|Portrayed by||William Boyde|
|Duration||1986–1989, 1992, 2017–|
|First appearance||Episode 114
20 March 1986
|Book appearances||Taking Chances|
James Willmott-Brown is a fictional character from the BBC soap opera EastEnders, played by William Boyde. He appeared from 1986 to 1989, running Albert Square's second pub The Dagmar, and during 1988 raped Kathy Beale. Following a jail sentence, Wilmott-Brown made a brief comeback in 1992, after Pete Beale and Frank Butcher managed to catch up with him. After an absence of 25 years, he returned on 22 September 2017.
Willmott-Brown, an ex-army officer, arrives in Albert Square in March 1986 as area manager for 'Luxford and Copley', the brewery that owns The Queen Victoria public house. Willmott-Brown decides to move to the square and buys Debbie Wilkins's (Shirley Cheriton) house at 43 Albert Square when she sells it, following Andy's (Ross Davidson), death. He and Debbie date briefly but it doesn't last and Pat Wicks (Pam St. Clement) also tries to seduce him unsuccessfully. During the early years, he is friendly with Colin Russell (Michael Cashman).
Willmott-Brown gives up his job as brewery manager and buys a disused pub on Turpin Road, refurbishing it as a wine bar and names it The Dagmar. Local publican Den Watts (Leslie Grantham) is unhappy about the competition and is disgusted to learn that his estranged wife, Angie Watts (Anita Dobson), is manageress. Wilmott-Brown also allows Angie and her daughter, Sharon Watts (Letitia Dean), to live in the flat above. The Dagmar opens for business and both Willmott-Brown and Den compete for best decorated pub in 'The London In Bloom' competition and in a five-a-side football match, and constantly try to poach each other's staff. The following year, the Dagmar begins to lose business as the residents of Walford never really take to the upper-class establishment and Willmott-Brown has competition from The Queen Victoria and Strokes winebar, which Den takes over after giving up tenancy of The Queen Victoria. At this point, Gregory Mantel (Pavel Douglas), a member of the criminal organisation known as The Firm), arrives and demands James allow his company, 'Walford Investments', to buy into the business. James refuses, and as a result, none of his creditors will trade with him and the business suffers even more. This is escalated when James learns that Den is in league with the Firm and reports him to the police for shady dealings at Strokes wine bar but Simon Wicks (Nick Berry), barman at The Dagmar, overhears James talking to the police and tells Den. When the residents learn that James has informed the police, he loses all his customers, pushing James to financial ruin. This makes him frantic and his behaviour becomes erratic.
Meanwhile, Willmott-Brown gives Kathy Beale (Gillian Taylforth) a job as a barmaid but this causes problems between her and her husband, Pete (Peter Dean). The rift worsens when it becomes clear that Wilmott-Brown has a romantic interest in Kathy. With everyone now ignoring him, Kathy soon becomes his only friend. He buys her presents and confides in her about the sorry state of his business, the break-up of his marriage and how it affected his children, Sophie Willmott-Brown (Natasha Knight) and Luke Willmott-Brown (Henry Power). Pete is furious about the amount of time Kathy spends with Willmott-Brown, but their constant arguing only drives her away. One night after Kathy argues with Pete again, James invites her to his place for a glass of wine after work. When it becomes clear that he is trying to seduce her, she tries to leave but he refuses to take no for an answer and the seduction ends in rape. Den finds Kathy an emotional wreck. When he realises what has happened, he takes Kathy home to her family and her niece, Michelle Fowler (Susan Tully), persuades her to report the rape to the police. Den also calls his contacts within the Firm, Joanne Francis (Pamela Salem) and Brad Williams (Jonathan Stratt), and demands revenge. He watches gleefully as a fire-bomb is thrown into the Dagmar and it catches fire. Unfortunately for Den, this act leads to his imprisonment, after The Firm expect him to take the rap for the arson and later decide that they want him dead. When Willmott-Brown returns days later, he is horrified to see what has happened to the Dagmar. He also receives extreme hostility from residents of the square. When arrested, Willmott-Brown claims that Kathy consented and claims that it is common knowledge that they were having an affair. When asked about Kathy's bruises, he claims that they are the result of their rampant sexual encounter and suggests that Pete is a violent man and Kathy has lied to avoid his wrath. Willmott-Brown thinks he has said enough to fool the police and is stunned when he is charged with rape. He stands trial in April 1989, but not before attempting to bribe Kathy to drop the charges. She allows him to think that she is ready to take his hush money, only to reveal that D.I Bob Ashley (Robin Lermitte), is listening next door. Kathy is relieved when he is found guilty and imprisoned for three years. However, Pete and Kathy's marriage is destroyed as Kathy cannot stand him touching her and they separate soon after
