|Portrayed by||Nigel Harman|
|First appearance||Episode 2499|
14 April 2003
|Last appearance||Episode 3075|
30 December 2005
|Created by||Louise Berridge|
Dennis Rickman is a fictional character from the BBC soap opera EastEnders, played by Nigel Harman. He entered the show on 14 April 2003 and became one of the show's central protagonists up until his last appearance in the episode broadcast on 30 December 2005, when the character was fatally stabbed at the start of the New Year Fireworks.
He first appeared as a member of the Watts family who had a difficult past and rough childhood, though his identity was unknown for almost thirty years. Dennis' story arc commenced with the character murdering his mob boss Jack Dalton (Hywel Bennett), the crime kingpin of Albert Square whom Dennis discovered is responsible for the apparent death of his infamous father - Den Watts (Leslie Grantham). Following Den's return in 29 September 2003, Dennis established a longstanding conflict with his father up until Den was ultimately killed off on the show's twentieth anniversary episode dated on 18 February 2005; Dennis later discovered his father's fate on 29 August 2005, the same day he finally married his adopted sister Sharon (Letitia Dean) after they managed to repair their once-forbidden romance.
During his time on the show, Dennis repeatedly clashed with Sharon's ex-boyfriend Phil Mitchell (Steve McFadden); formed a mutual friendship with Dalton's representative Andy Hunter (Michael Higgs); bonded with his half-sister Vicki Fowler (Scarlett Alice Johnson); embarked on a romantic interaction with Zoe Slater (Michelle Ryan); developed a warm relationship with local gossip Dot Cotton (June Brown); and temporarily became enemies with Phil's brother Grant (Ross Kemp), who previously married Sharon, until the pair worked together to help the Mitchell Family bring Sharon's stepmother Chrissie (Tracy Ann Oberman) to justice for killing Den and framing Phil's sister Sam (Kim Medcalf) for his murder. Towards the end of 2005, Dennis got embroiled in a feud with Andy's killer and gangland successor Johnny Allen (Billy Murray) - which came to an unfortunate end when Dennis attacked Johnny for threatening Sharon and killing Andy, an act which prompted Johnny to arrange his henchman Danny Moon (Jake Maskall) to stab Dennis in revenge; Dennis died in Sharon's arms as a result.
Nearly three months after the character's death, Dennis became the posthumous catalyst for the Get Johnny Week storyline in which Phil and Grant - known as "The Mitchell Brothers" - sought to avenge his death by bringing Johnny to justice; in the end, Dennis death is avenged when his killer Danny was shot dead by his brother Jake (Joel Beckett) while Johnny was forced by his daughter Ruby (Louisa Lytton) to surrender himself to the police after she discovered that her father is responsible for Dennis' murder - the result of which later caused Johnny to die of a fatal heart attack following his life imprisonment sentence for Dennis' murder. Sharon later gave birth to her and Dennis' son, and in 2014 eventually learned the truth about Dennis' death from Phil.
Dennis quickly became established as the show’s leading man and a "soap sex-symbol", with Harman noted for his "dark good looks" and "fantastic" physique. In 2003, Harman won the "Best Newcomer" award at the National Television Awards, and for two years straight (in 2004 and 2005) won both "Best Actor" and "Sexiest Male" categories at the British Soap Awards and Inside Soap Awards.
Dennis, the product of a fling between a teenage Paula Rickman and an older Den Watts (Leslie Grantham), makes his first appearance in handcuffs in April 2003, as he is on day release from prison to attend his mother's funeral. The discovery of his existence comes after Sharon discovers that she has a brother through her adoptive father Den Watts and another woman during the 1970s. Sharon was aware that her brother was called Dennis Rickman and that he too grew up in Walford. Charlie Slater (Derek Martin) informs her that there was a Mr Rickman who lived locally and worked as a taxi driver, but he and his wife had both died and their daughter was living alone in their house. Sharon soon locates the house but discovers that Paula has died.
It is gradually revealed that he was neglected as a child by his mother and abused by a succession of her boyfriends, and spent some time living in a children's home. Den was unaware that he had a son, and by the time Dennis meets Den's daughters Sharon and Vicki, 14 years have passed since Den disappeared and supposedly died as a result of a shooting on a canal towpath.
His introduction as a full-time character on 1 May 2003 is marked by a fight with Phil Mitchell (Steve McFadden), in which he floors Phil with a single punch. This launches a rivalry with Phil which continues when Phil reneged on an agreement to meet Dennis for a fight at Phil's garage by summoning several of his friends, who give Dennis a severe beating when Phil walks out. Dennis infuriates Phil by seducing his sister Sam Mitchell (Kim Medcalf), his wife-to-be Kate Morton (Jill Halfpenny) (who is a former flame of Dennis's) and his daughter's nanny, Joanne Ryan (Tara Lynne O'Neill).
