Born May 3, 1981
As drug-addicted prostitute, egotistical manipulator, and used car dealer Janine, Charlie Brooks has given one of the most memorable sustained performances in recent British television. Since she joined the cast of BBC soap opera EastEnders in 1999, her character has schemed, insulted, bullied and tricked her way to become a much loved and much hated villain.
Charlene Brooks was born in Barmouth, Gwynedd, Wales in 1981, and aged 16 she moved to London to study acting. She was studying for her A Levels when she was given her big break as spoilt and bitchy teenager Janine Butcher. Before that, she had appeared briefly in Jonathan Creek, The Demon Headmaster, London's Burning, and that staple of the British actor, The Bill.
Brooks was the third actor to play Frank Butcher's younger daughter, following Rebecca Michael (1989-1993) and Alexia Demetriou (1993-1996). When she first appeared, it was to live with her father (played by Mike Reid), and Janine was no different from a million other selfish teenage girls, having a brief liaison with Jamie Mitchell (Jack Ryder) and then slagging him off around Albert Square. However, Frank left in 2000, following an abortive affair with Peggy (Barbara Windsor), and Janine was left all on her own. It was then that things really went to the dogs for her.
Finding herself homeless, Janine moved in with Terry Raymond (Gavin Richards), the first in a series of strange relationships between Janine and older men. Terry had recently lost his daughter Tiffany (Martine McCutcheon), ironically beneath the wheels of Frank's car, and they began an odd father-daughter-like relationship. But upset over her father's departure, she turned to drugs. When Paul Trueman (Gary Beadle) pointed her towards drug dealer Lee Vickers, she found herself drawn into prostitution to pay him.
Abandoned by Terry (who disappeared to Portugal), addicted to cocaine, and turning tricks for money, she found her life reach its nadir. At this point the none-too-bright Billy Mitchell (Perry Fenwick) stepped in to help her fight her drug habit and agoraphobia. For weeks she cowered inside, unable even to go to the shops, until the arrival of brother Ricky (Sid Owen) and his mistaken determination to beat up Billy forced her to overcome her panic attacks and breathe the fresh Walford air once more.
For a time, Billy and Janine were a couple. Billy had come into money following dodgy dealings with Steve Owen (Martin Kemp) and Janine latched on tightly in pursuit of money. For her 18th birthday, Billy gave her Terence, an over-fluffy white puppy who turned out to be a girl (according to the BBC website, Terence is the dog's real name). The dog subsequently went through abandonment and a trip to the pound, mirroring Janine's own struggles.
But in the end Billy also rejected Janine in favour of a more deserving damsel in distress, Little Mo Slater (Kacey Ainsworth). Despite this, Janine was able to get back on her feet, working at Roy (Tony Caunter) and Barry (Shaun Williamson) Evan's second-hand car yard, where she proved herself an able administrator who occasionally dabbled in sales.
She soon returned to her mischievous ways, getting into a war with Laura Beale (Hannah Waterman) and sleeping with Laura's slimy husband Ian (Adam Woodyatt) for money. Laura was convinced that Janine was sending poison pen letters to everyone in the square, but this turned out to be a rare case of evildoings that Janine was not responsible for. Eventually Laura switched to fighting Ian, leaving Janine in peace. Following the death of Roy and Barry's subsequent depression, Janine attempted to worm her way in with Barry, to get his money, whilst sleeping with Paul Trueman (Gary Beadle). This story came to a grisly conclusion when Janine and Barry eloped to Gretna Green and she pushed him down a Scottish mountain.
Janine has proved to be one of those characters that audiences love to hate, a villain who is thoroughly evil but always somewhat believable in her motivation. She is clearly in a search for some kind of father figure to replace the unreliable Frank, this vulnerability contrasting with her cruelty and total lack of consideration for others. If you want to guess what Janine will be like in 30 years, look at her occasional friend Pat Butcher (Pam St. Clement).
While Janine has gone from crisis to crisis, Charlie Brooks has proven herself to be a very able actor in the role, winning the award for Best Bitch at the 2001 British Soap Awards. As Janine, Brooks has managing to be villainous without hamming it up, and also appearing genuinely pathetic from time to time. Unlike some of the young EastEnders cast, a continuing career as an actor appears more likely than a venture into pop music (where she possibly lacks the anorexic looks to succeed), and she has recently attempted to broaden her range.
In 2003 she appeared on stage in Trevor Baxter's political comedy Office Games alongside Coronation Street heartthrob Adam Rickett in London. She also taught a drama masterclass at the Cinemagic young person's film festival in Northern Ireland in 2002. As well as work, Brooks has become a regular fixture on the London celebrity party scene.
She is engaged to actor Jon Newman (Grange Hill, Family Affairs), who she has been dating since they were 13 years old.
"BBC - Eastenders". BBCi. http://www.bbc.co.uk/eastenders/. (July 24, 2003)
"Internet Movie Database". http://www.imdb.com/. (July 24, 2003)
Adam Jones. "Charlie Brooks Fan Site". http://www.geocities.com/charlie_brooks_fansite/index.html. (July 24, 2003)
"Soap Awards Winners in Full". BBCi. October 2, 2001. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/tv_and_radio/1573805.stm
(Note: Charlie Brooks should probably not be confused with British comic writer Charlie Brooker, best known for his TV criticism and as the man behind popular website TV Go Home.)