IF you've ever watched a soap and thought one of its characters looks familiar, it may be that you had a poster of them in your bedroom when you were growing up.
That's because a surprising number of pop stars have ditched the glitzy music scene to star in the UK’s beloved soaps.
British soul singer Omar Lye-Fook MBE has recently jumped on the bandwagon, joining EastEnders as part of the Baker clan.
Omar, 53, is known for hits like There’s Nothing Like This, Feeling You, and Doobie Doobie Doo.
Over the years he has collaborated with big names like Stevie Wonder ‒ with whom he sang Don’t You Worry ‘bout A Thing ‒ as well as Lamont Dozier, David Frank and Leon Ware.
While Omar prepares to take Albert Square by storm, we look at other musicians who made the transition from tunes to telly.
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Matt Willis – EastEnders
Matt Willis shot to stardom in pop rock band Busted in the Noughties. He also co-wrote songs for McFly and enjoyed brief solo success when Busted unceremoniously split after just two albums.
He went on to win the sixth series of I’m a Celebrity… Get me Out of Here! and co-presented the spin-off show with his wife Emma.
He joined EastEnders for a short stint in February 2014 as Luke Riley, the boyfriend of Stacey Branning.
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His storyline involved him finding out about Stacey’s past, including that she killed Archie Mitchell, and believing she was called Jenny Smith.
Rachel Adedeji – Hollyoaks
Rachel Adedeji finished ninth place on The X Factor in 2009, having previously reached boot camp the series before.
Rachel joined the cast of Hollyoaks in 2015 as Lisa Loveday, the long-lost daughter of Simone and Louis Loveday, who had been missing for 15 years.
When Lisa first arrived, she was manipulated by her kidnapper Margaret Smith, who led her to believe she took her from her family because they didn’t love her.
She was eventually killed off at the hands of Toby Faroe in a case of mistaken identity in 2020.
It was reported that Rachel quit the show after four years amid a racism row.
She said she was "disappointed with Hollyoaks’ approach to showing solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement" and accused the programme of being “performative and disingenuous” before listing its shortcomings, adding that “systematic changes must be put into practice”.
A Hollyoaks spokeswoman said: "Rachel made the decision to leave Hollyoaks to pursue other opportunities… which saddened us at Hollyoaks as she is one of the leading cast members in the show."
Keith Duffy – Coronation Street
Keith Duffy began his professional music career as part of Irish boy band Boyzone in 1993, before focusing on solo projects from 2000.
He later joined the cast of Coronation Street as ladies’ man Ciaran McCarthy.
During his two stints on the show, from 2002 to 2005 and 2010 to 2011, he was in relationships with Sunita Alahan, Tracy Barlow and Michelle Connor.
Earlier this year Keith opened up about why he took once took a career break.
The dad-of-two told the Express that he and his wife Lisa were trying to get an autism diagnosis for their daughter Mia after noticing worrying signs when she was 18 months old.
He said: "It was between the time of Boyzone taking a break and getting offered the job in Coronation Street."
He added: "I took about a year off… At that time it was really [about] coming to terms with trying to get a diagnosis [for Mia] and trying to figure out what was wrong."
After being told there was a three-year waiting list with the NHS, Keith said he didn't "leave any stone unturned".
Describing the stress Mia's developmental delay put on his family, he said: "I was distraught, sitting at night at the end of my bed crying my eyes out wondering what the hell I'm gonna do."
Asked if he would return to Corrie, Keith said: "I would never say never."
Kym Marsh – Coronation Street
Kym Marsh, 45, rose to prominence after winning a place in the band Hear’Say on reality TV series Popstars in 2001.
However, she soon left the band to start a solo career, before pivoting into TV in 2005 with roles on Doctors, Loose Women and Hollyoaks.
In 2006 she joined the cast of Coronation Street as the glamorous Michelle Connor, whom she played for 13 years until her exit in 2019.
Michelle’s storylines included a relationship with Steve McDonald, during which he had an affair, discovering that her son Ryan was swapped at birth, delivering a stillborn son, being stalked by her ex-boyfriend Will and being shot by Pat Phelan on her wedding day.
In 20212, Kym had a five-month affair with Corrie co-star Oliver Mellor, who played Dr Mark Carter, just months after she married Jamie Lomas.
She and and Jamie separated soon after the affair ended and divorced in 2014.
