Patsy Palmer (born Julie Anne Harris; 26 May 1972 in Bethnal Green, London) is an English actress. Palmer made an early television appearance on the children’s drama show Grange Hill, but is best known for playing Bianca Jackson in the popular British television soap opera EastEnders. Originally in the cast from 1993–1999, Palmer returned to EastEnders in April 2008. She has also appeared in a number of TV dramas, and released an autobiography, All of Me, in 2007. She lives with her husband and four children in Brighton, East Sussex, UK
Patsy Palmer was born and grew up in Bethnal Green, East London. She attended Globe Primary School and then Haggerston Girls Secondary School.
She was brought up along with her two elder brothers, Albert and Harry, by her mother Pat. It was her mother who first spotted her acting talent and encouraged her to go to Anna Scher’s famous acting school in London (where many other EastEnders stars such as Sid Owen, Gillian Taylforth, Susan Tully, Phil Daniels, Jake Wood and Adam Woodyatt also trained). Palmer was bullied at school, and has said that acting was a form of escape.
Aged six she starred in a West End production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
She made her screen debut in the television programme The Gentle Touch in 1984. Like many other EastEnders actors, Palmer appeared on the children’s drama show Grange Hill in 1986 and 1987. She went on to have small roles in BBC’s Tricky Business (1989), Making News (1990), Clarissa (1991), Love Hurts (1992), Drop the Dead Donkey (1993), and The Bill (1993), and she also appeared as an acne-ridden teenager in a Clearasil advert.
In 1993 she was cast in the role of feisty Bianca Jackson in BBC’s flagship soap opera, EastEnders. A popular character, Bianca’s on-off romance with Ricky Butcher (Sid Owen) captivated millions of fans and their on-screen marriage in 1997 drew one of the biggest soap audiences ever — more than 22 million. She remained in the role for six years, but quit in 1999 to spend more time with her family and to concentrate on other projects. She reprised the role in May 2002 in a special spin-off entitled, EastEnders: Ricky and Bianca. The two-part, hour-long special was filmed in Manchester and reunited Bianca and Ricky for the first time in over two years.
In 2005, Palmer publicly criticised EastEnders, branding the storylines ridiculous and unbelievable and stating that she “wouldn’t go back to EastEnders”. However, in October 2007 the BBC announced that Palmer would be returning to the soap as a full-time character; she made her comeback on-screen in April 2008. Palmer has commented “I can’t wait to explore what Bianca has been doing with her life and seeing what she is going to get up to next” and executive producer of EastEnders, Diederick Santer, added, “I’m delighted to welcome Patsy Palmer home to EastEnders. Bianca is one of the most popular characters the show has ever had”.
Palmer made a guest appearance on the Christmas Day 1993 episode of Top of the Pops introducing ‘No Limit’ by 2 Unlimited with presenter Mark Franklin.
Palmer worked on the first series of OK TV with Fiona Phillips in 1999. In the first episode of the series she was shown at a beauty salon where she got her hair shampooed and interviewed Lindsay Coulson, who played her fictional mother Carol Jackson in EastEnders. In 1999, Palmer made a cameo appearance as herself in an episode of Kathy Burke’s sitcom, Gimme Gimme Gimme; it made light of her role as Bianca Jackson. She appeared as Clare in the detective series McCready and Daughter, which aired for a pilot and one series between 2000 and 2001. She made an appearance in He Knew He Was Right for the BBC in 2004, and in 2001 she was seen in the television mini-series Do or Die, which aired on Sky One.
On stage she has starred in the one-woman musical Tell Me On A Sunday, which toured the UK, and played in London’s West End. She also had a leading role in a UK tour of the musical Steppin’ Out, appeared in the original West End run of Mum’s the Word, and acted in We Happy Few by Imogen Stubbs, which played a short run at the Gielgud Theatre.
Palmer stood in for GMTV’s Lorraine Kelly, presenting her Lorraine Live section for a week in 1999, reporting from Miami on fashion, lifestyle, health and fitness. She has also co-hosted Channel 4’s Big Breakfast as a guest presenter for a week. Palmer has released a number of hit fitness videos and DVDs: Patsy Palmer – The Club Workout (2000), Patsy Palmer – The Urban Workout (2002) and Patsy Palmer’s Ibiza Workout (2002). In 2006 Palmer made an appearance in the charity fitness DVD The Allstar Workout. Palmer’s film work includes the shorts Love Story (1999) directed by Nick Love, and Another Green World (2005) directed by Peter Chipping.
In 2005 Palmer took part in BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing show, to raise money for the Children in Need fund. She has also made a cameo appearance with Catherine Tate’s sketch show The Catherine Tate Show. In February 2007, she was a jury member on the BBC programme The Verdict where various celebrities ruled on a contemporary and controversial case, based on evidence and examples from real life.
Palmer’s autobiography All of Me was released in the UK on 5 April 2007. In it she describes her ascent to fame, her struggle with addiction and how she has battled to overcome her problems. In addition to acting, Palmer has set up her own company, “Palmer Cutler”, with a friend, selling beauty and self-tanning products.
In 2008 a short film starring Palmer was released by housing and homelessness charity Shelter.
Palmer appeared in Comic Relief Does The Apprentice in 2009. Her team (Ruby Wax, Fiona Phillips, Carol Vorderman, and team leader Michelle Mone) had won the show despite Palmer having difficulties working with Mone and nearly quitting as a result.
Palmer narrated the tribute show Jade: As Seen on TV in May 2009 celebrating the life and death of Jade Goody. In 2010, Palmer appeared on Would I Lie To You? as a guest. On 23 April 2011 She was the guest on Piers Morgan’s Life Stories.
Nominated ‘Best On-Screen Partnership’ alongside Sid Owen at the British Soap Awards
She is close friends with Sid Owen (Ricky Butcher) and Danniella Westbrook (Sam Mitchell). Palmer has been married twice and has four children: Charley (born February 1992) (from Palmer’s relationship with boxer Alfie Rothwell), Fenton (born 13 June 2000), Emilia (born 7 July 2001), and Bertie (born 8 December 2010). As of 2008, she lived with her husband and children in Brighton, East Sussex, England. Her brother, Harry Harris, is married to Lindsey Coulson, the actress who plays her on-screen mother Carol Jackson in EastEnders. It was announced on 1 August 2010 that Palmer was pregnant with her fourth child, and on 8 December she gave birth to her third son, Bertie.
Palmer has admitted to having been a drug- and alcohol-addict and revealed that during her 1990s stint on EastEnders she frequently turned up on set either still “high” or “horribly hungover”. She has said that she started “experimenting” with alcohol and drugs from the age of ten and her addiction lasted for 24 years. In 2010, she stated that she had been clean of drugs and alcohol since September 2004 and that “We don’t have drink in our house”.
Palmer suffered from bullying during her school years. Because of this she has lent her support to the Department for Education’s anti-bullying campaign in 2000. She is an active patron of Children’s Cancer Charity CLIC Sargent.
Patsy is also a regular caravan (mobile home) user. She has a caravan in Sheerness on the Isle of Sheppey, Kent.
Palmer is also an Arsenal football supporter and even though her husband Richard supports Tottenham, Palmer stated “there isn’t a rivalry at home”.
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