Popstar to Soapstar! 14 singers who were hits as actors

With so many popstars turning up in the soaps, we look at some of the most memorable switches from singing to acting

Who knew that the pop world would be such a fertile grounding for a career in our most beloved TV programmes! Meet the pop stars who went on to appear in some of our favourite soaps...

  1. Lee Ryan - EastEnders

EastEnders, Lee Ryan, Woody Woodward

(Image credit: BBC/Jack Barnes)

A former member of boy band Blue who had hits with All Rise and One Love, and a solo career, too. Lee is no stranger to acting as he starred in Holby City as a teenager. He recently joined the cast of EastEnders as bar manager Harry ‘Woody’ Woodward who rubbed the Carters up the wrong way during his temporary stint in the Queen Vic. Although he was booted out by Mick, who caught him in bed with Whitney, bad boy Woody is set to return later in the year.

Watch Lee singing his solo hit I Am What I Am...


2. Duncan James - Hollyoaks

Duncan James as Ryan Knight

Also a member of Blue, Duncan enjoyed all the group's success and their 2011 appearance as the UK's entry in Eurovision. He joined the cast of Hollyoaks in 2016 as policeman Ryan Knight, who was in a relationship with Amy Barnes, but he was recently outed as bisexual as it’s been revealed that the night Amy was murdered, Ryan spent the night with Kyle (played by former Corrie star Adam Rickitt, who himself tried a pop career back in the 1990s.)

Duncan in Eurovision 2011 with Blue...



3. Martin Kemp in EastEnders

Along with his brother Gary, Martin played guitar in the hugely successful 1980s band Spandau Ballet, who’ve had numerous hits including the classic love song True. He joined the cast of EastEnders as villainous nightclub owner Steve Owen in 1998, who murdered his old flame Saskia Duncan and then framed Mathew Rose (Joe Absolom) for the crime. Steve Owen was dramatically killed off in 2002 when his car exploded in a fireball as he was being chased by Phil Mitchell.

Watch Martin with Spandau Ballet performing True...



4. Kym Marsh - Coronation Street

Kym rose to fame on ITV’s Popstars in 2001 which saw her win a place in the manufactured band Hear’Say. Although she quit soon after to go solo, she then turned to acting and landed the role of Rovers Return barmaid Michelle Connor in 2006. Kym recently won a British Soap Award for a harrowing storyline involving her and husband Steve losing their baby to stillbirth. She constantly wins plaudits for her Corrie performances.

Watch Kym with Hear'Say on Top Of The Pops in 2001...



5. Keith Duffy - Coronation Street

After the break up of Irish supergroup Boyzone in 2000, Keith was offered the part of Rovers Return barman Ciaran McCarthy in Coronation Street in 2001. He was in the soap for three years as trouble-maker Ciaran, but then made a return in 2010 before quitting again when Boyzone reformed for a reunion tour.

Watch Boyzone, with Keith, performing Love Me For A Reason in 1994...



6. David Essex - EastEnders

A teenage heartthrob in the 1970s with hits including Hold Me Close and Gonna Make You A Star, David proved his acting prowess in films such as That'll Be The Day and Stardust as well as playing Ché Guevara in the West End music Evita! He turned up in Albert Square in 2011 as Alfie’s uncle, charmer Eddie Moon, who was the father of Michael, Tyler and Anthony. Although he was only in the soap for six months, Eddie managed to have affairs with both Carol Jackson (Lindsey Coulson) and Vanessa Gold (Zoe Lucker)!

Watch David on Top of The Pops in 1975 performing Hold Me Close...



7. Suzanne Shaw – Emmerdale

A member of the band Hear’Say along with Kym Marsh, Suzanne joined the cast of Emmerdale in 2010 as Eve Jenson, the mischievous granddaughter of Edna Birch (Shirley Stelfox). She was a bit naughty, and had an affair with Carl King (Tom Lister) who was in a relationship with Chas at the time. Having made many enemies in the village, Eve decided to jet off to Mexico and left the soap in August 20111.

Watch Suzanne in Hear'Say singing Bridge Over Troubled Water....



