|Portrayed by||Chris Coghill|
|First appearance||Episode 3646|
12 September 2008
|Last appearance||Episode 3913|
18 December 2009
|Introduced by||Diederick Santer|
Tony King is a fictional character from the BBC soap opera EastEnders , played by Chris Coghill. He was the partner of established character Bianca Jackson (Patsy Palmer), and a father-figure to her four children. Tony sexually abused Bianca's stepdaughter, Whitney Dean (Shona McGarty), and began grooming her school-friend Lauren Branning (Madeline Duggan), before his predatory nature was uncovered and he was arrested for his crimes. Tony appeared between 12 September and 12 December 2008 and returned in December 2009 to stand trial.
The child sexual abuse storyline marked the first time the subject matter had been broached in a UK soap opera, and was researched and developed with advice and approval from the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. The abusive nature of Tony and Whitney's relationship resulted in over 200 complaints being made to the BBC and television regulatory body Ofcom by members of the public, 's Beth Neil. The NSPCC however praised the storyline for "helping to raise awareness of the hidden nature of sexual abuse". The storyline also gained EastEnders a Royal Television Society Programme Award in March 2009 in the Soap and Continuing Drama category.with the storyline deemed "one of the darkest and most disturbing storylines EastEnders has ever attempted" by The Mirror
After being released from prison for assaulting a teenage boy who propositioned Whitney Dean (Shona McGarty), Tony joins his partner Bianca Butcher (Patsy Palmer) and her family in Walford, including her son Morgan Jackson-King, whom he has adopted. It is revealed that he is a paedophile who has been grooming and sexually abusing Whitney, Bianca's adopted daughter, since she was 12. He immediately resumes his sexual relationship with Whitney, despite his displeasure at her more adult appearance, insisting she remove her make-up and jewellery. When Whitney gets a role in the school play, Tony is angry about having less time with her, becoming jealous of her co-star Peter Beale (Thomas Law). Tony deceives Whitney into believing they will run away and start a new life together when she turns sixteen. Whitney gives him money she has been keeping for his return, which he gives Bianca as a deposit for a flat. Tony assaults Peter as a result of his growing jealousy, and is nearly reported to the police by Peter's sister Lucy Beale (Melissa Suffield). Whitney convinces Lucy not to go to the police, but not before Lucy tells Bianca what happened. When Bianca angrily tells Tony that Whitney is not a child anymore, he realizes he is no longer attracted to her.
Tony begins grooming fourteen-year-old Lauren Branning, supporting her when her mother Tanya Branning (Jo Joyner) is arrested for the attempted murder of her father. He plans to take her to a concert, but Lauren's father Max Branning (Jake Wood) uncovers her hidden clothes and refuses her permission to attend. When Whitney's sixteenth birthday arrives, she books flights so they can run away together. Attempting to foil her plan, Tony steals her passport but it is found and returned. On her birthday, Whitney tells Bianca about her relationship with Tony, believing that they are going to leave together. Horrified, Bianca calls the police, and Tony is arrested. He is later released on bail and visits their home in an attempt to convince Whitney not to give a statement to the police. He is attacked by Bianca's ex-husband Ricky (Sid Owen) and re-arrested for breaking his bail conditions.
Before his trial, Tony attempts suicide. Whitney tries to visit but is refused, and Bianca sees it as a form of manipulation. Tony repeatedly attempts to contact Whitney by phone, but after the first day of the trial, he flushes the SIM card down the toilet in his cell. When Whitney's brother Ryan Malloy (Neil McDermott) tries to attack Tony in court, Whitney says she will refuse to testify, claiming her witness statement was a lie and she was forced to say it. Bianca explains to Whitney that Tony will be set free and that he will target other children. Tony's barrister, Mrs Taylor (Jacqueline Defferary), cross-examines Whitney, trying to imply that she pursued him for several years, saying she refused to take 'no' for an answer and lied about the accusations. Tony shouts out that he is innocent but Whitney says she trusted him and he abused her, revealing the truth about the relationship. After leaving the courtroom, Whitney gives her barrister, Vivien Easley QC (Geraldine Alexander), a mobile phone with messages from Tony on it. A week later Tony is found guilty of all charges and sentenced to 13 years in custody. He smirks as the verdict is being read out but is taken away with his head in his hands.