When James is released in January 1992, he returns to the square and tries to buy the flats that Grant (Ross Kemp) and Phil Mitchell (Steve McFadden) are selling. He plans to move back to Walford and set up another business and sends Kathy a tape asking her to meet him at his hotel in Hampstead. He promises that if she objects, he will disappear and never return. His return sends shockwaves around the square and Pete organises a mob to track him down as Kathy plans to meet him. Kathy gets there first and after listening to Willmott-Brown's tale of his hard time in prison and how much he has changed, she asks him to leave the Square for good and never return. Despite his promise, however, he refuses to leave Walford. Kathy then leaves feeling repulsed and cheated, but unknown to her, Pete has also come to enact his revenge. Pete and his mob force him into their car and drive him to Pete's high-rise flat building, where Pete threatens to push him off unless he signs a paper stating that he will leave Walford and never return. Immediately after, Willmott-Brown phones his solicitor and takes out an injunction on Pete, but proceeds to move to the Square. He continues sending Kathy tapes, confessing his undying love for her.
Eventually Kathy and Pete confront James at his house and he and Pete nearly come to blows. An emotional Kathy finally relays her hurt and anger over the rape and her fury that James has never apologised for the act. James protests that they had something truly special, but after a heated conversation, Kathy makes him realise how deluded he is by showing him the destruction he'd caused her and her family. In a bid for attention, James threatens to commit suicide but Kathy stops him, refusing to allow him off the hook so easily. James finally apologises for raping her and begs for her forgiveness. Kathy is pleased he is sorry, but refuses to forgive him, feeling her forgiveness would give him permission to stop being sorry and she tells him she is never going to do anything he asks, ever again, not even that. The confrontation and the apology finally gives Kathy the closure she needs, while a defeated James leaves Walford.
In 1994, Kathy begins having recurring nightmares about Wilmott-Brown so her boyfriend, Phil Mitchell, goes in search of him. He tracks down James's wife, and discovers that he is back in prison after raping another woman.
25 years later, James anonymously lays flowers addressed to Kathy at a memorial for her step-grandson Steven Beale (Aaron Sidwell). The following day, James meets with his children — Sophie, who is now going by the name "Fi", (now Lisa Faulkner), Luke (now Adam Astill) and Josh Hemmings (Eddie Eyre) — and brother-in-law Hugo Browning (Simon Williams), before introducing himself to Fi's partner, Max Branning (Jake Wood). James, Luke and Hugo discuss purchasing the café and James tells them he has a better plan for the premises than their idea of studio flats. James arrives in Albert Square and lets himself into the café, and he, Luke and Hugo go through their development plans for Albert Square. Luke starts a relationship with Ben Mitchell (Harry Reid), but breaks up with him when he finds out Ben is Kathy's son. Luke tells James that he and Ben are back together on his request and questions James' interest in Ben and Kathy. After Max manages to persuade Kathy's eldest son, Ian Beale (Adam Woodyatt) and his wife, Jane Beale (Laurie Brett), to sell the café and move away, James tells Max he wants Ian to remain. Fi promises to James that she will get the sealed bids from Max and Luke promises to persuade Jay Brown (Jamie Borthwick) to sell the car lot land. When Max contemplates getting the sealed bids from Carmel Kazemi's (Bonnie Langford) work laptop, he phones James, refusing to go through with it. Max meets up with James, Fi and Luke and tells them that he doesn't want to be a part of their plan any longer. Fi turns up to see Max at Carmel's house, where they have sex. However, unbeknownst to Max, Fi hacks into Carmel's computer and steals the sealed bids. When James finds out about Max and Fi's relationship, Fi presents him with the sealed bids to earn James's approval.
