Steven Peter Beale is a fictional character in the popular BBC Soap opera EastEnders. He was played first by Edward Farrell from 1989-1990, then by Stuart Stevens from 1992-1996, by Edward Savage from 1997-2002, and by Aaron Sidwell from 2007-2008. It was announced on 22 February 2008 that the character would be written out at the end of Sidwell's contract, and he made his last on-screen appearance on 9 May 2008.
Character creation and development
The character's conception was a part of one of the most notable storylines in EastEnders during 1989, a love triangle between Cindy Williams (played by Michelle Collins), Simon Wicks (played by Nick Berry) and Ian Beale (played by Adam Woodyatt). Steven was the result of a one-night stand (in the bar of The Queen Victoria public house) between Cindy and Simon, occurring while Cindy was engaged to Ian Beale in May 1989. Viewers were made aware that the child Cindy was carrying was Simon's; however, between characters in the serial, Steven’s true paternity was kept secret, with only Cindy, Simon, and later Simon’s mother Pat Butcher knowing the truth, though neither Simon nor Pat would believe Cindy’s claim initially. Simon’s rejection of Cindy and her unborn child facilitated a plot twist that saw Cindy pretend that the child was Ian’s.
The character’s birth occurred in an episode that aired on 28 December 1989, although in the on-screen events, he was born on Boxing Day. In the storyline, Steven was born two months prematurely, and was therefore supposed to be small; however, the baby who originally played Steven, Edward Farrell, was actually large for his age, and was nicknamed "Chunky" by actor Adam Woodyatt. According to the EastEnders Handbook by Hilary Kingsley, casting babies for roles in EastEnders is usually done locally, so that children and their parents do not have to travel far when they are called into the studios at BBC Elstree. Because of the strict laws dictating the number of hours babies are permitted to work, occasionally dolls or understudies have to be used if the child runs out of time. This occurred with Steven’s original actor, Edward Farrell, in 1990. The baby had been scripted to appear at a Bonfire Night party; however, actress Michelle Collins, who played his screen mother Cindy, has since revealed that they used another baby for those scenes: "Not only was she a girl, she also had bright red hair whereas Edward was fair. I had to keep pushing her hair back under her hat but lots of [viewers] still spotted it". Young Farrell was also the reason viewers never saw Cindy wearing her red wedding dress on-screen again following its next outing at Steven’s christening in February 1990. It was a dress that Michelle Collins particularly disliked. She has commented, "When Edward was sick over it, I knew it wouldn’t recover and I kissed him for it."
Before his first screen birthday, Steven was central to various storylines surrounding his parents and stepfather Ian, including a special week of off-set episodes filmed in Devon, where Ian discovered that his best friend Simon was Steven’s real father and that he had reunited with Cindy. The love triangle between Simon, Cindy and Ian, and the events surrounding Steven’s paternity dominated the soap during 1990; it has been described by writer Colin Brake as the year’s "big story". Steven was written out of the serial after actors Nick Berry and Michelle Collins decided to leave the show. His exit aired on 27 December 1990, though in the on-screen events it was Boxing Day, Steven’s first birthday. In 1992, Michelle Collins reprised her role of Cindy, and Steven was also reintroduced, played by a different actor, Stuart Stevens. On-screen, Simon abandoned Cindy and Steven. Ian traced them to a bedsit and brought them back to Walford, where Steven was brought up as Ian’s real son. Steven was written out once again in 1996, when Collins quit for a second time. In the on-screen events, Cindy absconded with Steven and his brother Peter following Cindy’s failed attempt to have Ian assassinated. Upon his return in 1997 – where Ian once again regained custody – Steven’s role was recast to another actor, Edward Savage. As the character aged, his actor was given a more substantial role in the serial, Steven remaining with Ian following the death of his mother, who died in prison during child birth. Savage remained in the role until 2002, when he opted to leave. On-screen, Steven discovered that Ian had been lying about his paternity. He began rebelling, and was found to be the author of several mysterious poison pen letters. When he was caught, he demanded to travel to New Zealand, so he could meet his real father, Simon Wicks. A BBC source commented to the Daily Star, "Regular viewers will know Steven is a deeply troubled boy. But his unmasking as the poison pen author is going to shock everyone on the Square. The lad is almost inviting punishment. It's as if he wants Ian and [his stepmother] Laura to wash their hands of him. Could Steven be a new Nick Cotton in the making?"
