Child soap stars: Then and now

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Soap kids then and now
Soap lovers! Join us for a walk down memory lane, as we remember the cutest (and most talented) child stars of Corrie, EastEnders, Hollyoaks and more.

From classic characters like Sonia Jackson and Rosie Webster to relative newcomers like Abi Branning and Belle Dingle, we'll show you just how much this bunch of actors has grown up since they first appeared on our tellies, and fill you in on what they're up to now.

How many of them do YOU remember?

Molly Conlin (Dotty Cotton)

Image: Twitter Molly Conlin
Remember little Dotty Cotton from EastEnders? Back in 2008 actress Molly Conlin joined the square as the evil daughter of Nick Cotton. In the two years that she starred in the show Dotty tried to poison her gran Dot Cotton, but at the last minute realised what she was doing was wrong. Molly, who was seven when she first joined the BBC soap, is now 15 and looks a world away from the character she played. Molly posted this selfie on Twitter recently and also admits to being a massive One Direction fan. She's still acting and has starred in BBC One's Blandings alongside Timothy Spall and CBBC's Horrible Histories.

Hollie Jay-Bowes (Michaela McQueen, Hollyoaks)

Former Hollyoaks actress Hollie has certainly changed dramatically since her days on the soap. Joining the cast in 2006, her character Michaela quickly became known for her wild ways as part of the McQueen family. Her various 'out there' hair styles, including a bright pink tint, went hand in hand with her character's big personality. Hollie shared this more natural picture of herself on her Instagram account recently, and she looks a world away from her character on the popular soap. The actress was written out of the show in 2012 and has since gone on to star in other TV series including Doctors and After Hours.

Nico Mirallegro (Newt, Hollyoaks)

After two British Soap Award nominations and some very dramatic storylines centred on schizophrenia and suicide pacts, Nico, who played teenage Newt in the Channel 4 soap, departed Chester forever in 2010. Since then, he's appeared in a number of other TV shows, including My Mad Fat Diary and The Village - but is it just us, or has he barely aged a day?!

Sonny Flood (Josh Ashworth, Hollyoaks)

Image: Twitter/Sonny Flood
You might remember floppy-haired teen Josh from Hollyoaks' glory years. He was brother to feisty blonde Hannah Ashworth and had quite the lengthy relationship with on-screen girlfriend Amy (as well as a couple of kids, if we remember correctly!). Poor Josh was always being put through his paces, which included attempted murder, underage sex, drugs, drinking and joy riding! The character of Josh was written out of the hit soap in 2010 but Sonny has since featured in other TV shows like Casualty and Doctors, as well as playing Aladdin in a theatrical production of the story.

Shana Swash (Demi Miller, EastEnders)

Image: Twitter/Shana Swash
Shana probably looks familiar, and not just from her role as Demi - she's also the sister of fellow actor Joe Swash! She starred in the BBC soap from 2004-2006, much to the disappointment of fans, who started an (ultimately unsuccessful) petition to prevent the character of Demi and on-screen mother Rosie from being axed. Shana has had a few roles in various TV and stage show since her time in Albert Square, but also now works in a local pub in North London.

Charlie Clements (Bradley Branning, EastEnders)

Just look at that beard! Charlie surprised fans with his radically different appearance on Loose Women in 2016, after being out of the spotlight since he left the soap in 2012. 'Is is weird to fancy Bradley Branning from easterners watching loose women and finding myself being weirdly attracted to him wdf', one tweeted, while another added, 'Well Bradley looks grown up!' Now dad to Henry, two, and a nine-week-old baby, Charlie's next role will be in Channel 5's docu-drama Henry VIII and His Six Wives.

Alan Halsall (Tyrone Dobbs, Coronation Street)

Alan Halsall has been on the Street since 1998, and won a good few awards for his role as Tyrone along the way! Now aged 33, he is still starring in the soap, as well as raising daughter Sienna-Rae with his wife Lucy-Jo Hudson, whom he met on the set.

Charley Webb (Debbie Dingle, Emmerdale)

Charley was cast as Debbie in Emmerdale in 2002, and has remained acting in the show ever since. She balances her career with her marriage to co-star Matthew Wolfenden, who plays David Metcalfe - the pair have a son, Buster, together, and Charley is currently pregnant with their second child.

Ray Quinn (Anthony Murray, Brookside)

Most of us know Ray from his time on The X Factor, but what a lot of people don't realise is that he was a star way before Simon Cowell discovered him! From 2000-2003, Ray played Anthony in Brookside, dealing with serious storylines about bullying and murder at a very young age. After returning to the land of showbiz after placing third behind Leona Lewis, Ray released an album, which entered the charts at number one. He's since starred in musicals including Grease, appeared on ITV's Dancing on Ice, and has been touring with his second album, Dare to Dream. Now it seems Ray spends a lot of time hitting the gym and he looks nothing like the angelic teenager who sang to us every weekend in 2006!

Eden Taylor-Draper (Belle Dingle, Emmerdale)

She may only still be 17 years old, but Eden has had lots of big storylines in her relatively short career! She took over the role of Belle from Emily Mather in 2005 and won a British Soap Award in 2006 for the storyline where she fell down a mineshaft. Eden continues to star in Emmerdale and like most teens, posts frequent (all the more grown-up-looking!) pictures on her Twitter account.

Ellis Hollins (Tom Cunningham, Hollyoaks)

Little Tom must be one of the most memorable child soap characters of all time - and now 15-year-old Ellis has played him since he was just a few weeks old! He still spends most of his time on the Hollyoaks set - although in 2006 he did appear in a feature film called Alpha Male, where he (rather impressively) did all of his own stunts.