Over three years later, Whitney receives a note from Tony via one of his former prison friends, saying that he always loved her. Whitney attempts to visit Tony in prison, but she is told that he killed himself in his cell.
Tony was first mentioned in EastEnders in April 2008, when Palmer returned as Bianca Jackson following a nine-year absence from the show. It was established that although Tony was currently in prison, he and Bianca were in a relationship, and that he acted as a father-figure to her children Whitney Dean, Liam Butcher (James Forde) and Tiffany Dean (Maisie Smith). It was originally stated that Tony was the biological father of Bianca's youngest son, mixed-race Morgan Jackson-King (Devon Higgs), which raised confusion with viewers when it was later announced that Coghill, who is white, had been cast in the role. The show's producers explained that Tony was not really Morgan's father, and that the reason behind this deception would be revealed soon after his arrival.
Although Tony did not appear in the show until September 2008, his arrival was anticipated from April of that year, when EastEnders executive producer Diederick Santer commented that the series was building a picture of his character, and that it would be interesting to see him on-screen.It was reported on 2 July 2008 that Tony would be arriving in the serial as part of a child sexual abuse storyline involving Whitney. BBC News described the plot as an ongoing "predatory paedophile storyline", noting that this was the first time this subject matter had been tackled by a UK soap opera.
-John Grounds, NSPCC Director of Communications
An EastEnders spokesperson stated that programme-makers were working in close conjunction with the NSPCC in order to portray the subject matter accurately and sensitively, commenting that the show aims to raise awareness of real-life issues, and has in the past similarly drawn attention to issues such as domestic violence, rape and HIV.John Grounds, the NSPCC's director of communications, praised the soap for raising awareness of the issue.
The storyline was first conceived when EastEnders series consultant Simon Ashdown viewed a documentary about homelessness, featuring a mother and child at a bus stop with nowhere to go. Ashdown questioned what might happen if a child sex offender were to befriend the mother in order to grow closer to the child, and related the scenario to Bianca's return to the soap.BBC Head of Drama John Yorke explained that the idea when presented "drew a sharp intake of breath. Most EastEnders stories that have been good and successful have been the ones that caused the sharp intake of breath, so they're always the kind of stories you look for." Final approval for the storyline was sought from BBC Head of Fiction Jane Tranter on 2 June 2008. Tranter explained that: "I thought it was a fantastically good idea. The big moments in EastEnders, those iconic pieces of television history, tend to be the things that are incredibly near the knuckle, and are actually quite difficult subjects to raise in the context of a family sitting room. [...] Soaps are meant to hold up a mirror to our lives, and sometimes that mirror will show ugly bits, difficult bits, taboo bits. But if a soap doesn't hold up that mirror, then actually, what is it? It will have no depth."
Coghill was cast as Tony on 20 June 2008.He deemed the role the most challenging he had ever played, but hoped that it would help to raise public awareness of child abuse. Of his off-screen relationship with McGarty, Coghill explained that it helped that she does not look or act like a young child, deeming her "fantastic to work with", as well as "very natural, very instinctive and a natural actress", commenting: "There isn't any uncomfortable feeling at all." Having undergone a thorough characterisation session, Coghill began shooting on 30 June 2008, and first appeared on-screen on 12 September 2008.
Tony began grooming Whitney as soon as he met Bianca, ingratiating himself so as to become the family's "hero figure" and "saviour".Coghill elucidated: "The lie that Tony has spun to Whitney is that as soon as she's 16 they'll run away together and start a new life. But Tony's the type of paedophile who preys on younger children. Whitney is beginning to pass her sell-by date with him. [...] He feels like he's losing his little girl but needs to keep Whitney under his control and not speak out." As Tony began to lose interest in Whitney, he started grooming her 14-year-old school-friend Lauren Branning. A show-insider commented that Tony had been getting away with abusing Whitney for years, but was escalating as one young girl was no longer enough to satisfy him.
