Emma Bunton was brutally rejected from EastEnders before Spice Girls stardom
It’s difficult to picture a world without the Spice Girls in it – but it was very nearly a reality.
Emma Bunton, AKA Baby Spice, came very close to ending up as a soap star instead, auditioning for Patsy Palmer’s iconic role of Bianca Jackson in EastEnders.
Bianca, who was first introduced in 1993, has been a Walford favourite for decades, having appeared in numerous iconic storylines – from affairs with her mum’s boyfriend to discovering her stepdaughter Whitney Dean was being sexually abused.
Emma actually auditioned for the role in 1993, one year before the Spice Girls formed in 1994.
Speaking on Sunday Brunch back in 2019 – the same year Patsy left her role as Bianca – Emma let host Tim Lovejoy know that she could have been the one yelling Rickaaay at the top of her voice.
"Is it true you nearly weren’t a Spice Girl because you were auditioning for EastEnders?" Tim wondered, as Emma was busy peeling veggies.
"That is true, yeah, yeah," Emma replied.
The pop superstar explained: "So about two weeks before my audition for the Spice Girls I was on a recall for EastEnders.
"So I got down to the last four for Bianca."
Emma entertained her fellow guests with a cheeky "Rickaaaay!", adding: "That would have been me!"
Emma has spoken previously about her love for the soap, explaining: "When I was 17 I was up for the part [of Bianca]. I loved the show and thought it was perfect for me.
"I got right down to the final auditions and then was rejected. It was really upsetting."
A stage school veteran from the Sylvia Young Theatre School, Emma is no stranger to acting, and didn’t let the rejection get her down.
Speaking to The Mail on Sunday in 2013, Emma revealed: "I learned an important lesson being at stage school. You don't get everything you want, but sometimes it's for a reason.
"The very next week after failing that audition I met the guys who put together the Spice Girls."
But despite her knock-back, Emma did end up appearing in Albert Square – if only briefly.
In 1992, Emma made her debut as an unnamed mugger, seen grappling with Patrick Trueman as she and another girl demanded he hand over his wallet – before he was walloped across the head with a wooden plank.
And Patsy Palmer herself was only cast by "accident", as she didn’t even initially audition for the role of Bianca.
EastEnders casting director Jane Deitch, along with writer and director Tony McHale, visited Patsy’s drama class at the Anna Scher Theatre in Islington.
They were on the lookout for a girl aged 16 and under for the role, with Patsy off the list as she was older.
But the star inadvertently caught the director’s eye while laughing with her friends, and asked to improvise a monologue all based on the line ‘I can’t believe you just said that’.
Meanwhile, director Tony lied about her age at her official audition so that producers wouldn’t automatically dismiss her, allowing 21-year-old Patsy to land the role as 16-year-old Bianca.
As for Emma, her acting career didn’t stop at Walford.
She appeared as Janice in cop show The Bill in 1993, during the episode Missionary Work.
Later, Emma made an appearance in TV comedy movie Thatcherworld as Josie Jenkins, before starring as a prostitute in miniseries To Play The King.
Since soaring to fame as Baby Spice, she’s made a number of cameos across iconic TV shows, only finally able to play herself rather than small TV parts.
She appeared in two episodes of Absolutely Fabulous, as well as Ben Stiller flick Zoolander and Lee Mack sitcom Not Going Out.
In 2016, she lent her voice to Muhimu in Lion King TV spin-off The Lion Guard, and appeared as Henry VIII’s wife Catherine Parr in Drunk History: UK.
Emma, however, isn’t the only Spice Girl with a soap career behind her.
Mel B appeared in a whopping seven episodes of Coronation Street back in 1993 – the same year Emma auditioned for EastEnders.
She played a Bettabuys worker for six episodes, before appearing as Amy Nelson for one episode later that year.
It came as original actress Louise Duprey suddenly abandoned the role of Amy, finding it difficult to cope with the sudden fame that came with such a popular soap.
Amy was going to be a long-term character in the soap, marrying Steve McDonald’s twin brother Andy – but, while filming her wedding scenes, Louise locked herself in her dressing room and had to be sent home by doctors at ITV.
She decided to quit the soap after that, as bosses hastily rewrote the scripts to send Amy back to her ex-boyfriend in Trinidad.
Mel B, then, stepped in to play Amy in one brief scene to postpone the wedding.
Her back was to the camera in a darkened room to avoid audiences spotting the sudden change of actress.
Mel went on to appear in shows like Secret Diary of a Call Girl as Sylvia Burke, Burn It as Claire and Black Dynamite as Connie Lingus.
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