|Portrayed by||Dean Gaffney|
|Duration||1993–2004, 2010, 2015, 2017–|
|First appearance||Episode 926
16 December 1993
|Created by||Tony McHale|
Robbie Jackson is a fictional character from the BBC soap opera EastEnders, played by Dean Gaffney. The character was introduced in 1993, but axed in 2003 by executive producer Louise Berridge. He made brief returns in 2004 and 2010 for two family weddings and again on 22 September 2015 to tie in with the exit of his on-screen mother, Carol Jackson (Lindsey Coulson) on 2 October 2015. The character's reintroduction was announced on 17 April 2017 and he returned on 26 June 2017.
Robbie was the product of a whirlwind romance between teenagers Gary Bolton (Bruce Byron) and Carol Branning (Lindsey Coulson). Carol already had a daughter, Bianca (Patsy Palmer), from a previous relationship and upon discovering that she was pregnant again she and Gary got engaged and began living together before she gave birth to their son at just 16. They were happy for a while, but Gary soon began to feel tied down at such a young age and had an affair with an other woman Geraldine, which led to her being pregnant and Gary walking out on Carol and her two children just months after their son's birth. Robbie and his half sister Bianca saw many surrogate father figures during their childhood, and received a new half sister Sonia (Natalie Cassidy) after their mother's one-night stand with a man named Terry Cant. Carol later entered a relationship with the steady and reliable Alan Jackson in 1987. They became parents to Billie (Devon Anderson) in 1988 and not long afterwards Alan became a father figure to Robbie and his sisters, resulting in them all taking on the name Jackson.
Robbie arrives in Albert Square in 1993 with the rest of the Jackson clan. Initially a troublesome teen, Robbie has little success at school and is frequently in trouble for his behaviour, along with his friend Kevin (John Pickard). In November 1994, the pair find a dog which Robbie names Wellard. Robbie manages to persuade the dog's owner to relinquish care to him, after he discovers that Wellard was being neglected, and Wellard then becomes Robbies's pet. As he ages, Robbie becomes more responsible, but has little success in anything he chooses to do. He has several careers in Albert Square including radio control for the Evans' mini cab company, waiter, a job as manager in the local video rental store, and later as the market road sweeper.
Robbie is generally unsuccessful with women. He has a crush on Sarah Hills (Daniela Denby-Ashe) and is responsible for taking her virginity in 1997. Although Sarah initiated the intercourse, she is unable to cope with what has occurred and runs away, leaving her father Ted Hills (Brian Croucher) to assume that Robbie has raped his daughter. Ted assaults Robbie; he is hospitalised and has to undergo a spleenectomy, before Sarah returns to reveal the truth. Robbie forms a more serious relationship with Kerry Skinner (Gemma McCluskie) in 2000. They get engaged; however, when Robbie discovers that Kerry has cheated on him, the engagement ends.
Robbie has brief feud with Steve Owen (Martin Kemp) after Steve frames Robbie's friend Matthew Rose (Joe Absolom) for killing Steve's former girlfriend Saskia Duncan (Deborah Sheridan-Taylor), when in fact Steve killed her in self-defence, and has resented him ever since.
Robbie decides to track down his birth father, Gary Bolton in 2001. He finds him in Portsmouth, and discovers he has a half brother, Kevin (Rupert Hill). The meeting ends up being a disappointment for Robbie, when he discovers Gary had left his own mother to be with his half-brother's mother. He leaves angrily, but Gary later traces Robbie to Walford and gives him a large cheque which allows him to travel around India, and pay for sister Sonia's nursing training.
When Robbie returns to Walford and meets young widow Nita Mistry (Bindya Solanki), they begin a slow-burning relationship, despite Nita's initial reticence. Eventually they move in together with Nita's son Anish (Ali Zahoor), but Nita decides to return to India in 2003 to live with her parents, who can provide for Anish better than she can. Robbie goes with her and Anish to live in Mumbai, and he leaves Wellard in the care of his friend, Gus Smith (Mohammed George).
