Linda Henry — things you didn’t know about the ‘EastEnders’ star

Linda Henry started playing Shirley Carter in 'EastEnders' in 2006.
Linda Henry started playing Shirley Carter in 'EastEnders' in 2006. (Image credit: BBC)

Linda Henry has been delighting us EastEnders fans since 2006. It somehow wouldn’t be the same in Walford without hard-nut Shirley Carter stomping around in her knee-length black boots, getting on everyone’s case, especially if they cross her or the Carters. 

When we first met Shirley, she was the ex-wife of Kevin Wicks (Phil Daniels), desperately wanting to get back into the lives of her adult children, Dean and Carly.  

She soon fell hard for Phil Mitchell (Steve McFadden) — the only person who could mess her around and get away with it. It was a poisonous relationship and she later ended up shooting him! Then her unruly family, the Carters, arrived in 2015 and she now protects them like a cockney lioness. Soon, however, in a complete shock, Shirley confessed the big family secret that she was Mick’s mother, not his sister, and she later confronted her rapist son, Dean.

Everyone loves Shirley’s fights, fisticuffs, and rows which are part and parcel of a great EastEnders episode! So here’s our lowdown on the things you might not know about Linda Henry, the amazing actor who brings Shirley Carter to life so wonderfully…

EastEnders arrival: Linda Henry as Shirley with Kevin Wicks.

EastEnders arrival — Linda Henry as Shirley with Kevin Wicks.  (Image credit: BBC)

1 Linda Henry played a different character in EastEnders before joining as Shirley Carter

Back in 1991 Linda Henry played prostitute Lorraine Salter in EastEnders. Lorraine was the drug-taking mother of troublemaker Mandy Salter (Nicola Stapleton), who befriended Pat Butcher before threatening to tell Frank Butcher of his wife’s infidelities.  

Mandy Salter (above) was the daughter of Lorraine Salter (played by Linda Henry).

Early 1990s EastEnders character Mandy Salter (above) was the daughter of Lorraine Salter (played by Linda Henry). (Image credit: BBC)

2 Linda has a daughter and a grandson…

Linda Henry is married to Stavros Valiris and the pair has a daughter, Ella Louise, who was born on January 12, 1993, plus a grandson Leo. In an interview last year, Linda was exposed as being a complete softie at heart, when she cried about missing her two-year-old grandson Leo during lockdown. "She cries about everything," revealed her co-star Luisa Bradshaw-White, who plays Shirley's sister Tina. "She gets really emotional."

3. Linda Henry movie star

Linda Henry starred alongside her EastEnders co-star Tameka Empson (Kim Fox) in the highly acclaimed 1996 movie Beautiful Thing. In roles not dissimilar to their EastEnders characters, the pair played warring neighbours in the movie. Linda played a character who lived on south London's Thamesmead council estate and is the mouthy mum of teenager Jamie (Glen Berry) who fell in love with his close neighbour Ste (Scott Neal).

Beautiful Thing (1996) cast with Linda Henry and Tameka Empson (both at front).

'Beautiful Thing' was a 1996 movie, with current 'EastEnders' stars Linda Henry and Tameka Empson (both at front) as warring neighbours. (Image credit: Alamy)

4. Shirley Carter is now ranked 36th in all-time 'EastEnders' characters

It’s not just us who have a soft spot for Shirley Carter. The character Linda Henry plays in Walford is ranked 36th in the 100 greatest EastEnders characters of all time. Ten years earlier she’d ranked 89th, so her stories and Linda’s performances are obviously boosting Shirley’s popularity.

5. Linda was a Bad Girl 

This isn’t the first time Linda has played a bad lass. She shot to TV fame as Yvonne Atkins in the ITV drama Bad Girls from 1999 to 2003. Yvonne ruled the roost on G-Wing before she was brutally murdered. Funnily enough, Linda was later joined on EastEnders by several of her Bad Girls co-stars, including Luisa Bradshaw-White (who plays Shirley’s sister Tina), Annette Badland (Aunt Babe), and Kellie Bright (Linda Carter). Sharon Duncan also played Trina on the Square and, in a bizarre twist of fate, co-star Victoria Alcock went on to play Mandy Salter’s mum Lorraine (see above) — the role Linda first played in EastEnders.

Linda Henry as Yvonne Atkins in Bad Girls.

