Strictly’s Nigel Harman’s EastEnders’ exit explained after bizarre incest storyline

Nigel Harman has won a new army of fans with his smooth moves on the Strictly dance floor but he first rose to fame playing Dennis Rickman in EastEnders, leaving only after a bizarre incest plot

Strictly star Nigel Harman played a major role in EastEnders until he was sensationally killed off.

The award winning actor, 50, is best known for his role as Dennis Rickman in the soap during the early 2000s. As the son of “Dirty Den” Watts, he was a major character and became romantically involved with Den’s adopted daughter Sharon. His stint on the soap came to an end as Albert Square heartthrob Dennis died during a tragic episode on December 30 2005.

Nigel went on to take part in other big TV shows, including Downton Abbey and Casualty, as well as having a past in musical theatre, playing in the first stage version of Mamma Mia!, Shrek the Musical and Guys and Dolls. However, the actor brutally shared the real reason he left EastEnders, admitting there was “nothing left” for his bad-boy character to do.

In an eventful two years in the soap, Dennis slept with his adopted sister, cheated on his girlfriend and killed a gangster.

The bizarre incest storyline between Dennis and Sharon was one of the most memorable and controversial soap storylines of its time. Viewers and loved ones struggled to get on board with their romance – although the pair weren’t biologically related but that didn’t stop Sharon and Dennis from pursuing their romance.



The couple fell in love and got married before Sharon discovered she was pregnant with their son, who she later called Dennis – and nicknamed Denny – just days before the heartthrob was brutally stabbed and killed in a bustling Albert Square in the early hours of New Years’ Day in 2006, seeing Nigel leave the soap in heartbreaking and memorable scenes.

Nigel quit the soap alongside co-star Letitia Dean over the Christmas period in 2005. At the time, he said: “Sharon and Dennis have had such a great run, but what would you do with them next? I could pretty much guarantee we’ve already done it.”

Nigel said: “It was something that was talked about over a period of time between myself and the producers. It wasn’t a ‘chuck all your toys out of the pram’ thing. We all came to a mutual decision.” He also confessed at the time: “There was a moment last year when I was watching telly and I didn’t know if I was watching Dennis or Nigel. It’s a case of over-exposure after being in people’s living rooms four nights a week.

“I want to make a career out of this – I don’t want people thinking ‘Oh no, it’s not that prat on the telly again’. I don’t feel typecast at the moment but how long can you do a show like this before you’re only known as that character?”

Last month, Nigel officially revealed he would be on Strictly Come Dancing, saying: “I’m excited to be out and proud now. I think I’m realising since I said yes to it, in my my mind, I think I’m a better dancer than my body tells me.”

Nigel has been paired with pro dancer Katya Jones. When Claudia warned Nigel that she could be quite strict, he said: “Everyone keeps telling me this and every time they tell me this I get more and more terrified, but I am pretending I’m really calm about it.” When asked about what Katya has in store for Nigel, she said “ideas will come as we get to know each other”.

While Nigel will be busy with the famously intense Strictly Come Dancing training, behind the scenes his family will be supporting him from home including his equally famous wife. The Olivier award-winning actor married actress Lucy Leimann in 2011 – who starred in films including The Bourne Ultimatum in 2007. The pair first met reportedly on the set of BBC series Hotel Babylon, which they both starred in. They then married in 2011 and in 2012, Lucy gave birth to their daughter – but have always avoided sharing details of their life on social media.

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