Tony left the soap on 12 December 2008, after his true nature was exposed. It was announced on 7 September 2009 that he would return to EastEnders to be put on trial. Coghill was pleased to return, believing it right that Tony's story arc should conclude realistically, giving closure to the storyline and continuing to raise awareness of the issue.Santer commented: "One of the unique things about EastEnders is its ability to play stories over months and years. Chris agreeing to come back for these episodes will enable us to continue showing the long-term consequences of Tony's abuse of Whitney and – I hope – continue to do justice to the issue of child sex abuse." Grounds praised Tony's trial, stating that it demonstrated the importance for children of having their abusers brought to justice. Palmer felt that: "If one person out there who's been abused saw that [the legal system] go out of their way to make it easier on the victim – Whitney's evidence is given by video link – it will be worth it."
The BBC and television regulatory body Ofcom received upward of 90 complaints after Whitney's first scenes with Tony aired. However, they ruled that scenes the were not in breach of broadcasting rules.
The Guardian 's Aida Edemariam said of the beginning of the storyline: "what is most disturbing, watching [Tony and Whitney's] first scenes together, is not the sexuality of the situation per se, though that is uncomfortable - it's the subtle blackmail with which he keeps her in line. As it's combined with the emotional manipulation native to soaps, the viewer starts to feel a bit bullied, too". Numbers of viewer complaints rose within days to over 200. New Statesman journalist Jeremy Sare commented on the public outrage and defended EastEnders decision to air the storyline, writing:
There may be some justification for the hundreds complaining about these distressing issues being presented in prime time: equally it is courageous for the Beeb to include a scenario which challenges the public’s perception of what is a ‘typical paedophile’. The repellent Tony’s grooming and seduction of his stepdaughter, Whitney, is a much more familiar pattern of abuse than the more commonly held image of predators lurking in parks. [...] The producers of Eastenders, labouring under a welter of tabloid protest and viewers’ complaints, are attempting to make people get past the initial revulsion of the act of abuse and accept the grim fact that ‘paedophiles’ are very often members of the same family.
Sare quoted a BBC spokeswoman as saying: "we appreciate that for some viewers this storyline will have particular resonance and significance. In running it, it's certainly not our intention to cause distress or upset, either to those who've suffered from sexual abuse or their families. Our aim is instead to raise awareness of this very sensitive issue",concluding his article with the summation: "The producers’ dilemma is instructive to children's charities and Ministers alike on how to confront the issue in a digestible manner which can stimulate an objective debate."
The Mirror 's Beth Neil branded the plot strand "one of the darkest and most disturbing storylines EastEnders has ever attempted", with critic Jim Shelley deeming it to be a "new low" for EastEnders. Shelley wrote of Whitney's abuse: "You've really got to hand it to EastEnders. Just when you thought the show couldn't get any more miserable, the writers come up trumps and produce a new way of making us depressed - a paedophile storyline. Thanks for that! I realise now this is what the family meal has been missing three nights a week: gathering the telly to watch a grubby, greasyhaired thug drooling over a 15-year-old girl who (as luck would have it) spends her entire life in her school uniform even when she's not at school. And they say family entertainment's dead." Shelley refuted the BBC's claims that the storyline had educational value as "totally bogus", observing that "At 7.30 or 8pm, the "action" has to be so coded as to be pointless". Deborah Orr, writing for The Independent , similarly disagreed with the BBC's statement that the storyline was part of EastEnders' "rich heritage of tackling difficult social issues", writing that:
Actually, it's part of its rich heritage of leaping in to some horrific subject without any background or build-up at all. The implication is that Tony, the villain, had been grooming the child for some time before he went to prison, when she was only 12. But such a thing really would be too real, and too controversial, so the viewer only gets to see the result of those hinted-at dark machinations. It might be a public service to dramatise the manner in which a sex offender might worm his way into a vulnerable family. But such a storyline would have to be explored carefully and over a long period. All that this little adventure in broadcasting can possibly deliver is the message that a paedophile in the heart of the home is not a good thing. Who needs to be educated about this?
