For over 45 years this man has entertained us on the big and small screen. Many have grown up with him and watched him impact their lives at every key point. We saw him at school, we saw his teenage years, we saw him mature as an adult. We then saw him go off the rails as a crazy copper! We even saw him ice skating! A true Hero of Cult: Todd Carty!
Born on 31st August 1963 in Limerick, County Limerick, Ireland, Todd Carty’s mother was a nurse and his father worked as an engineer. When he was a young child the family emigrated to England where Carty would grow up in the Kilburn area of London before moving to Harrow area of the city when he was 8 years old. He later attended Phildene Stage School.
Carty’s acting career began at the age of four years old when he appeared in an advert for Woolworths. This led to many advertising and Public Information Film roles, including one with Doctor Who actor Jon Pertwee for the “Green Cross Code” (Carty is the boy in the blue jumper). Carty also had success in the theatre, especially at the New London Theatre, Drury Lane, as the young Lionel in Lionel Bart’s autobiographical musical Lionel! Carty also appeared in Z-Cars, Our Mutual Friend, Drummer, Headmaster, Focus on Britain and The Idle Bunch. His film work at the time included Please Sir! and Professor Popper’s Problem. In 1983, he landed the role of Oswyn in the fantasy film Krull opposite Ken Marshall, Lysette Anthony, Liam Neeson, and Alun Armstrong, amongst others.
Carty gained national attention for his role of Peter “Tucker” Jenkins in the children’s drama Grange Hill. He played the role from 1978 until 1982. When we first meet Tucker Jenkins he is placed in Mr Mitchell’s form class where he quickly made friends with Benny Green, a poor student with the same sense of mischief and humour as Tucker. After being embarrassed by Foster, a strict PE teacher, and witnessing Benny being disregarded for the football team because he couldn’t afford the kit, Tucker made it his mission to help Benny get a makeshift kit together. The same day, Tucker met Justin Bennett, a quiet, posh boy who seemed unimpressed by the comprehensive school. Justin’s complaints and inability to joke around with Tucker’s sense of humour caused the pair to become rivals. This was particularly evident when Tucker proceeded to push Justin into the school swimming pool during a swimming lesson and then steal his trousers, hanging them out of the window for all to see. Justin’s revenge consisted of telling a teacher when Tucker, Benny, Alan and Tommy played in the pool without teacher supervision. Receiving a banishment from swimming lessons and detention, Benny then stole Tucker’s trousers and hung them from the form window in a similar fashion
Tucker and Benny would later explore an old deserted warehouse alongside Justin, though their own rivalry to outdo the other in dangerous stunts would cause Justin to fall from the building and cause him severe harm. Hearing of this from Justin’s father, Tucker and Benny would receive the first corporal punishment Grange Hill had ever enacted. Tucker attempted to boast he could probably take much more than Benny could, but was quickly quieted as Benny snapped that was ‘how they got into this mess’. Tucker would later run for school council, but lost out on votes due to his boisterous behaviour with other members of the class and being the only one to ever receive corporal punishment. Sometime later, Tucker witnesses new boy Michael Doyle stealing an antique pistol but is unable to tell Mr Mitchell for fear Doyle’s word would be taken over his, due to Doyle’s father being on the council. Tucker instead decides to bully Doyle to giving the gun back. The technique worked and Doyle returned the gun. However, angered by Tucker, Doyle begins racially assaulting Benny Green as revenge for Tucker’s own violence. Tucker attempts to help Benny several times, and jumps to his defence when he witnesses it but is unable to protect Benny, especially since Doyle targets the boy when Tucker is not around. This causes Benny to bunk off school, much to Tucker’s confusion. Benny would eventually report the bullying to Mr Mitchell.
In later years Tucker begins work experience at a building site owned by his best friend Alan Humphries’ father. Here, he, Alan and Benny discover a fellow employee has been stealing and selling the stock to a scrapyard. Roping Mr Humphries into their investigation, the rogue employee is eventually caught and Tucker, along with his friends, are rewarded. In one controversial storyline Tucker misses his bus home from school but manages to save a first year student from a paedophile. At Christmas that year, a now fourth year Tucker helps DJ at the school Christmas disco using his brother’s DJ set. An attempt by Brookdale kids to break the stereo ends the disco in a large fight, one in which Tucker’s nemesis Doyle defends him. The two thank each other and agree that their teamwork was only due to the Christmas holiday.
For the show’s fifth series, as was the nature of Grange Hill being a school, a new cast was brought in. As a result Tucker faded into the background but did make guest appearances in several series after due to his high popularity. In the fifth series, he was present in the first episode saving the new cast from the bully Gripper Stebson. Tucker also returns with the original cast in the episode School Revue, where he takes part in the talent showcase.