Re-introduction (2007); stalking, kidnapping and mental illness
In 2005, the British media claimed that the character of Steven was due to return to EastEnders, three years after he had last appeared. The Sunday Mirror speculated that EastEnders bosses were hoping to cast an Australian actor to play Steven, to signify that he had been in New Zealand. It was claimed that actors from Australia’s long-running soaps, Neighbours or Home And Away, were being considered. The rumours turned out to be false, and a subsequent rumour in January 2007 predicting that Footballers' Wives' actor Craig Gallivan was to play the role, was also quashed.
The character was eventually to make his return in September 2007, reintroduced by executive producer Diederick Santer as part of a storyline that saw Ian being stalked and terrorised by a mystery person, claiming to be his deceased ex-wife Cindy. After weeks of watching Ian tormented, viewers saw Ian lured to the top of a deserted block of flats, where Ian came face to face with his harasser, Steven. For several weeks, Ian was kept locked up in the derelict flat, while Steven returned to Albert Square to bond with his brother and sister, Peter and Lucy. Aaron Sidwell was cast in the role of Steven, making him the fourth actor to play him. It was Sidwell's first television role, and he has described it as "a bit daunting...but everyone was really welcoming...the first few directors I worked with were fantastic...After we did rehearsal, after we did a take, they'd always give me feedback...I needed it." He added, "I have been so lucky. Not many people get the chance to work on such a huge show, and my entrance was pretty impressive. I still wake up and think: 'Oh my God, I'm in EastEnders.' It's brilliant." Describing the motives behind Steven's actions, Sidwell said "[Steven] was raised for 13 years thinking he was Ian's son...but he wasn't...He sees Ian as the cause of Cindy's death, because Cindy died in prison, and she went to prison because Ian put her there...so that's how he kind of sees that it's Ian's fault...very narrow-minded... Steven is..a messed up kid and when I first got the part I was given a catchphrase that describes him as a person...'look at me'...he wants to be in the limelight 100%...he wants people to be thinking about him [all the time]...that's why he got angry with Ian because Ian wasn't thinking about him... he's the most important person in the world."
The storyline eventually reached its climax in October 2007. Steven's games were uncovered, and during the confrontation that followed, Steven threatened to kill himself, but accidentally shot Ian's wife Jane (Laurie Brett) and a resulting emergency hysterectomy meant that Jane could no longer have children of her own. The storyline has been described by The Guardian journalist, Stephen Armstrong, as having "a whiff of Brontë about it", which producer Diederick Santer agreed with. Santer added, "It's a classic madwoman in the attic story, but I hate those articles where someone who works in popular television says what they do is like Dickens. It's about the balance. That story works because it has an old character whom the audience love - Ian Beale - as well as new characters who have an appeal for teenagers fresh to the show. Soap audiences like continuity. They dip in and out and if they haven't watched for a few weeks, then tune in to find no one they recognise, it can be disconcerting."
Mentally ill, Steven was admitted to a psychiatric hospital by Ian. Sidwell has commented on Steven's mental instability: "He's so unpredictable...you never know what he's going to do next...He'll be normal one minute and he'll be crazy the next. He's kind of the Donnie Darko of EastEnders...that's the kind of person I styled him after...[he is] a similar character...He is always going to be a bit unstable and there will always be danger. I don't think even he knows what he's going to do next — but he's deadly, so don't let the nice guy act fool you."