Georgia Taylor (Toyah Battersby, Coronation Street)

Since being cast in 1997, Georgia played the Battersby's younger daughter Toyah in 612 episodes of Coronation Street, but left in 2003 to pursue other opportunities. She's appeared in various TV programmes, including Life on Mars, Where The Heart Is, and Casualty, as well as feature films such as the History Boys. Now 35, her most recent recurring role was prosecutor Kate Barker in Law and Order: UK.

Helen Flanagan (Rosie Webster, Coronation Street)

Helen, 25, left Corrie in 2012, having played the role of Rosie for 12 years. Since then, she's become well-known as a model and television personality as well as an actress, and appeared on I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here in 2012, coming in 7th. In June 2015, Helen became a first-time mum when she welcomed daughter Matilda Jessica with boyfriend Scott Sinclair.

Isabel Hodgins (Victoria Sugden, Emmerdale)

Isabel began her acting career by placing an advertisement in her local paper for funding to attend Sylvia Young Theatre School - and her hard work paid off when she took over the role of Victoria in 2006. Now 21, she remains one of Emmerdale's key characters, and has received nominations for various soap awards.

Jack Ryder (Jamie Mitchell, EastEnders)

Jack won the hearts of many a teenage girl when he took the role of Jamie in 1998, but after leaving Albert Square in a dramatic Christmas Day storyline his career has remained mainly in theatres. He hit the headlines in the early 2000s thanks to his marriage to Hear'Say singer Kym Marsh in 2002, but since the couple divorced in 2008 he's stayed out of the public eye.

James Alexandrou (Martin Fowler, EastEnders)

James played Martin from 1996 to 2007: 'Having turned 21, I felt it was a good time to leave. I owe everything to the show and would love to come back one day - that's if EastEnders would have me,' he said at the time. The role was recast with another actor before James had the chance to return, but he's been keeping busy by touring with the Royal Shakespeare Company, amongst other theatre productions, and taking occasional roles in dramas like Silent Witness and Casualty.

Jamie Borthwick (Jay Brown, EastEnders)

Can you believe Jamie's been on our screens as Jay Brown since 2006?! He's still acting in Easties today, but in his spare time is a big sports fan, playing snooker and football himself and supporting West Ham United from the stands.

Jane Danson (Leanne Battersby, Coronation Street)

Jane has been the eldest Battersby daughter since 1997, although she did take a hiatus between 2000 and 2004, during which time she undertook a role in The Bill. She also got married in 2005, to former Brookside actor Robert Beck, and the pair have two sons, Harry and Sam.

Jennifer Ellison (Emily Shadwick, Brookside)

She may have played Emily Shadwick from 1998 to 2003, but Jennifer also built a rather successful career in mens magazines alongside her acting role, first appearing in FHM in 1999. Since leaving the show, she had a role in the 2004 film adaptation of Phantom of the Opera, toured with several stage shows and musicals, and even pursued a pop career. She's now married to boxer Robbie Tickle, with whom she has three boys, Bobby, Harry and Charlie. Most recently, she presented the TV show 'Dance Mums'.

Lorna Fitzgerald (Abi Branning, EastEnders)

19-year-old Lorna has grown up so much since she first hit our screens in 2001 - but her character is just as compelling as ever. In addition to portraying Max Branning's daughter Abi, Lorna has completed high-profile charity work for Talking with Hands, a charity for people with hearing impairment.

Maisie Smith (Tiffany Butcher, EastEnders)

Prior to her role as Tiffany, Maisie starred in the feature film The Other Boleyn Girl as a young Elizabeth I. Since then, she's balancing her on-screen time with attending both high school and stage school - she is only still 14, after all!

Natalie Cassidy (Sonia Fowler, EastEnders)

One of the most iconic characters to ever hit Albert Square, Natalie played Sonia for fourteen years, before taking a break to pursue other opportunities. She hit the headlines thanks to her substantial weight loss in 2008, releasing a fitness DVD off the back of her success, and after a stint on Strictly Come Dancing, she landed her own reality show, Natalie Cassidy: Becoming Mum, which followed her journey with daughter Eliza. She then appeared on Celebrity Big Brother, and became a regular on Loose Women in 2012, as well as reprising her role as Sonia in 2014.

Nikki Sanderson (Candice Stowe, Coronation Street)

Nikki first appeared in Soapland as Sarah-Louise Platt's rebellious school friend Candice in Corrie - but now she's returned to soap as the character of Maxine Minniver in Hollyoaks! Alongside her acting, she's forged a career as a glamour model, and has appeared on the cover of Loaded and Maxim magazines.

Sam Easton (Chesney Brown, Coronation Street)

Sam won our hearts when he first appeared on Corrie as little Chesney in 2003, and he's still on the Street today! The now 22 year old has won a string of awards during his career, including a National Television Award in 2004 and a British Soap Award the following year.

Tina O'Brien (Sarah-Louise Platt, Coronation Street)

Tina joined the Corrie cast in 1999, aged just 16, and her convincing portrayal of her teenage pregnancy storyline made her a hit with critics and fans alike. She left the show in 2007, dabbling in pantos and roles in other dramas before becoming pregnant with her first daughter Scarlett, whose father is Tina's co-star Ryan Thomas, when she decided to put her career on hold. She returned to acting with a stint on Waterloo Road, as well as an appearance on Strictly Come Dancing, in 2012, and eventually took up her role as Sarah-Louise again in 2015. She has also since had another child, son Beau, with new partner Adam Crofts.

Continued below...

Jack P Shepherd (David Platt, Coronation Street)

Jack has played Sarah-Louise's half-brother David Platt since 2000, and continues to star in the show today. Despite the fact his character is a bit of a troublemaker, Jack is a family man in real life, and has two children, Nyla and Reuben, with his fiancée Lauren.

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