The character of Tucker Jenkins grew too old to attend Grange Hill yet still remind popular in the eyes of the general public. This resulted in a spinoff show titled Tucker’s Luck which Carty would of course play the lead. Tucker’s Luck was initially ran from 1983-1985 and had a total of 27 episodes over three seasons. The series followed the exploits of Tucker and his friends, Alan Humphries (George Armstrong) and Tommy Watson (Paul McCarthy), after they had left school and their attempts to find employment and cope out there in the “real world”. Several former Grange Hill cast members reprised their roles for the spin-off (Linda Slater as Susi MacMahon, Michelle Herbert as Trisha Yates). Whilst it was popular, Tucker’s Luck did not match the popularity of Grange Hill which was still running.
In 1989 Carty starred as Randy Candy in the film The Candy Show, before taking on the established role of Mark Fowler in the soap opera EastEnders the following year. Carty would go onto play Mark Fowler for 13 years, becoming one of the longest-running male cast-members. Fowler was initially a delinquent teenager who gets involved in drugs with Nick Cotton, attempts to join a racist organisation known as The New Movement, is a suspect in Reg Cox’s murder, and generally clashes with his parents. With no solution to these problems in sight, he abruptly leaves home without telling anyone. He isn’t seen again until eight months later when he contacts his parents through a runaways’ agency and Pauline and Arthur find him in Southend-on-Sea. Mark is now living with an older Swedish woman named Ingrid and her children who call Mark Daddy and is working as a mechanic at a go-cart track. He and Ingrid split up soon afterwards and Mark moves on to work on a farm in Wales and then Gloucester and finally Newcastle.
In 1990 Fowler returns Eastenders (now played by Carty) a changed man. He is more caring and stable, having grown out of his rebellious stage. His new maturity is due to the fact that he has contracted HIV, which has forced him to become more responsible. Mark develops a close friendship with Diane Butcher (Sophie Lawrence) and initially doesn’t tell anyone about his HIV status. But as he and Diane grow closer, he finally tells her the truth. He believes that he contracted the virus from Gill Fowler, his girlfriend in Newcastle, who visits briefly later that year but leaves when she sees him kissing Diane. Mark initially tells Gill that he isn’t infected but later tells the truth. Mark’s relationship with Diane never becomes serious but she is a good friend and confidante and persuades Mark to have counselling at the Terrence Higgins Trust. Mark initially turns on his male counsellor, relaying his bitterness at being a potential AIDS victim, but later feels the benefits of the counselling. Mark loves Diane for keeping his secret and he asks her to marry him but she gently refuses and leaves Walford to live in France. Throughout the role Carty brought out the difficulties his character had in accepting the restrictions of the illness.
In July 2002, the BBC announced that Mark Fowler was being written out of the serial, a mutual decision between the producers and Carty. Executive producer Louise Berridge said that Carty had made a “fantastic contribution” to the soap and Mark had been a “pivotal figure”, but the character had finally run its course: “Todd and I have discussed this at some length and agreed that it was time for Mark to hang up his leather jacket for the last time. We will all miss Todd, who is one of our best-loved actors, and wish him every success in the future.” Carty made his final appearance as Mark in February 2003, riding out of the Square on his motorbike. The character subsequently died off-screen of AIDS in 2004.
After leaving EastEnders in 2003, Carty went on to play “villain evil copper”, PC Gabriel Kent, in ITV’s The Bill for more than two years from 2003 to 2005. Carty has since revealed that he broke his EastEnders contract a year earlier than planned to take on this new role. Kent was quite a departure for Carty as he was a cold and deranged police officers who on the outside appeared to be a respectable police officer, but he was just as quick to exploit trust as he was to gain it. Before joining the Metropolitan Police, Gabriel spent sixteen years in the Royal Navy. He was not highly regarded by other sailors and was thought of as a bully with a short temper. He later joined the Met to get revenge on Sgt June Ackland for one reason and one reason only; June had given birth to a boy and put the baby up for adoption. Gabriel’s parents adopted June’s son and gave him all the praise, making their own son extremely bitter and jealous. Gabriel arrived at Sun Hill under his brother’s ID to seek revenge on June, but the mode of his insanity grew and grew as he demolished people and his colleagues when he committed crimes of fraud, perjury, conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, rape, murder and conspiracy to murder. Throughout his time at Sun Hill, Gabriel evolved from a bullying bigot into a serial killer!
In 2003, Carty would again become Tucker Jenkins where he had a cameo dropping off his nephew Togger Johnson at Grange Hill.
Carty would return to Grange Hill one final time in 2008 for the show’s last episode where he tells his nephew Togger not to make the same mistake as he did and leave school early, which led Togger to staying on. His speech consisted of the importance of comprehensive schools, which were a leading effort to improve equality in class divisions in Britain. His last scene was riding off on his motorbike.
Carty continues to work on stage, screen and in directing and producing. Carty and his partner, actress/writer and film producer Dina Clarkin, have set up a film production company, Swordfish Productions. In July 2007 Carty made his directorial debut as director of several episodes of the BBC’s daytime soap opera, Doctors; in 2010 Carty directed his first feature film, The Perfect Burger.
Pamela Susan Shoop