Steven returned to the serial as a regular character following his release from hospital. Subsequent plots saw him unsuccessfully attempting to make amends with Ian and Jane for his past wrongdoing. The character also formed a friendship with Stacey Slater (played by Lacey Turner), who stopped him from committing suicide in December 2007. In the on-screen events, Steven — infuriated by Ian's rejection — soaked himself with petrol and threatened to light himself on fire. Aaron Sidwell explained, "He is deeply depressed about the way Ian has been treating him since he returned to the Square...Steven just wants to end it all! Stacey is incredibly scared by what’s going on. He tells her to go away, but Stacey is determined to get him out of The Arches and stop him doing something very stupid...What he is doing is a cry for help." In the end, Stacey managed to persuade him not to go through with suicide by showing him that friends can be just as important as family. Despite hostilities from Jane, Steven gradually regained Ian's trust, and in episodes that aired over the Christmas period of 2007, Ian welcomed Steven back into his home as part of the Beale family.
Exit (2008); bisexuality and Lucy's disappearance
In February 2008, the BBC announced that Steven was being written out of EastEnders once again. An EastEnders spokeswoman revealed: "[Sidwell]'s contract has run out — he only came for that length of contract. But his character came in dramatically and he'll go out dramatically."
The build up to Steven's exit involved in a bisexual love triangle storyline between him, Stacey and Christian Clarke (played by John Partridge), who is the gay brother of Jane. On-screen, Steven and Stacey's friendship progressed into something more serious in March 2008, when they shared a kiss. Steven later decided he was ready to lose his virginity to Stacey, and took Ian's advice "to try to name the England football team and substitutes as a technique for pacing himself," which Sidwell has described as, "a really funny scene to film [...] my favourite comedy moment since joining the show." Speaking of the character's impending exit, he added: "Steven loves Stacey as a friend, and would do anything for her. He misreads loving someone as being 'in love', though. Things aren't right between them, and he can't put his finger on the reason why. That's what's going to lead him to question his sexuality..." On-screen, Steven was unable to consummate his love for Stacey, and after an emotional rant, he kissed Christian. The filming of the storyline posed difficulties for Aaron Sidwell; in an interview with the Daily Star he explained, "[Lacey Turner's] a really good friend of mine, so kissing her was weird, but we just got on with it! But I found it really challenging to kiss [John Partridge] because I'm not gay [...] I saw the conflict teenagers go through when they're struggling to come to terms with their sexuality. [The gay Kiss] is a cracking scene and I'm really pleased with it." The storyline progressed with Steven denying his homosexual tendencies, leading Christian to continuoulsy try and "out" him. John Partridge, has commented, "Christian knew Steven was gay from the outset. He noticed Steven had tendencies that he himself had as a young man – and his gaydar is very good [...] Christian didn't ask to be kissed by Steven but now that it's happened he wants the boy to admit that he's gay. He basically wants to help him. Steven doesn't want to be gay and Christian knows how he feels. Coming out is hard for any young man [...] Christian's worried that Stacey is going to get hurt. He knows that when you're gay, you're gay. That's it. There's nothing you can do about it and if you try to hide it, people get hurt." After the truth was revealed to Stacey, Steven falsely claimed to Ian that Christian had attempted to seduce him — a means of revenge for Christian's rejection. The following episode, Christian was banished from the Beales lives by Ian, although the truth eventually came out and Ian, despite initial concerns, was shown to be supportive of Steven's sexuality. The plot has been described as "controversial" and gay actor John Partridge has confessed that he had worries about it initially: "A gay man having any sort of relationship with an 18-year-old boy is a bit contentious. However, I think it has been handled really well."