Robbie returns briefly for Sonia and Martin Fowler's (James Alexandrou) wedding in 2004. He returns again for Bianca's wedding to Ricky Butcher (Sid Owen) in February 2010, and is upset to hear that Wellard has died. When asked about Nita he reveals that she cannot attend the wedding as she is six months pregnant. Robbie walks Bianca down the aisle on her wedding day and returns to India after the wedding. When Robbie's half brother Billie suddenly dies several months later, Robbie, Nita and Sonia are unable to attend his funeral due to the flight costs, their newborn baby, Sami Jackson, and the fact that Sonia is visiting Robbie and Nita in Mumbai.
In 2014 Carol has the BRCA2 gene mutation and Robbie and his siblings need to be tested. In April 2014, Robbie's test results come back negative. The following year, in September, Robbie returns with his son Sami, surprising Carol. He reveals that he and Nita have split up and he is moving to Milton Keynes and offers Carol the chance to move with him there. Although she agrees, she later decides that she wants an adventure and plans to travel the world on Jim's motorbike, but not before buying Robbie and Sami a puppy, Wellard II, for their move to Milton Keynes.
In June 2017, Carmel Kazemi (Bonnie Langford) decides to just work part-time as the market inspector. Robbie arrives at the café and reveals to the market traders that he is the new market inspector. Robbie runs a training session for the market traders, but they end up walking out. Kush Kazemi (Davood Ghadami), Martin Fowler (James Bye) and Donna Yates (Lisa Hammond) become increasingly irritated by Robbie's way of running the Market, so much that Kush and Martin throw him into a bin as a prank. Robbie then removes Donna's stall from her pitch, giving it to a young hipster named Felix Moore (George Maguire) until she can pay her fees, however, after a talk from Sonia, Robbie decides to change his tactics and give Donna her pitch back, earning him thanks from Donna and Martin. However Mr Lister (Nick Wilton) orders Robbie to reinstate Felix, demanding modernisation of the market by Christmas. When the deadline is up, Mr Lister is unimpressed, but organises for an independent visitor to shop at the market as a shopper without the date announced. Mr Lister is not happy when Felix quits his stall due to a breakage and Robbie did not make the person responsible pay and Robbie decides to quit his job as it saves the council money. Robbie decides to start a relationship with Donna after being set up by Bianca's adopted daughter, Whitney Carter (Shona McGarty).
In 2018, Robbie is devastated for his cousin Abi death, blaming on his uncle Max for his actions. After accidentally mistaking Masood's samosas for a bonus meal, Robbie persuades Masood to make more and sell them on the market. Masood struggles to ask his aunt for help and later lies that he needs them for a date. Mariam discovers the truth when Robbie refers to them as Masood's samosas and agrees to help him.
Creation and development
1994 was a "historic" year for EastEnders, as in April, a third weekly episode was introduced. Due to the programme's increased frequency, a number of new characters were introduced to the regular cast in the latter part of 1993 and early 1994. Among them were the Jackson family: mother Carol (Lindsey Coulson), her four children, Bianca (Patsy Palmer), Robbie (Dean Gaffney), Sonia (Natalie Cassidy), and Billie (Devon Anderson), as well as Carol's partner Alan Jackson (Howard Antony). Though Carol and Alan were not initially married in the serial, and though Alan was only the biological father of Billie, the whole family took on Alan's surname.
Various members of the family began to appear sporadically from November 1993 onwards, but in episodes that aired early in 1994, the Jacksons moved from Walford Towers, a block of flats, to the soap's focal setting of Albert Square. Their slow introduction was a deliberate attempt by the programme makers to introduce the whole family over a long period. The Jacksons have been described by EastEnders scriptwriter Colin Brake as a "classic problem family".
Robbie has been described as "unlucky-in-life". Introduced as a 15-year-old school boy, Robbie was initially portrayed as troublesome; frequently playing truant, occasionally shoplifting and, as author Kate Lock suggests, "generally making a nuisance of himself". However, Lock observes that this aspect of the character was toned down eventually, and "the unfortunate Robbie became less of a lout and more of a [...] prat, forever mucking things up and being the fall guy."
