EastEnders fans shocked after a recast Michelle Fowler returns to the Square

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One of EastEnders' most memorable characters returned to the hit soap just in time for Christmas.

Michelle Fowler was last seen in Walford more than 20 years ago when she left for a new life in the US with daughter Vicki after discovering she was pregnant with Grant Mitchell's baby.

Originally played by Susan Tully, viewers saw Michelle, now portrayed by award-winning actress Jenna Russell, arrive in the Square in the back of a black taxi, before an emotional reunion with long-time best friend Sharon Mitchell (Letitia Dean).

However, fans were left aggrieved by the recasting of the character.

Reports suggest EastEnders bosses attempted to entice Susan back to the role but she refused.

The reasons for Michelle's return will unfold in episodes in early January including a special episode focusing on her and Sharon in which viewers will learn the truth as to why she is back in Walford for the first time since 1995.

Jenna said taking on the role of "such an iconic character" was "a great honour".

Jenna Russell
(BBC/EastEnders)

She added: "I know the audience loved Michelle Fowler so much, and even though she hasn't been on our screen for 20 years, she's very much in the fans' psyche.

"When I used to watch EastEnders all those years ago, she was one of my favourite characters. I'm extremely excited for what is in store for Michelle."

Jenna Russell
(BBC/EastEnders)

Executive producer Sean O'Connor said: "I am thrilled to have secured Jenna Russell to play Michelle Fowler, one of the show's most celebrated characters.

"The Square really has missed her over the past 20 years. Having worked with her before, Jenna was always in mind when I first started planning for Michelle's return.

"I think the audience are going to take Michelle back into their hearts; still flawed, complicated and infuriating after two decades away, but still loveable all the same. It's going to be appointment TV watching Michelle's car crash of a life unravel all over again."