Explaining why he ended their relationship, Oliver later told the Daily Mirror: "Sadly at the time, I thought Kym would never leave Jamie so I decided it was time to get out."
Martin Kemp – EastEnders
Spandau Ballet bassist Martin Kemp appeared in several TV shows when he was young, before rising to musical prominence.
When the band split in the early Nineties, he returned to the small screen, landing the role of villainous Steve Owen in EastEnders, which he played from 1998 to 2002.
Steve was at the centre of the Who Shot Phil Mitchell storyline, and was eventually killed off in an epic car chase while attempting to kidnap Phil’s son Louise.
It was said Steve's death in a fireball was revenge for how Martin left the show.
In 2001 he announced that he was leaving EastEnders, jumping ship to pursue other projects at rivals ITV in a rumoured £1.5million deal.
A source told The Sun at the time: "They were furious at the way Martin handled the whole thing.
"Out of courtesy they would normally expect an actor to give them some warning so that they have time to come up with a better offer.
"It comes as no surprise his character has been killed off. It means that if it all goes wrong for Martin at ITV he can never go back."
Duncan James – Hollyoaks
Duncan James made a name for himself as a member of the boyband Blue.
After the band broke up in 2005, he enjoyed some solo success, performed in the West End and landed a string of TV gigs.
The most well-known of these was his role as Ryan Knight in Hollyoaks, a role he played from 2016 to 2018. In 2017 he was revealed as Amy Barnes' killer in a huge whodunnit storyline.
He announced he was leaving to go on tour with Blue to support Steps, and was killed off when his character drowned in a river.
Shayne Ward – Coronation Street
Shayne Ward won the second series of The X Factor in 2005 and had two hit albums, before a disappointing third and was subsequently dropped by Simon Cowell’s record label Syco in 2011.
In 2015 he dropped his fourth album as an independent artist and joined the cast of Coronation Street as Aidan Connor, a distant cousin of Michelle.
Over the next three years his character took over the factory, and got entangled in a messy love triangle between his girlfriend-turned-fiancée Eva and her best friend Maria.
Aidan left the cobbles for good by taking his own life in a heart-breaking storyline about depression, suicide and grief.
Shayne scooped the Best Soap Exit gong at the Inside Soap Awards for his performance.
Richard Blackwood – EastEnders and Hollyoaks
Richard Blackwood was a rapper and presenter of music TV shows from 1999.
He moved into acting and joined EastEnders in 2015 as Vincent Hubbard.
Described as “bad news”, Vincent’s storylines involved affairs, feuds and the criminal underworld.
He was eventually killed off by a corrupt police officer.
After departing Eastenders in 2018, Richard bagged the role of Felix Westwood in Hollyoaks in 2020.
Richard previously admitted he was branded a "laughing stock" before landing his first soap role, having hit rock bottom with a string of low rent reality shows.
He told The Sun in 2018: "Even though I had a lot of belief, there were moments when I thought, I don't know if I'm going to come back from this."
Lee Ryan – EastEnders
Like his Blue bandmate Duncan, Lee Ryan found a second career in soapland.
In 2017, he joined EastEnders as Woody Woodward for around a year, joining the staff in the Queen Vic.
During his time in Walford he had a turbulent relationship with Whitney Dean.
He was written out by soap bosses after less than a year.
Lee previously admitted his co-stars called him "weird", telling Channel 4's Sunday Brunch he would giggle and pinch himself on set and say to his fellow actors: "Isn’t this weird? Haven’t we got a weird job and they just say, ‘You’re weird'."
Kéllé Bryan – Hollyoaks
Kéllé Bryan was a member of girl group Eternal in the Nineties, who sold millions of albums and had 16 consecutive top 15 UK chart singles.
After releasing a solo album she moved into TV, and landed the role of Martine Deveraux in Hollyoaks in 2018.
She made the shock announcement she was leaving the show on Loose Women earlier this month.
Kelle, who moved her life and family to Liverpool to star on the soap, admitted she was finding it difficult to "switch off" from Martine.
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She revealed: "Martine's been a part of my life for so long, I'm going to have to de-rig her now – this hairstyle is Martine… I used to put a little piece of velcro in my bra because she had breast cancer.
"I used to carry a bit in there just to have that sense of discomfort. So taking that out, changing the hair… she's been part of me for such a long time, it's going to be odd putting her down."
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