Dennis sees East End gangland lord Jack Dalton (Hywel Bennett) as a father figure as he worked for him since his teens, collecting debts amongst other things, and his prison stint is due to working for Jack. After Dennis's release, Jack orders Phil to kill Dennis after he becomes independent of him. However, Dennis ends up killing Jack in a shooting next to a railway line, but not before Jack reveals that Den survived the 1989 shooting, and that the body found in the canal a year later was in fact that of another local gangster who had been murdered on Dalton's orders for failing to kill Den. Dennis later tracks down Den's former mistress Jan Hammond (Jane Howe) and finds out that Den fled to Spain. He flies out to Spain and finds the address where Den is now believed to be living, but lacks the courage to knock on the door and find out. He later reveals all too Sharon, but she refuses to believe that her father is still alive.
The rivalry with Phil is concluded by Dennis's father Den when he returns from Spain in September 2003, confirming the theory which Dennis had uncovered a few weeks earlier. Den and Dennis trick Phil into committing an armed robbery at a local factory. They then abscond with the escape ladder and most of the cash, though Den leaves Phil with a few stolen notes and a gun to incriminate him. The feud brings Dennis closer to his father.
After killing Jack Dalton, Dennis remains friends with Dalton's second-in-command, Andy Hunter (Michael Higgs), and is left the bookmakers in Andy's will after his death at the hands of Johnny Allen (Billy Murray) in February 2005.
Dennis has a passionate fling with Den's adopted daughter Sharon Watts (Letitia Dean) on the eve of Den's return but finds himself rejected when Den replaces him. They resume their affair in secret but Den cannot accept a relationship between his children and plots to split them up. Den taunts Dennis with the insinuation that someone had sexually abused him while he was in a children's home, successfully provoking Dennis into accidentally hitting Sharon. A guilt-ridden Den later apologises and explains his reasons for not wanting his son and daughter together, because he wants both of them in his life and he cannot have that if they are sleeping together. Den then tries to explain to Dennis that his feelings for Sharon are simply misguided due to the abuse he suffered as a child, which leaves Dennis confused and he decides to break up with Sharon in order to have a proper father-son relationship.
Despite Sharon's heartache, the family reform their strong bond, including the introduction of Den's new wife Chrissie Watts (Tracy Ann Oberman), who follows him back to England from Spain a few months later. Dennis moves in with Zoe Slater (Michelle Ryan) but cannot reciprocate her love and Sharon seduces him again. They continue their affair in secret behind Zoe and Den's backs, and they become sick of sneaking around and they plan to leave on Christmas Day. Den, however, had spotted them kissing on Christmas Eve.
When they announce that they are in love and going to America together on Christmas Day, Zoe announces that she is pregnant. Dennis does not want to be an absent father to the baby, so Sharon leaves without him. He stays with Zoe but refuses to sleep with her. She is desperate to get pregnant for real and resorts to sleeping with Den. Dennis eventually began to feel love for Zoe and looked forward to a life with her and the baby. However, when Dennis catches her and Den in bed and discovers she was never pregnant at all, he leaves but not before informing Chrissie about her and Den.
Dennis and Sharon return as a couple, after several months away, and demand to see Den. Dennis is unconvinced by Chrissie's story that Den has left her for another woman but drops the matter to spare Sharon's feelings. Dennis and Sharon go on to marry, and following this, they learn that Sam Mitchell had exhumed their father's body from his grave in the cellar of The Queen Victoria public house. Den was murdered by Chrissie in February 2005 after she, Zoe and Sam confronted him about his manipulation of lies regarding the three of them (Den had tricked Sam into selling him The Queen Vic). Chrissie had also lured Sharon back to overhear Den's confessions so that Den would lose the one person in his life that he truly loved. Den attacked Chrissie and Zoe hit Den with a doorstop to stop him. Den then grabbed Chrissie who delivered a fatal blow, leaving Zoe to believe she had killed him. The three women then buried his body in the basement. Dennis and Sharon, with the help of Phil and Grant Mitchell, soon bring Chrissie to justice and sell The Queen Vic back to the Mitchells, apparently concluding the Watts/Mitchell feud. Dennis later visits Den's grave and tearfully mourns the father he never had.
On Christmas Day 2005, Sharon is admitted to hospital with suspected food poisoning, but finds out she is pregnant, despite the previous belief that she was infertile. After Dennis interferes with Johnny Allen and his treatment of his daughter Ruby, Johnny attacks Sharon but upon finding out she's pregnant, he relents and tells Sharon that if her and Dennis are gone by midnight on New Year's Eve, he would not kill Dennis. After much insistence from Sharon, they prepare to leave on New Year's Eve to start a new life in the United States. Sharon does not tell Dennis that Johnny has threatened to kill him, but she confides in Phil, who then uses Dennis as a weapon against Johnny, who is also an enemy of his. Phil tells Dennis about Johnny threatening Sharon and also that Johnny had murdered Andy. Although Dennis knows what Phil's doing, he takes the bait anyway and beats Johnny to the brink of death. Johnny begs for help as he thinks he will die, so Dennis tosses him a mobile phone and says if he can reach it, he will live. Johnny is able to reach the phone and instead of calling for medical assistance, he contacts a henchman to murder Dennis as revenge for his beating.