On Halloween, when Kathy shuts up the café, she is startled when James comes in. As James acts casual, Kathy takes hold of a knife and James tells Kathy he has been diagnosed with terminal liver cancer. Kathy rubbishes James' beliefs that they are alike and James says the reason for his visit is to move on from the past. Kathy wants James to explain truthfully what happened on the night of the rape, but when he refuses to do so, Kathy retells it, demanding to know when he decided to rape her and she realises that James chose to rape her when he locked up The Dagmar. Kathy tells James that he has scared her that night like the night he raped her, but James, still in denial, refuses to apologise for the rape and he leaves Kathy his address. Luke attends Ben's half-sister's, Louise Mitchell (Tilly Keeper), birthday meal to make sure Phil knows nothing about James seeing Kathy, believing Kathy would tell him. Luke contacts James to inform him that Phil is unaware. Kathy confides in Ian that James is back and Ian contacts Phil about James. Phil visits James and warns him away from Kathy. Phil realises Luke is James' son when he finds a photo of them. Phil tells Kathy that Luke is James' son and Phil fails to warn Luke away from Ben. Ben is angry with what Phil did and when Kathy tries to get Ben and Phil to make up, Kathy tells Ben that Phil was protecting him as James raped her. After struggling to process what he is told, Ben is determined to hurt James, but Kathy orders Ben to keep out of it as it happened to her and not him. Ben confronts Luke with what he has been told and Luke tells Ben that James wants to meet him. Ben takes a hammer when he meets James and without Luke's presence, Ben threatens James, but James insists to Ben that he and Kathy were having an affair and she consented. Luke pulls Ben off James, who tells Ben he knows he doesn't trust or believe Kathy.
In 1988, the character of Willmott-Brown raped Kathy Beale (Gillian Taylforth) in a "prolific and controversial [...} deplorable" rape storyline. Taylforth was apprehensive about the storyline when it was pitched to her, commenting that she "didn't think it was a great idea at first" as her character had already been raped and "didn't think Wilmott-Brown was a very likely rapist." Taylforth said she "loved working" with Boyde, saying he played the part "brilliantly" as well as it being his own idea "to step up Wilmott-Brown's drinking in order for the rape to make some sense."
Boyde departed the role in 1989, when his character was found guilty of rape. The storyline "had massive repercussions for the residents of Walford", notably for Den Watts (Leslie Grantham), as the storyline resulted in his imprisonment for "taking the rap" over The Dagmar fire caused by The Firm. Boyde returned in 1992 for a short stint, which saw Willmott-Brown "try and reintegrate in Walford" but a "lack of remorse saw him receive significant backlash."
Boyde reprised his role as Willmott-Brown in September 2017 and the actor expressed his delight at returning to the serial. Willmott-Brown returns to overpower Albert Square, the show's setting, and destroy "everything and anyone in their way". Duncan Lindsay of the Metro reported that his return storyline would centre around "power, control, money and revenge" as well as confronting Kathy, who Willmott-Brown cites as the person who destroyed his life.
The characters of Fi Browning (Lisa Faulkner) and Josh Hemmings (Eddie Eyre), who joined the show in 2017, were revealed as James' children. Faulkner's character was explained as James' daughter Sophie Willmott-Brown, who appeared in the serial in 1987 and 1992 as a child, portrayed by Natasha Knight. Adam Astill was recast in the role of James' son Luke Willmott-Brown (now Luke Browning), who previously appeared alongside his sister portrayed by Henry Povey. The build-up to Willmott-Brown's return began when Max Branning (Jake Wood) returned to the serial after being falsely imprisoned for the murder of Lucy Beale (Hetti Bywater). Max agrees with Willmott-Brown's plans as he is unaware of his past and understands that he is a "wronged man". Of his return, Boyde said: 'I'm delighted to immerse myself once more in the fascinating world of soap land."
In popular culture
A running joke in the 2015 episode of Catherine Tate's Nan titled "Knees Up Wilmott-Brown" involves the lead character, Nan, mistaking another character, Charles Wilmott, for the EastEnders character.
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- Marshall, Sharon (2 January 2016). "Catherine Tate served up too much of her sweary Nan this Christmas - Sharon Marshall - Mirror Online". Daily Mirror. Retrieved 27 January 2016.