Linda Henry as tough jailbird Yvonne Atkins in Bad Girls. (Image credit: ITV)

 6. Linda’s many other TV roles 

You may well have spotted Linda in other TV roles as she’s appeared on A Touch Of Frost, Trial and Retribution, and Birds of A Feather. In 2010 she also starred in the spin-off EastEnders: E20.

7. Linda Henry is actually a south Londoner

Linda hails from Peckham, where she was born in 1959, and she still lives in south London with her husband and dog Johnny. She attended the prestigious Old Vic Youth Theatre when she was younger and was also in the same acting group as Rowan Atkinson in Edinburgh as a teen. At 17 she joined the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic art in Kensington.

8. She starred alongside Danny Dyer in a 2005 movie

In 2005, Linda had a small role in the British crime thriller movie The Business. She played another character called Shirley while her EastEnders co-star Danny Dyer starred as Frankie, a young guy from south east London whose boring life saw him end up in Spain and making friends with a drug dealer. Shirley took a liking to Frankie and propositioned him with money to sleep with her. 

Linda Henry (on right) in 2005 film The Business.

Linda Henry (on right in sunglasses) in 2005 film 'The Business'. (Image credit: Alamy)

9. She’s definitely not as spiky as Shirley

Linda Henry is known for being sensitive and caring and she’s great friends with many of her co-stars. She attended Samantha Womack’s 2009 wedding to Mark and was there when Danny Dyer married Joanne Mas in 2016. 

10. Linda is the eighth-longest serving actress on 'EastEnders' 

Having played Shirley since 2006, Linda Henry has made EastEnders history. As of last year she became the eighth-longest serving actress on the soap, tied with Diane Parish. She’s behind only June Brown, Pam St.Clement, Letitia Dean, Wendy Richard, a tied Gillian Taylforth and Natalie Cassidy, and tied with Barbara Windsor and Laila Morse and Gillian Wright. 

EastEnders sisters: Linda Henry as Shirley Carter with Tina.

'EastEnders' sisters: Linda Henry as Shirley Carter with Tina (Luisa Bradshaw-White). (Image credit: BBC)

11. Linda had a role in classic 1980s comedy 'The Young Ones'

Back in 1982, Linda Henry appeared alongside Rik Mayal, Nigel Planer, and her former EastEnders co-star Ade Edmonson in an episode of the BBC's classic comedy The Young Ones. It was called Interesting and Linda is billed as the "Girl at party" so it was just a minor role. Scenes saw the lads holding a party at their student house but things get out of hand when Rik's right-on liberal friends object to Vyvyan's skinhead mates gatecrashing and wrecking the place. You can spot Linda in The Young Ones on the YouTube clip below...

12. She doesn’t have any social media 

Linda rarely gives interviews and shuns the limelight which is why it’s hardly surprising that she’s not on social media. Also, her name isn't spelled 'Lynda Henry' as many sometimes think.

Linda Henry fact file 

How old is she? 
Linda was born on August 24 1959 in Peckham, London.

Is Linda married?
She married Stavros Valiris in 1992. 

Does she have any children? 
Yes, one. Her daughter Ella was born in 1993. 

How tall is Linda? 
Linda is 5ft 5in.

What movies have featured Linda?
Beautiful Thing, The Business.

We work hard to ensure that all information is correct. Facts that change over time, such as age, will be correct, to the best of our knowledge, at the time of the most recent article update.

More things you didn't know about EastEnders actors...

*  Max Bowden — things you didn't know about the EastEnders star

* Steve McFadden — things you didn't know about the 'EastEnders' legend

* Toby-Alexander Smith - things you didn't know about the EastEnders actor

* Gwen Taylor — things you didn't know about the British actress

* Lacey Turner - things you didn't know about the EastEnders star?

* Maisie Smith – things you didn't know about the EastEnders and Strictly star

Nicholas Cannon
TV Content Director on TV Times, What's On TV and TV & Satellite Week

I'm a huge fan of television so I really have found the perfect job, as I've been writing about TV shows, films and interviewing major television, film and sports stars for over 25 years. I'm currently TV Content Director on What's On TV, TV Times, TV and Satellite Week magazines plus I previously worked on Woman and Woman's Own in the 1990s. Outside of work I swim every morning, support Charlton Athletic football club and get nostalgic about TV shows Cagney & Lacey, I Claudius, Dallas and Tenko. I'm totally on top of everything good coming up too.