After cleaning his hands of Johnny's blood, Dennis makes his way towards the Albert Square Gardens where the locals are setting up fireworks, to meet Sharon. As they lock eyes, Dennis is stabbed by a mysterious passer-by and collapses, dying in Sharon's arms. His last words are "we did it" in reference to their unborn son who was born six months later and named Dennis in honor of his father. It is later revealed that Dennis was stabbed by Johnny's henchman Danny Moon (Jake Maskall) on the night of his murder. Towards the end of March 2006, Phil and Grant confront Johnny in their bid to get justice for Sharon by avenging Dennis' death. The brothers are nearly killed when Johnny captures the two and orders Danny to kill them, but Phil and Grant are saved when Danny is shot dead by his brother Jake (Joel Beckett) - who merely attempted to stop Danny, thus partly avenging Dennis in the process. As Phil and Grant used this opportunity to race back to Johnny's house, Ruby learns that her father is responsible for Dennis' murder and calls the police on Johnny - threatening to disown him unless he turns himself in. Johnny ultimately relents at his daughter's urging and he is later sentenced to life imprisonment for killing Andy and ordering the murder of Dennis, along with his other nefarious activities; seven months later, Johnny dies of a heart attack whilst attempting to order the death of Ruby's boyfriend Sean Slater (Robert Kazinsky) upon discovering his plan to extract their assets - the result of which ultimately avenges Dennis' death.
In October 2012, Phil's enemy Derek Branning (Jamie Foreman) mentions that Dennis was murdered, not knowing that Sharon's six-year-old son Dennis Rickman Jr (Harry Hickles/Bleu Landau) overheard him. Dennis is upset after learning the truth of his father's death, as he was told by Sharon that his father was a helicopter pilot and died while saving others. Sharon admits to Dennis Jr that she lied to protect him, and although he is angry, he eventually forgives her. In January 2014, Phil finally confessed to Sharon that he played a part in Dennis's death - having goaded him into attacking the man who went on to order his death; as Phil's conflict with Johnny ultimately led to Dennis being murdered. Sharon is furious, but then goes to visit Dennis' grave for the last time. She then reveals that she needs to leave Dennis in her past, as Phil is now her future.
Dennis Rickman was created by the show's producers as the hardman successor to the character of Steve Owen, who had bowed out during the previous year. It was also part of a move to bring the Watts family back to the forefront of EastEnders, with the re-introduction of Vicki Fowler occurring at the beginning of 2003, and the highly anticipated return of Den Watts in September. Executive producer Louise Berridge was also keen to rectify what she felt was a gender imbalance in the cast, commenting after his arrival that Dennis had "provided a surge of testosterone in a show that was rather female-heavy since the arrival of the Slaters."
Dennis is characterized by his roguish manner, a "bad boy" cast in the mould of a "young Dirty Den". Harman described his character as "a bit of a rough diamond" but with "a sensitive side". During his time, Dennis often butted heads with various alpha-males, including Phil Mitchell (Steve McFadden) and Johnny Allen (Billy Murray), but was friends with mobster Andy Hunter (Michael Higgs) and developed a warm relationship with local gossip, Dot Cotton (June Brown).
Harman was working as a lorry driver for supermarket chain Sainsbury when he was cast in the role of Dennis Rickman: "They said: 'You've got the job.' I was sitting there in my Sainsbury's fleece, with Mrs Bloggs's groceries in the back, and I just laughed my arse off." However, Harman revealed in a 2003 interview that he actually auditioned for a character called "Tim", and had no idea that he was set to join the Watts family as the unknown son of the soap's most "iconic" figure, Den Watts. Part of Harman's appeal lay in his dark good looks and appealing physicality. EastEnders executive producer Louise Berridge noted: "We cast Nigel for his tremendous acting ability and his screen presence, but there's no question he's also a very sexy young man." In an interview with The Independent in 2003 he commented on his character's status as a sex symbol: "It's Dennis, not me... I am a bit embarrassed... I don't get off on it. I walk into the living-room in the morning in my jogging pants, with my hair all over the place, and my flatmates say: 'So, you're supposed to be one of the sexiest men in the country?' And I go: 'I know. I don't get it either.'"
Dennis Rickman was described in a 2004 article as the show's "bad boy pin-up character". The representation of Dennis as "smouldering thug" was apparent from his first appearance in Walford, when he hit resident top dog Phil Mitchell. In an interview with the Daily Mirror Harman declared, "He is a total bastard and if I met him in real life, I'd be bloody scared. [But] that's why he's such a brilliant part." According to the official EastEnders website, "Dennis may well be able to turn on the charm with the ladies, but he has a certain sinister edge."
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