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EastEnders heartthrob Nigel Harman reveals the behind the scenes drama over whether Dennis could punch Phil Mitchell!

Nigel Harman in EastEnders
The top soap hunk ever, as chosen by the Soaplife team, is Nigel Harman - EastEnders' Dennis Rickman (Image credit: ©BBC)

There had to be meetings at EastEnders!

EastEnders legend Nigel Harman has revealed the soap had meetings over whether his character Dennis Rickman could punch Phil Mitchell.

The 47-year-old actor says there was lots of “faffing” about if it was ok for one of the show’s most iconic characters in Phil to be whacked by new kid on the block Dennis.

Eventually EastEnders decided to go ahead. And so, in his very first episode on 14th April 2003, Dennis walked into the Queen Vic and landed a clean right hook on Phil, sending him flying into a table packed with glasses.

“It was my first episode and I remember there was a whole to do whether or not Phil Mitchell could be punched. I mean there was meetings about it. I remember it very clearly, there was a lot of what I’d call faffing about it,” Nigel recalled on BBC Show The Noughties, which looks back on the 2000s.

Phil Mitchell on the floor of The Vic after being punched by Dennis in EastEnders

Phil is sprawled out on the floor of The Vic after being punched by Dennis (Credit: BBC)

Nigel said he enjoyed working with Steve McFadden (opens in new tab), who plays Phil. “He was great to work with,” he commented.

Talking more about his EastEnders days, Nigel said how much he enjoyed working alongside June Brown, who played Dot Cotton...

“I spent a lot time with her over the years, which was fantastic, she’s just legendary.”

He added: “She used to come on set when she had big scenes and she would know inside out what her character was doing, where she’d been.

"She’d reach back 15 years and say why this line wouldn’t work. She was very good at editing her part and putting it together brilliantly.”

Nigel also said he has a lot of "fond memories" of working with Letitia Dean (opens in new tab), who plays Sharon.

The popular star, who won a string of awards for the soap, eventually left in 2005 when Dennis was stabbed to death.

Since leaving EastEnders Nigel has clocked up numerous TV credits, perhaps most famously playing evil Green in series four of Downton Abbey. Bates was accused of murdering Green in one of Downton’s most memorable plots.

The Noughties, fronted by Angela Scanlon, continues on BBC2.

David is the What To Watch Editor and has over 20 years of experience in television journalism. He is currently writing about the latest television and film news for What To Watch.


Before working for What To Watch, David spent many years on TV Times magazine, interviewing some of television's most famous stars including Hollywood actor Kiefer Sutherland, singer Lionel Richie and wildlife legend Sir David Attenborough. 


David started out as a writer on TV Times before becoming the title's deputy features editor and then features editor. During his time on TV Times, David also helped run the annual TV Times Awards. David is a huge Death in Paradise fan, although he's still failed to solve a case before the show's detective! He also loves James Bond and controversially thinks that Timothy Dalton was an excellent 007.


Other than watching and writing about telly, David loves playing cricket, going to the cinema, trying to improve his tennis and chasing about after his kids!