The Guardian 's Julie Raeside has questioned: "Is this latest sexual abuse storyline a good thing to position in a pre-watershed soap opera, or should the EastEnders storyliners stick to a less controversial brand of misery?" However, in contrast to public and media dissent, the NSPCC's director of communications, John Grounds, has praised the storyline for "helping to raise awareness of the hidden nature of sexual abuse", deeming it to be "vital in persuading people to take action to stop it and encouraging children to speak out." Episodes from the storyline were submitted to the Royal Television Society Programme Awards 2008 for a panel to judge in the category Soap and Continuing Drama. EastEnders was presented with the award in March 2009, beating Coronation Street and The Bill . Members of the judging panel described the submitted episodes as "the culmination of a particularly challenging and controversial storyline which the production team, writers and cast pulled off triumphantly." In addition, the storyline was nominated for Best Storyline at the 2009 Inside Soap Awards and the character was nominated for the Villain of the Year award at the 2009 British Soap Awards.
Kathleen "Kat" Slater is a fictional character from the BBC soap opera EastEnders, played by Jessie Wallace. She is also played by Kate Peck in a flashback in 2001 and Sumar-Elise Sandford in a flashback in 2018. Kat is the second eldest Slater family sister and first appeared on 18 September 2000. Kat's usual dress is very short skirts and leopard-print tops, with much make-up and heavy fake tan. She would often go on all-night binges and has slept with many men, but calmed down in more recent years. As such, she can be described as a "tart with a heart" character. Her initial stint saw her involved in many storylines, most significantly in a plot twist which sees her sister Zoe, revealed to be her daughter after she was raped by her uncle Harry as a child. Another key aspect to the character's storylines is her marriage to Alfie Moon, prior to which she became briefly engaged to Alfie's love rival Andy Hunter ; after Kat jilted Andy on their wedding day, he blackmailed her into sleeping with him in his revenge bid against Alfie and Kat. Wallace has won multiple awards for her portrayal as Kat, who has become one of the show's best loved characters.
Richard "Ricky" Butcher is a fictional character from the BBC soap opera EastEnders, played by Sid Owen. Introduced as a school boy in 1988, Ricky is one of the longest-running male protagonists to feature in EastEnders. Owen originally left the role in 2000 to pursue a music career. However, he reprised the role in 2002 before being axed by producer Louise Berridge in 2004. In 2008, producer Diederick Santer reintroduced the character for a third time, along with his wife Bianca Jackson. Ricky is portrayed as unintelligent, simplistic, easily led and bossed around by dominant personalities. On 26 February 2011, it was announced that Owen would take a temporary break from the show. The character exited on 19 July 2011, returning five months later on 13 December 2011. Ricky left EastEnders on 17 January 2012. Ricky returned to EastEnders on 20 June 2012 for the wedding of his sister, Janine Butcher, before departing for the final time on 29 June 2012. In April 2016 he had voiced his interest in returning to EastEnders during an appearance on Celebrity Juice.
Bianca Jackson is a fictional character from the BBC soap opera EastEnders played by Patsy Palmer. The character was introduced by executive producer Leonard Lewis and appeared initially from 1993 to 1999, when Palmer opted to leave. In 2002 executive producer John Yorke brought the character back for a special spin-off show. She returned to EastEnders as a full-time character in April 2008, reintroduced by executive producer Diederick Santer. Palmer took maternity leave in 2010 and Bianca left the series in January 2011. The character returned in December 2011 after Palmer signed a "working mums" contract, which granted her leave from the soap between April and November 2012. The actress quit EastEnders in 2014 and Bianca departed in September that year. Palmer reprised the role on 2 September 2019 for a guest stint and a second guest stint was scheduled for 2020, but later cancelled, due to the COVID–19 pandemic.