In November 2002, executive producer Louise Berridge announced that Robbie Jackson was being axed from EastEnders, along with his screen girlfriend Nita Mistry (Bindya Solanki). The decision was allegedly a "mutual one" taken by producers, writers and actors. Executive producer Louise Berridge said: "Dean and Bindya have contributed an enormous amount to the programme. However, we do feel that the characters have reached the end of their natural course in the show, and they will both be leaving in Spring 2003. It is always sad to be saying goodbye to a good double act, and especially to a long-running character like Robbie Jackson, so we will be leaving the door open for both characters. I would like to thank Dean for his 11 years of devotion to EastEnders, and Bindy for transforming our loveable loser into a winner at last. They will both be personally greatly missed by the cast and crew of EastEnders." Robbie and Nita departed together on-screen in the spring of 2003.
Gaffney reprised the role briefly in 2004, when he returned as Robbie to attend his sister Sonia's wedding. A BBC source is quoted as saying, "[Dean] is very excited [...] After ten years in the show he was disappointed to leave. But he’s really pleased to be going back to Albert Square and seeing his old pals. He particularly missed working with Natalie [Cassidy]." The character's return was only scripted for a couple of episodes. Gaffney has expressed an interest in returning, commenting in 2006, "never say never [...] the scriptwriters have always been very complimentary about the character and Robbie could make a return next week, next year, or maybe never."
On 25 October 2009, it was announced that Gaffney would once again reprise his role, along with other Jackson family members Carol, Sonia and Billie. Gaffney is quoted as saying "I am really looking forward to returning to EastEnders for what looks set to be a really exciting storyline. I was thrilled when Diederick [Santer, executive producer] called me personally to ask for Robbie to return once more and working alongside Lindsey [Coulson], Natalie [Cassidy] and Patsy [Palmer] again makes it all the more special. I'm sure with the family being reunited it will mean that there must be a lot of drama in store." A source told entertainment website Digital Spy: "Everything's being kept hush-hush about the Jacksons' return at the moment, but there are certainly a load of questions to be answered. Will the frosty relationship between Carol and Bianca thaw? Are Sonia and Martin still together? And how will Robbie react when he learns of his beloved Wellard's death? Everyone's so pleased to have them back." The family will return for Bianca's second wedding to Ricky Butcher as part of the show's 25th anniversary. Executive producer Diederick Santer explained that he wanted great stories to get people talking, saying "The wedding is the perfect opportunity for us to bring back the much-loved Jackson characters – Carol, Sonia, Robbie and Billie."
Gaffney expressed an interest at rejoining the show's main cast in October 2015. In 2017, Gaffney was invited to return by the show's executive producer, Sean O'Connor, which Gaffney called "a privilege". When O'Connor called him to offer him the role, Gaffney became emotional and found the call unexpected. Robbie's reintroduction was publicised on 17 April 2017. Of his return, Gaffney said, "I'm really happy to be back. I'm so lucky to be given the chance to work again with such a talented group of people. A big thank you to Sean and the team. I think it's going to be a lot of fun." O'Connor expressed his delight at Robbie's reintroduction, branding the character "one of EastEnders' most loved and most popular characters". He quipped that "Bridge Street Market has never quite been the same without Robbie policing it in his hi-viz jacket" and added, "Dean brings a wonderful warmth and fun to his portrayal of Robbie and I'm sure that audiences will take him to their hearts again, just as they have always done."
Gaffney signed a one-year contract upon his return, securing Robbie's appearance until 2018. He also explained that Robbie returns "with a vengeance", promising that he would not return to be a background character, and added that Robbie would be "straight back on the square causing some ructions with the market traders." Gaffney said that Robbie returns with more maturity, although his job as market inspector leads him to clash with Martin Fowler (James Bye), Donna Yates (Lisa Hammond) and Kush Kazemi (Davood Ghadami). The actor compared Robbie to the character David Brent from the BBC mockumentry The Office, and noted that due to his job as a road sweeper, Robbie "knows the market like the back of his hand." Robbie returned in episode 5517, broadcast on 26 June 2017.
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (December 2009)
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