A final twist in Steven's story was his involvement in a seemignly unrelated plotline that had been running simultaneously to Steven's personal dilemma, the disappearance of his half sister Lucy (Melissa Suffield). In episodes that aired in May 2008, it was revealed that Steven had been hiding his runaway sister in a caravan, poisoning her mind against Ian and persuading her to flee the country. Explaining his character's motives, Sidwell said, "It’s all about Ian again. Steven wants all Ian’s love and attention and he feels Lucy is getting in the way. She’s the one who gets most of Ian’s time and energy and he thinks getting her out of the picture will leave Ian all for him [...] He’s been brainwashing her into thinking Ian doesn’t care if she never goes home again [...] His real plan is to keep her out of Ian’s life for good [...] He craves Ian’s full attention and is willing to do whatever it takes to make that happen. He doesn’t exactly plan to be evil but he is dangerous." In the end Steven's plan was discovered by his grandmother Pat, leading Steven to attempt to suffocate her to death before she revealed the truth to Ian. An EastEnders source told Digital Spy: "Steven hits rock bottom when Pat finds out that he's been hiding Lucy for all these weeks while his family have been frantically searching for her [...] when Pat realises that Steven knows where Lucy is, he takes drastic steps to prevent his beloved nan from revealing all to Ian. He goes from confused to psycho in a matter of minutes, grabbing a pillow and pushing it onto her face." Sidwell added, "Steven is deadly! He is willing to do whatever it takes to get what he wants including murder." The murder attempt was stopped by Ian, and after discovering the truth from Pat, Ian chased Steven to London's St. Pancras Station (where he was intending to put Lucy on the Eurostar to Paris) and convinced Lucy to return home. Sidwell commented, "Steven is such a good manipulator he thinks Lucy will side with him. He’s shocked when she doesn’t and when she agrees to go home with Ian." In Steven's final scenes, Ian rejects Steven as his son once again, telling him "I never give up on my family. But you're not my family, are you?You're your mother's son and you're Simon's son, and that really used to hurt. Now I thank God I never produced anything as sick and twisted as you." Steven then departed from Walford after Ian vowed to kill him if he ever saw him again.
Sidwell made his last appearance on-screen as Steven on 9 May 2008, and he has since revealed that producers made the right decision in axing his character as his story arc had run its course: "They really did try to keep Steven in. The problem is EastEnders is a realistic show, so with Steven being a larger-than-life character it was always going to be hard having him doing the same crazy things day in, day out. I wasn't expecting to stay on the Square forever. It was my first big job out of drama college and I couldn't have asked for a better start in the industry. I've had a great time and the character isn't being killed off, so who knows what might happen a few years down the line. There's always the possibility I might be asked back one day".
Steven was born on 26 December 1989 to Cindy Beale and Simon Wicks. At the time, Cindy was married to Ian Beale and she convinced him that he was Steven's father. Ian discovered the truth about Steven's paternity when Cindy and Simon reconciled. They left Walford with Steven in December 1990; however, Ian and Cindy reconciled in 1992, and Steven was raised as Ian's own son. Cindy and Ian later had twins, Peter and Lucy. Steven loved his half brother and sister and was particularly close to Lucy. Unhappy in marriage, Cindy attempted to have Ian killed by a hitman in 1996, and when this failed she snatched Steven and Peter and fled to Italy. Almost a year later, Ian tracked the boys down and kidnapped them back. Cindy fought for custody of her children. She won, but on the very day she reclaimed the children, she was arrested when the hitman confessed to the attempted murder of Ian. She died in childbirth in prison. Steven alone attended her funeral.
Steven then grew up with various different stepmothers, and though he grew close to them all, he felt abandoned when they ended up leaving. When Ian prepared to marry Laura Dunn, Steven was anxious that they too would end up splitting; his fears were realised when he caught Ian kissing prostitute Janine Butcher in 2002. From being a quiet, sensitive boy, Steven started rebelling and skipping school. When Laura found out, she confronted Steven, who revealed that Ian had slept with Janine. The subsequent rows had a negative effect on Steven; he became angry with the world and started writing poison pen letters to people. Ian eventually found out and confronted Steven. Following an argument, Steven went to his room and overheard Ian calling him "Cindy's little brat!"; Ian was forced to tell Steven that he was not his natural father. Distressed and angry, Steven decided to leave Walford to be with Simon, who lived in New Zealand.
