What a year 2021 was for soap opera stars! Sally Carman and Molly Gallagher dominated Coronation Street, while Danny Dyer and the breathtaking Tameka Empson led the way in EastEnders.
Emmerdale has wisely crammed Paige Mandhu into as many scenes as possible, while Amy Walsh has been a revelation, and Hollyoaks has introduced us to the raw talents of Gary Lucy and Ashley Taylor Dawson.
These actors are genre mainstays, but we can sometimes overlook some equally strong actors and characters.
But they deliver, and looking at the 12 stars, I have high hopes for this year. They’ve got some great stuff coming up, and I think they’ll nail it.
Who would be on your list?
Michelle Hardwick as Vanessa Woodfield in Emmerdale
Vanessa, one of my favorite characters, has been missing from the village. It’s great to see her back, and with the sassy energy that our queen deserves. I love how she isn’t taking any nonsense, and one thing I would have hated is to immediately return her to Charity, even though I assume this is the end game. Let Vanessa continue to play the dominant force for a while longer.
Ellie Leach as Faye Windass in Coronation Street
Ellie has repeatedly demonstrated, from a young age, that she is capable of great things, and her abilities have only improved over time, much like a fine wine. Her ordeal at the hands of Ray Crosby was filled with believable and tormented performances, and her departure from our screens to go to prison was sad but realistic. She’s back, and she’s right in the middle of a big new story about the flaws in her personality and her surprisingly successful friendship with Emma. Ellie and Alexandra are going to personalize this plot. Ted and his biscuits, on the other hand.
Ricky Champ as Stuart Highway in EastEnders
I’m not the first to say it, and I won’t be the last, but Stuart’s redemption arc has been nothing short of amazing. I love him now, and I was with everyone else when he was detestable and on the verge of leaving. His marriage to Rainie is both heartwarming and fiery, but instead of villainy and humour, Ricky has the opportunity to portray Stuart’s fear and vulnerability in the midst of a cancer storyline. Ricky is already demonstrating his versatility, and I believe this is just the beginning of a truly heartbreaking journey.
I’m not sure how long Manpreet will live, but this storyline with Meena, as well as her touching romance with Charles – I have to say it – has really energized the character.
A few years ago, the prospect of Manpreet being killed off would have made me largely indifferent, but she has since become one of my favorite characters. Rebecca is already delivering this year, and the material is fantastic. I’m sure I’m not alone in hoping that Manpreet is the one who brings Meena down.
Barbara Smith as Dana Munroe in EastEnders
The Munroes have recently become one of my favorite families, and it’s great to have a pure character like Dana in the Square to balance out all of the baddies. She is a very interesting character in a clan where she is the heart and conscience, and could I ship anyone more than Dana and Bobby? No way, no how. Dana also brings up the topic of diversity in a non-condescending manner by asking questions and seeking information in a very human way and embracing it. Dana’s niceness may last until 2022, and I can’t wait to see more of her.
Elle Mulvaney as Amy Barlow in Coronation Street
One thing that Corrie continues to nail these days is the stories for the young cast, which is greatly aided by the sublime performances of the actors. Elle has matured on our screens, and her Tracy slash Blanche’s comic timing is always spot on. Despite the similarities, she is a separate character from Tracy, and we will see her badass side when she stands up to upskirting and sexual offenses, campaigning against the school’s terrible policy of putting the onus on the girls to protect themselves from harassment. I’m delighted to see Amy at the center of things again, and each year she grows into a Corrie titan, destined to be one of those powerful and dynamic Weatherfield women A future queen in the making.
Zaraah Abrahams as Chelsea Fox in EastEnders
I knew we were in for some heated scenes when I heard Waterloo Road alum Zaraah was joining the cast of EastEnders. And having Chelsea plotting Gray’s demise is sublime, especially given how her life has been turned upside down by her serial killer Lucas. She understands how to bring someone down. I love her pairing with Whitney, and this is going to be a big year for them both. Chelsea will hopefully be at the center of the triumphant scenes in which Gray is finally punished, cementing her place as one of Albert Square’s warriors.
Georgia Taylor as Toyah Battersby in Coronation Street
It’s been far too long since Toyah has been in the spotlight, despite the fact that we all know how talented and beloved the character is. But this is her year, and secrets between herself and Imran are brewing. And with Iain MacLeod promising a life-changing and shocking outcome, I know Georgia will make the most of it. Toyah is a personal favorite of mine, and I can’t wait to see that fire in her belly again, as well as some real material for Georgia to dig into.
Milly Zero as Dotty Cotton in EastEnders
Building a family around Dotty has been a relief; she used to be a little lonely, especially after Dot left. The show is clearly investing in her by introducing her mother and making Tom her real father, which gives me hope that Walford will see a lot of Dotty drama this year. I won’t lie, I adore Milly’s portrayal of Dotty as a total b*tch.
Jonny McPherson as Liam Cavanagh in Emmerdale
How far has this iconic character progressed? Years of being the village’s casual doctor meant he frequently faded into the background, but when Emmerdale decided to go for it and promote Jonny to the cast, it was one of their best decisions. Liam is a fantastic comedian, but he is also a very warm and sensitive character. And forget Liam and Leyla; I’m rooting for Liam and Cain, who have one of the most unlikely but amazing friendships in soap. I could watch an entire spin-off with them. We also know that Jonny is capable of delivering powerful emotional scenes in the aftermath of Leanna’s death. When he finds out, he will be filled with rage, anger, and trauma Meena murdered Leanna this year. The fallout and reaction to this will undoubtedly be explosive, cementing Liam’s place as one of the show’s most complex characters.
Joe Duttine as Tim Metcalfe in Coronation Street
Sally and Tim are a classic Corrie couple, and I would never forgive the show for breaking them up. Their bond, with its bickering and, yes, horniness, is a joy to watch. But Tim defying Geoff was one of the most engaging scenes in recent memory, proving Joe is more than just comic relief. In 2022, he has another harrowing story in which he fears for his life due to a serious heart condition. Tim’s terror and vulnerability will be on display, as will his true love for Sally. And because we’ve all been drawn to Tim’s warmth and fun, as well as his marriage to Sally, the difficult stuff will have an even greater impact.
Bradley Johnson as Vinny Ashdale in Emmerdale
Bradley has quietly become one of soap opera’s finest actors, and he brings a lot to screen relationships, most notably Vinny’s with Mandy and Liv. The character is brave and moralistic, and I will honestly be rooting for him when he is drawn into the Meena story. He will discover the truth while sleuthing like a pro, but he will then be at her mercy. But this is a brave man who overcame his father’s abuse and fought for his relationship with Liv. I believe he could be a good match for Meena. She may not care about killing him, but she could be in for a surprise, and honestly, I’m here for Bradley and Paige scenes. Bring it on.