Carol Jackson is a fictional character from the BBC soap opera EastEnders, played by Lindsey Coulson. The character was introduced in 1993 as the mother of the Jackson family. Coulson decided to quit the role in 1997, but she returned temporarily in 1999 within a storyline that contributed to both the introduction of her boyfriend Dan Sullivan and the departure of her daughter Bianca ; in the storyline, Carol discovers that Bianca had previously had a relationship with Dan and they resumed their affair - which prompted her to end her relationship with Dan, disown Bianca, and leave the square on her own.
Billie Jackson is a fictional character from the BBC soap opera EastEnders, played by Devon Anderson from 1993 to 1997, and by Bluey Robinson for a brief return in 2004. The character returned in 2010, along with other members of the Jackson family. It was confirmed in November 2009 that Anderson would reprise the role, 13 years after he was last seen on the soap. He made his return on 4 February 2010. The character was killed off in October 2010, and made his last credited appearance on 14 October.
Lauren Branning is a fictional character from the BBC soap opera EastEnders. The role was originated by Madeline Duggan, who first appeared on 3 July 2006. Duggan played the role for four years until her exit on 23 June 2010. Three months later, on 27 September 2010, the role was recast with Jacqueline Jossa. In August 2014, Jossa announced that she was expecting her first child. In December 2014, Jossa filmed her final scenes prior to taking maternity leave, which aired on 24 February 2015, following the show's 30th anniversary celebrations. She returned temporarily on 14 September 2015 for her father's murder trial before departing again on 2 October 2015. Lauren made a permanent return on 27 May 2016. In September 2017, it was announced that Jossa and Lorna Fitzgerald, who plays Lauren's sister Abi, had been axed by executive consultant John Yorke. Jossa finished filming with the show on 11 January 2018, and Lauren departed on 16 February 2018.
Christopher Coghill is an actor, known for his role as Tony King in the BBC soap opera EastEnders.
The Branning family, together with the Jackson family are a fictional, extended family in the BBC soap opera EastEnders. Introduced in 1993 were the Jackson family, consisting of Carol Jackson, her partner Alan Jackson, and Carol's four children, Bianca Jackson, Sonia Jackson, Robbie Jackson, and Billie Jackson. Billie is the only child fathered by Alan, while Bianca is the daughter of David Wicks, Sonia's father is Terry Cant and Robbie's is Gary Bolton. The family becomes a more dominating presence in the early 2000s, when Carol's father Jim Branning moves to Walford following the death of his wife Reenie to cancer. Since then, all six of Jim's children have appeared, many of them with family.
Whitney Dean is a fictional character from the BBC soap opera EastEnders, played by Shona McGarty. The character is the ward of long-running character Bianca Jackson, and was introduced on 1 April 2008 when Palmer returned to the series after a six-year absence. Whitney is described by executive producer Diederick Santer as both an equal to, and younger version of Bianca, and is the oldest of Bianca's four children. Her storylines have revolved around her fractured family life, her sexual abuse by Bianca's partner Tony King, her sexual exploitation by Rob Grayson, failed relationships with Lee Carter, Woody Woodward and Callum "Halfway" Highway, falling in love with her father-in-law Mick Carter, enduring a miscarriage also being groomed and stalked by Tony's son Leo King and killing Leo in self defence. Whitney was absent from the soap across four weeks in 2012 when McGarty was suspended for repeated lateness. McGarty took a break in 2017 and Whitney departed on 29 May and returned on 31 July. On 1 June 2018, McGarty filmed her 1000th episode as Whitney.