In September 2007, Steven returned to England and began stalking Ian, pretending to be Ian's late wife, Cindy. He lured Ian to an empty block of flats, and took him hostage. Arriving back in Walford, he spent time reminiscing with Peter and Lucy, though Jane was initially wary of him, especially when he attempted to kiss her. When Steven's grandmother Pat told him that Ian always considered Steven his first born, blood related or not, Steven started to regret what he had done. Wanting to confide in his sister, Steven took Lucy to the flat where Ian was being held. Horrified, Lucy escaped and contacted Jane, while Ian confronted Steven about the reasons for his actions. Steven told Ian that he blamed him for his mother's imprisonment and death. He was angry that Ian had not retrieved him from New Zealand; living with his biological father had not been a happy experience, and he had ended up feeling rejected and in the way.
Steven then tried to commit suicide with the gun Lucy gave him to dispose of. Ian, Jane and Lucy tried to stop him, a struggle ensued, and Jane was accidentally shot in the stomach; as a result, she was unable to ever have children. Ian admitted Steven to a psychiatric hospital. When released, Steven went off his medication. He tried to apologise to Jane and Ian, but found them hostile. Hoping he would leave Walford, Ian humiliated and rejected Steven several times. Once again depressed, Steven tried to commit suicide by dowsing himself in petrol; however, Stacey Slater stopped him from setting fire to himself. When Ian discovered what Steven had been planning to do, he reconciled with him. Displeased, Jane fought against Steven being part of her family, but she eventually relented and in January 2008, she agreed to let Steven move into the Beales' home; however, she made it clear that she was waiting for him to mess up so he would be gone from her life for good.
Steven and Stacey grew closer in early 2008, as he supported her through the breakdown of her marriage. Steven was attracted to Stacey. She initially rejected his advances, but eventually agreed to date him. Their relationship progressed, until Steven decided that he was ready to lose his virginity to Stacey, but their eventual attempt at consummation ended in disaster when Steven could not perform sexually. Embarrassed, Steven pretended that he had lost his virginity; however, Christian realised he was lying and publicly announced it, leaving Steven humiliated. Steven confronted Christian and, after releasing his pent-up anger and fustration, he spontaneously kissed Christian. Realising Steven was gay, Christian tried to make Steven face up to his sexuality. Steven maintained that he was heterosexual, and successfully slept with Stacey, but their relationship soon ended when Christian informed Stacey that Steven had kissed him.
Distraught, Steven propositioned Christian, but was rejected. In revenge, Steven told Ian that Christian had tried to seduce him. Ian was furious until Jane discovered the truth, leading Steven to confess that he was gay. Steven was grateful when Ian proved supportive, as his biological father had not been. Ian was full of praise for Steven; however, he did not realise that Steven had been hiding his runaway daughter, Lucy. Steven did not want to share Ian's attention, so he made plans for Lucy to flee to France; however, Pat discovered his plan and was hit by a car as she was trying to apprehend him. Pat was hospitalised, and in order to stop her from telling Ian about Lucy, Steven tried to smother her to death with a pillow. Pat awoke, but Steven continued in his murder attempt until Ian interrupted him. When Pat told Ian about Lucy, Steven tried to deny it, but Ian saw through his lies. He traced Steven to St Pancras railway station, and discovered him with Lucy. Steven had booked her a ticket on the Eurostar, but Ian persauded her not to go and Steven fled. Later, back in Walford, Ian spotted Steven spying on Lucy. Ian confronted him, admitting that he was glad that Steven was not his biological son; he told him that if he ever returned to Albert Square, he would kill him. Devastated, Steven headed to the tube station and departed from Walford.
Journalist for The Mirror, Tony Stewart, commented that "Wth the exception of [Coronation Street's David Platt], no psycho kid has inflicted so much damage on his own family as deranged freak Steven Beale." He described Steven's exit storyline as sinister, exciting and compelling drama, adding that it was "sometimes hilarious and never less than thrilling".