8. Alvin Stardust - Hollyoaks

The late singer who had hits with My Coo Ca Choo and I Feel Like Buddy Holly, appeared in Hollyoaks as Greg Andersen, the landlord of the pub, The Dog In the Pond, in 1995. His on-screen daughter Natasha (Shebah Ronay) died following a drug problem and Greg sold the pub to his sister Celia and her husband Jack Osborne, leaving the soap in 1996 to go back to the US.

Watch Alvin sing his 1974 hit My Coo Ca Choo...



9. Shayne Ward – Coronation Street

After winning the second series of The X Factor in 2005, Shayne had a few hits and appearances in stage musicals before he joined the cast of Coronation Street in 2015 as Carla’s cousin Aidan Connor who works in the factory with his dad Johnny. Although he’s engaged to Eva, he’s secretly been having an affair with hairdresser Maria.

 Watch Shayne win The X Factor...



10. Samantha Womack – EastEnders

Samantha Womack, EastEnders

Aged just 18, Samantha represented the UK in the 1991 Eurovision Song Contest finishing 10th with her song A Message to Your Heart which peaked at No 30 in the UK singles chart. After acting in a number of TV shows including Game On, Pie In The Sky and Liverpool One. She joined EastEnders in 2007 as Ronnie Mitchell, who turned up in Albert Square with her sister, Roxy, for their cousin Phil’s wedding to Stella Crawford (Sophie Thompson) and helped run The Queen Vic while their aunt Peggy (Barbara Windsor) was on holiday. Ronnie ended up running the nightclub R&R with Jack Branning (Scott Maslen) who later became her husband. Ronnie and Roxy died in January 2017 on the night of Ronnie’s second wedding to Jack.

Watch teenager Sam at Eurovision...



11. Rita Simon - EastEnders

(Image credit: BBC/Nicky Johnston)

The niece of The Apprentice’s Lord Sugar, Rita was in the girlband Girls@Play who had a couple of hits with Airhead and a cover of Mel and Kim’s Respectable before she left to join another group called Charli, who had a with Feel Me. She joined EastEnders in 2007 as Roxy Mitchell who moved to Albert Square with her sister Ronnie after they’d run a bar together in Ibiza. The sisters died together earlier this year on Ronnie's wedding night.

Watch Rita sing Airhead with Girls@Play...



12. Sarah Harding - Coronation Street

Sarah was a contestant in ITV's 2002 talent show Pop Stars The Rivals, which saw her voted into the winning girl group Girls Aloud. This supergroup had 20 top 10 hits with songs such as Love Machine, Sound Of the Underground and Wake Me Up. Sarah later turned her attention to acting with a part in the BBC drama Freefall and the film St Trinian's 2: The legend of Fritton's Gold.

In 2015 she joined Coronation Street as Joni, the wife of returning character Robert Preston (Tristan Gemmill), but left later that year...

Watch Sarah in Girls Aloud action, with their first hit Sound of The Underground...



13. Wendy Richard – EastEnders

Wendy topped the pop charts back in 1962 when she appeared on the single Come Outside, by Mike Sarne, long before she became famous as matriarch Pauline Fowler in EastEnders, a role she played from the very first episode in 1985 until her character’s death at Christmas in 2006. Pauline’s storylines focused on her family troubles, her money worries and bullying of her downtrodden husband Arthur. In 2007 she won a British Soap Award for Special Achievement, but Wendy sadly died in 2009 after a long battle with breast cancer.

Listen to Wendy with Mike Sarne...



14. Brian Hibbard –  Coronation Street, Emmerdale, EastEnders

Welsh singer Brian was a member of The Flying Pickets who had a famous Christmas No 1 in 1983, with an a cappella version of Only You, a cover of the big Yazoo hit.

The Flying Pickets with their famous Christmas hit...


The former miner went into acting and appeared in Coronation Street as garage mechanic Doug Murray, who worked alongside Kevin Webster (see above). He then joined Emmerdale as Bobby-John Downes, played Johnny Mac in Welsh soap Pobol Y Cwm, then appeared as Henry Mason in EastEnders in 2011.

Brian sadly died in June 2012.

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 Whattowatch.com. 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.