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Thursday, 4 July, 2002, 15:31 GMT 16:31 UK
Carty's 30 years on TV
Todd Carty and Lucy Benjamin
Carty's character is married to Lisa [Lucy Benjamin]
Actor Todd Carty, who is being axed from BBC soap EastEnders after 12 years, has been a staple on our TV screens since his childhood.

Carty, who was born in Ireland in 1963 and grew up in north London, took drama lessons from a young age and appeared in a Woolworths advert aged just four.

His earliest TV credits include Professor Popper's Problem with Charlie Drake in 1974, and a small role in school sit-com Please Sir!

Grange Hill
Carty joined Grange Hill in 1978
But his big break came in 1978 with the long-running children's TV drama Grange Hill, in which Carty starred as the popular tearaway Tucker Jenkins.

He grew up on-screen and stayed in the series throughout his teenage years, before starring in the spin-off series Tucker's Luck in 1983, which ran for three years.

But Carty had to wait another seven years before he next hit the limelight in EastEnders as Mark Fowler, to replace actor David Scarboro, who committed suicide aged 20 in 1988.

Carty had to get used to fame from a young age, and working on EastEnders cemented him as a public face.

Tucker's Luck
Tucker's Luck included EastEnders' Elaine Lordon [front L] in the cast
"I've only really known life in the public eye," he said in 1997.

"My parents never let me get too big for my boots. They tied up all the money I was earning in trust funds, so I was never spoiled."

His character, Mark, was the first soap character to be diagnosed HIV positive - one of the show's most controversial storylines.

Carty said he enjoyed playing Mark because it gave him "good dramatic stuff to get your teeth into".

But he added he was "wary at first because it had never been done in a mainstream soap before".

Todd Carty as Mark Fowler
Carty has been with the TV soap since 1990
He said the producers assured him "it would be fine", and that he was now "very proud to be part of that storyline".

"I feel that the storyline educated people at a time when there were lots of misconceptions about HIV and Aids, including me," he said.

"Drama is always a good way to get messages across, sometimes better than documentaries and less frightening than the advertising campaign the government had in the 1980s."

His character has also had his fair share of romance and brushes with danger, such as with Dot Cotton's wayward son Nick, and his exit will no doubt be a dramatic one.

Mark Fowler, EastEnders character in hospital bed
His character, Mark Fowler, caught pneumonia in 2000
But Carty appears to be sanguine about his departure, and said he was "looking forward to trying new things, seeing a little more of my children and finally setting a date for my wedding to Dina next year".

Carty has two sons - James, five, and baby Thomas - with partner Dina Clarkin.

He has also managed to find time to work on other projects, including ITV's The Black Velvet Band in 1997, a historical drama set in South Africa, with fellow Albert Square star Nick Berry.

And in 2000, he narrated the BBC docu-soap Paddington Green.

With such a high profile, Carty should not find himself in the acting doldrums for too long, although he may just enjoy a break from the limelight.

See also:

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