EASTENDERS character Roxy Mitchell is being brought back from the dead in one of the most extraordinary storylines in soap history.
Actress Rita Simons, 46, told HOAR she’s being lined up for an unlikely return to Walford by Albert Square boss Chris Clenshaw, six years after Roxy appeared to drown in a swimming pool alongside sister Ronnie Mitchell, played by Sam Womack, on the latter’s wedding day.
Roxy Mitchell is making a shock return to EastEnders
The sisters died a tragic watery death on New Year’s Day 2017
Her soap comeback would be even more remarkable than the returns of “Dirty” Den Watts and Cathy Beale, as Roxy’s death was shown on-screen.
Speaking exclusively, Rita says: “I got a call from EastEnders via my agent and I was asked if I would come back for a day’s filming.
“They were very clear and said to me what would happen, that I was not appearing as dead, or as a ghost.
“Those were their words.
“I don’t do ghosts and I would point blank refuse to come back as a ghost. I am never doing that.”
Shortly before her “death” Roxy, the niece of Walford matriarch Peggy Mitchell – played by Barbara Windsor, was battling a drug addiction and her life was spiralling so out of control, she asked Ronnie to adopt her daughter Amy before she married Jack Branning (Scott Maslen), the child’s father.
In order to bring back the popular character, it’s believed writers may consider telling how she faked her own death, perhaps in fear of a murderous drug dealer.
The Mitchell sisters have remained a fan favourite since their exit
Rita has opened up about her return to the BBC soap
And Rita says for her that the storyline would be believable, as viewers didn’t see her “drown” because she filmed the scenes – shown in the 2017 New Year’s Day episode – like she was holding her breath.
Indeed, Rita was so desperate for her character not to be killed off, she “went rogue” and refused to film scenes where Roxy was declared dead, in case one day the party girl may be brought back to Walford.
She explains: “I got pulled aside a couple of days before filming the final scene by an exec who I cannot name for legal reasons who said to me, there are a lot of people upstairs who don’t agree with this.
“So what I was hearing was that people above, and above, did not agree, why they couldn’t help I don’t know, the politics was so fraught there at the time.
“And you do have to let a producer do what they do and you do have to let them find their way and they said, ‘if you want any chance at ever bringing Roxy back you have to refuse to die.’”
She continued: “So I have sat on this for six years and said nothing.
“It has made me feel like vomiting because I feel so guilty about it.
“Now is the time to say…I played that scene as if I was holding my breath. go back and watch it online and you will next to nothing of me at all.
“I also refused to do the coffin scene. I was asked directly to my face and I refused point blank.
“It was really difficult because I was never a difficult actress or a diva but I had to do this thing to have any chance to protect me because I cared about Roxy
“I didn’t let anyone film me jump in the pool, so no one see me ‘drown’, I didn’t do anything but hold my breath and stay absolutely still. That is all I did which you can see.
“They must have thought I was insane, like why was I doing it?
“But in my head I was filming a very different scene to the one that the public think they saw or what they think they filmed.”
She adds: “It made me feel sick that I couldn’t EVEN tell Sam, I couldn’t tell anybody.”
Rita slammed bosses for killing off the character
Roxy will make a comeback appearance in the BBC1 soap on Thursday, when her troubled daughter Amy zones out during a family therapy session and she appears as a figment of her imagination.
But the cameo could just be a teaser to what comes next, that Roxy might actually be alive and could come back into Amy’s life, as she continues to struggle with self-harming issues.
Rita says: “It is up to the public how far they are willing to accept whether she is alive or not. I know, I know and I will always stick to that.
“But EastEnders belongs to the public and it is up to them to decide.”
Rita says new boss Clenshaw has been a breath of fresh air on the soap since his appointment as showrunner in 2021, taking over from Jon Sen.
She explains: “It was so toxic when I left and I thought I would take ‘my exit experience< it to the grave and I would never go back there.
“But things have turned around so massively now. And Chris Clenshaw has turned it around. The show is it’s best ever, and the whole place is a different place
“I wouldn’t come back if it was still in the state it was in and I wouldn’t have come back for anyone other than Chris at this point because he is amazing and he is a much freer thinker.”
The actress says she lived in constant fear her character would be killed off to boost the soap’s declining ratings, which impacted her health and left her concerned how she would feed her family.
She says: “Sam and I didn’t know why we were targets of the hit list.
“You would have thought legacy characters would have some form of safety.
“It did feel personal at the time but I have to add a lot of the cast were scared.
“The cast were scared to speak, and to speak their mind and speak in-between takes as we got monitored.
“I would get messages from upstairs and be told they were listening and to come up and see them about what I had said.
“It was just on the cusp of where it was acceptable to fully not acceptable.
“Even though it’s only six years ago that would not fly now. But you were so used to the industry and being “yes, no, sure, sir.’
“This led to a phone call when I was in Spain from Sam with her in tears saying she was being killed. I came home and went to the office and I begged them not to do this to her and I found out it was for me too in that meeting.”
Rita says she was only given eight weeks’ warning before Roxy and Ronnie were killed off.
She added: “We had to cut filming many times as we were in tears. It sounds so dramatic but when the whole cast are behind you it’s so sad.
“I tried to find someone to help and maybe let us go but not kill us but there was no one to talk to at the BBC.
“It is such a compact factory, you don’t know where to go. “We had been there nearly 10 years and we didn’t want that to be the fate of our characters. But it was taken out of our hands.”
Rita filmed her latest scenes five weeks after a full hysterectomy, but the star insists she’s now fully recovered.
She adds: “I am in a great place now.
“The operation was a ride and it took me three months to get back to myself but now I don’t regret it for a second. I feel great, and I also treated myself to a mini face lift at the Harley Street Skin Clinic in London, which really gave me a boost, so I now feel I really am on good form.
“I am happy in my relationship, I am happy at home, my kids are doing brilliantly – so returning as Roxie for tonight’s episode is like the icing on the cake.”
Roxy returns as part of her daughter Amy’s current storyline