2013 was a quiet year for the actress's alter ego Shirley Carter, but EastEnders' new producer Dominic Treadwell-Collins has now announced plans to delve into the character's past.
Shirley's mischievous sister Tina, played by Luisa Bradshaw-White, joined the show last month.
Christmas will also see the arrival of Shirley's brother Mick (Danny Dyer), who takes over the Queen Vic alongside wife Linda (Kellie Bright), son Johnny (Sam Strike) and daughter Nancy (Maddy Hill).
Speaking at an EastEnders press event about the Carters, Treadwell-Collins explained: "We're giving them secrets - we've got massive, massive stories for them - for Danny, for Kellie, for Sam Strike, Maddy Hill, Luisa Bradshaw-White and most importantly Linda Henry.
"Shirley Carter is a soap icon and she hasn't been used as much as she should have been. Her family not only are going to provide loads of exciting stories for the Square, but they'll make us understand Shirley a lot, lot better - what makes her tick and why she walked out on her kids years ago. That's a little teaser there!"
He continued: "We love the Carters. We needed to do something a bit audacious and we needed to shake up The Vic. Kat and Alfie, who have big stories next year, needed to lose money. They needed to be brought down again to tell stories to bring them up again.
"With The Vic, what I did when I got the job was go back and read Tony Holland and Julia Smith's book about the origins of EastEnders and what they did when they first put the show together.
"Tony Holland looked at his family, and Linda and Mick were in my head about a year and a half ago. They're influenced a little bit by my mum and dad - which my mother will eventually kill me for!"
As announced yesterday, the Carter clan will be further expanded in the New Year when Timothy West takes on the role of Stan, the father of Shirley, Mick and Tina. Meanwhile, Annette Badland has been cast as the Carters' maternal aunt Babe.
Treadwell-Collins said: "We want to reinvigorate our older cast. We need some older people. We don't want too many young people. I want to see children through the eyes of their parents, not parents through the eyes of their children. I think it's a fine line.
"We've got Timothy West coming, we've got Annette Badland, and more to come!"
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