Discussing the character's mental problems and his sexuality, Gareth McLean of The Guardian expressed "concern" that "in EastEnders, being a gay is akin to being mentally unbalanced. Were Steven Beale's behaviour up until now not a cause for concern - kidnapping Ian, shooting Jane, spiriting Lucy away to a caravan to play with her mind - wait until he attempts to murder his granny. Homosexuality = mental illness..."
- Kingsley, Hilary (1990). The EastEnders Handbook. BBC books. ISBN 0685529576. Cite error: Invalid
<ref>tag; name "EEHandbook" defined multiple times with different content
- "Steven Beale walks back into Walford", Digital Spy, 2007-09-24. Retrieved on 2007-09-24.
- Brake, Colin (1995). EastEnders: The First 10 Years: A Celebration. BBC Books. ISBN 0563370572.
- Neil Wilkes. "Writer of 'EastEnders' poison pen letters revealed", Digital Spy, 2002-11-06. Retrieved on 2008-03-04.
- Daniel Kilkelly. "'EastEnders' return for Kathy Beale?", DS, 2005-02-06. Retrieved on 2008-03-04.
- Kris Green. "Footie Wives actor tipped as new Steven Beale?", DS, 2007-01-25. Retrieved on 2008-03-04.
- Anne Pickard. "For whom the Beale tolls", The Guardian, 2007-09-22. Retrieved on 2008-03-04.
- "Interview Aaron Sidwell", BBC, 2007-09-19. Retrieved on 2008-03-04.
- Daniel Kilkelly. "Walford actor feels "so lucky"", DS, 2007-12-15. Retrieved on 2008-03-04.
- Stephen Armstrong. "The art of storytelling", The Guardian, 2007-10-08. Retrieved on 2008-03-04.
- Neil Batey. "EastEnders: Let me end it all!", The Sun, 2007-12-01. Retrieved on 2008-03-04.
- "Steven's farewell", BBC, 2008-02-22. Retrieved on 2008-03-04.
- "Steven Beale's a bye-sexual", The Sun, 2008-02-22. Retrieved on 2008-03-04.
- "Aaron to leave EastEnders", This is Nottingham, 2008-02-22. Retrieved on 2008-03-04.
- "EastEnders - Aaron Sidwell has been axed", My Park, 2008-02-22. Retrieved on 2008-03-09.
- "EastEnders bisexual story in pictures", Pink News', 2008-02-26. Retrieved on 2008-03-09.
- "Steven makes a move on Stacey", The Sun, 2008-02-26. Retrieved on 2008-03-09.
- Ellis, Sarah, “A piece of the action”, Inside Soap (England): 26-7, 8 April 2008
- "'Enders star found gay kiss 'challenging', Digital Spy. URL last accessed 2008-04-26.
- "Can Christian help troubled Steven?", What's on TV, 2008-04-21. Retrieved on 2008-04-26.
- "Steven plots to get Ian all to himself!", What's on TV, 2008-05-01. Retrieved on 2008-05-20.
- "Psycho Steven attempts murder in 'Enders", Digital Spy, 2008-05-28. Retrieved on 2008-05-20.
- "tearaway teen Steven plots against ailing Pat", The Sun, 2008-05-03. Retrieved on 2008-05-20.
- "EastEnders' Ian Beale in desperate dash to rescue Lucy from evil Steven's clutches", Daily Mail, 2008-04-30. Retrieved on 2008-05-20.
- "Steven's hit and Run", Daily Mirror, 2008-05-04. Retrieved on 2008-05-20.
- "'Enders star Sidwell backs axing decision", Daily Star, 2008-04-27. Retrieved on 2008-05-20.
- "Sassy, brassy Donna is a match for the Doctor", The Guardian, 2008-05-06. Retrieved on 2008-05-20.
- Steven Beale at bbc.co.uk