox (Tameka Empson) for a brief time. Their relationship went through rocky periods, but ultimately strengthens as Denise becomes a mother figure to Ian's children, Lucy (Hetti Bywater), Peter (Ben Hardy), and Bobby (Alex Francis). In early 2014, Denise became aware that Ian was planning on proposing to her, and accepted before he asked her, fearful that he would reunite with his ex-wife Jane, who returned to Walford days before. However, she felt neglected at their engagement party and reignited her flame with Arthur 'Fatboy' Chubb as a result. They were discovered together by Cora Cross (Ann Mitchell), and Denise decided to return to Ian after convincing Cora to stay quiet about her infidelity.
Feeling unhappy in her relationship, Denise planned to end things after revealing her true feelings to daughter Libby (Belinda Owusu). However, before she can, Ian's daughter Lucy is murdered in mysterious circumstances (see 'Who Killed Lucy Beale?'). She was then left with the difficult decision of whether to stay and support Ian through his grief or go and live with Libby in Oxford. Ultimately, she decided to stay, and, although he realised what she was planning to do, Ian did not question her decision, but leaned on her heavily through his grief. Despite fleeing Walford with son Bobby soon after news of Lucy's death broke, Jane was still the primary support for Ian through his grief at the funeral, making Denise feel pushed out.
With Jane having left Walford, things settled down for Ian and Denise. Denise also took a brief vacation to visit daughter Chelsea in Spain with Libby for her birthday, but returned to help Ian with more developments in the investigation. In June 2014, it was revealed to viewers that Ian slept with a prostitute on the night that Lucy died. Ian goes to extreme lengths to keep this from Denise. Patrick Trueman (Rudolph Walker) discovers Ian's actions and demands that he tells Denise, but Ian escapes doing so as Patrick suffers a stroke, meaning he is unable to reveal his secret. The truth is eventually revealed when the prostitute, who happens to be the estranged daughter of Cora Cross, Rainie (Tanya Franks), bumps into Denise and reveals the truth. On discovering that Ian made Mick Carter (Danny Dyer) take the blame for him in court and that Patrick knew about the incident, Denise leaves him and moves back into her old home with Patrick, despite knowing that it will be extremely difficult to care for him alone as he recovers from his stroke.
Parish has been nominated for several awards for her portrayal of Denise. In 2007, she was nominated for the "Best Actress" award at The British Soap Awards 2007, while Denise was nominated in the "I'm A Survivor" category at the All About Soap Bubble Awards. In 2009, Parish was nominated for the "Best Actress" award at the Inside Soap Awards, and in 2010, she received a nomination for the "Best Soap Actress" award at the TV Choice awards. In January 2011, Parish was nominated for "Serial Drama Performance" at The National Television Awards 2011 for her portrayal of Densie but did not make it through to the shortlist. In 2014, she was nominated for "Best Actress" again at The British Soap Awards 2014, but lost out to rival soap Coronation Street's Julie Hesmondhalgh, who plays Hayley Cropper in the serial.
In 2009, Ruth Deller of entertainment website Lowculture—who runs a monthly feature chronicling the most popular and unpopular soap opera characters—profiled Denise, stating: "The Foxes are one of the strongest families on EastEnders at the moment, and that's pretty much all down to Denise, who is a-mazing. We also love her frenemy-ness with Zainab." Jim Shelley of the Daily Mirror questioned the credulity of the storyline which saw Lucas hold Denise hostage having faked her suicide. He quoted Denise's line: "Another thing I don't get. Why am I supposed to have killed myself? What 'reason' did I have?!" observing: "NO REASON of course. The writers hadn't even made one up - although that didn't stop Walford CID quickly deciding Denise had killed Owen and Trina even though they had no evidence and she had a watertight alibi." Nathan Bevan of the Wales on Sunday also deemed the storyline far-fetched, commenting: "she'd been kept prisoner in the basement of the abandoned house next door [...] and no one heard her screaming for help through the walls? What part of the East End is this?" Inside Soap stated in January 2011 that whilst Denise headed up the Fox family, they were "a right bunch of miseries" and opined they would party with lively sister Kim and only let Denise come if she "promises to crack a smile".
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