Tiffany Butcher-Baker is a fictional character from the BBC soap opera EastEnders, played by Maisie Smith. Tiffany is the daughter of established characters Bianca Jackson and Ricky Butcher, though originally she was believed to be Bianca's daughter with a man named Nathan Dean. Tiffany's surname was changed in the show's credits from Dean to Butcher, which has also been referenced in the show. Tiffany departed, alongside her half-brother Morgan Butcher and their mother Bianca, in September 2014. Tiffany made an unannounced return on 3 November 2016 when she and Morgan returned for Whitney Dean and Lee Carter's wedding.
Lucy Beale is a fictional character from the BBC soap opera EastEnders. The character was played by Eva Brittin-Snell, Casey Anne Rothery, Melissa Suffield, and Hetti Bywater. Lucy was introduced in December 1993 as the baby daughter of Ian and Cindy Beale. She is the twin sister of Peter Beale, and has three half siblings, older brother Steven Beale, younger sister Cindy Williams and younger brother Bobby Beale.
Ryan Malloy is a fictional character from the BBC soap opera EastEnders, played by Neil McDermott. From his arrival on 28 April 2009, the character remained a mystery in the show for a number of months, until he was revealed as the half-brother of established character, Whitney Dean. Ryan departed on 26 August 2011, before making a surprise guest appearance on 2 September 2014. Following his former lover, Stacey Slater, being sectioned in the episode that aired on 22 January 2016, he then made a surprise return for a short stint to look after his daughter Lily Slater, before departing again on 11 February 2016. Seven months later, Ryan returned on 20 September after he was released from prison. Ryan returned again on 4 November for Whitney and Lee Carter's wedding.
Tyler Moon is a fictional character from the BBC soap opera EastEnders, played by Tony Discipline. Tyler is the son of Eddie Moon, half brother of Michael and Craig Moon, brother of Anthony Moon and cousin of Alfie Moon. He made his first appearance in the episode broadcast on 27 June 2011.
Kirsty “Dotty” Cotton is a fictional character from the BBC soap opera EastEnders, played by Molly Conlin from 2008 to 2010 and Milly Zero since 2019. She was introduced on 26 December 2008 as the daughter of established character Nick Cotton. Dotty was used as Nick's partner in crime, as the duo planned to kill her grandmother Dot Branning and inherit the money from her will. She and Dot subsequently became friends after Nick's failed murder attempt, due to Dotty sabotaging their murder plan at the last minute. In her final storyline, airing on 23 February 2010, she left with her mother Sandy, whom she believed died. On 3 October 2019, Dotty returned, with the role recast to Milly Zero.
Derek Branning is a fictional character from the BBC soap opera EastEnders, played by Terence Beesley in 1996 and then Jamie Foreman from 2011 to 2012. Derek is the eldest child of Jim Branning and Reenie Branning. He first appears in episode 1282, which was first broadcast in the United Kingdom on 29 April 1996, for his sister April Branning's wedding and departed on 2 May. The character returned as a regular in the episode broadcast on 24 November 2011, played by Foreman. In October 2012, it was announced that Foreman would be leaving EastEnders in December 2012 as part of a Christmas storyline. On 20 December 2012, it is revealed that Derek was the person who Kat Moon had an affair with. He dies of a heart attack in the episode broadcast on 25 December 2012.
Ray Dixon is a fictional character from the BBC soap opera EastEnders, played by Chucky Venn. Ray is an ex-partner of character Bianca Butcher and the father of her son Morgan Butcher. He made his first on screen appearance on 10 January 2012. His storylines have involved meeting and getting to know Morgan, a relationship with Kim Fox and starting a youth mentoring scheme. On 16 April 2013 it was announced that Venn had been written out of the show, and departed on 28 May 2013. He appeared in 107 episodes.
Pete Buchanan is a fictional from the Channel 4 soap opera Hollyoaks, played by Kai Owen. From his debut appearance on 2 June 2015, he has been involved in the sex abuse plot within the McQueen family. After being imprisoned for his crimes, Pete left the series on 29 June 2016. Pete returned for a one-off appearance on 12 October 2018. On 29 March 2021, it was announced that Owen would be reprising the role, with Pete returning on 6 April 2021.