|Portrayed by||Lauren Crace|
|Introduced by||Diederick Santer|
|First appearance||18 August 2008|
|Last appearance||3 April 2009|
|Date of birth||26 June 1989|
|Date of death||2 April 2009|
|Occupation||Market trader (clothing)|
Danielle Jones (née Amy Mitchell) is a fictional character from the BBC soap opera EastEnders, played by Lauren Crace. The character appeared between 18 August 2008 and 3 April 2009. Crace's casting in the role was announced in July 2008, when she was described as a love interest for fellow new character Callum Monks (Elliott Jordan). In October 2008, it was revealed that Danielle was actually the long-lost daughter of established character Ronnie Mitchell (Samantha Womack). Crace has disclosed that even she was unaware of this fact upon being cast in the role, but always knew Danielle would only have a short arc. Danielle's feelings were further explored in a segment of the BBC EastEnders homepage entitled 'Danielle's Diary', documenting the character's thoughts on the storylines she was involved in, while a special episode of EastEnders Revealed entitled "The Secret Mitchell" further explored the character's impact on the show.
Danielle's storylines focused on her friendship with local resident Stacey Slater (Lacey Turner), her crush on Callum, and her adoption secret. She was deemed a welcome addition to the soap by members of the Telford local council, for raising awareness of the town the character originates from, however was poorly received by The Guardian's Gareth McLean and Grace Dent, and dubbed "Drippy Danielle" by The Daily Mirror's Jane Simon. Her final episode was watched by 11.46 million viewers, and when the show ended caused a notable power surge on the National Grid during broadcast.
It was reported on 19 July 2008 that a new character, Danielle, would be introduced to EastEnders as the love interest of fellow newcomer Callum Monks. Nineteen-year-old Danielle was described as a "naive blonde [...] easily taken in by Callum's smooth patter", arriving in Walford with "just a suitcase and a dream of a new life". It was later revealed in an October 2008 storyline that Danielle had additionally been created as the long-lost daughter of established character Ronnie Mitchell, and a member of the soap's long-running Mitchell family. The character's introduction had been planned as early as 2007, when story producer Dominic Treadwell-Collins first conceived the idea of two new Mitchell sisters, Ronnie and Roxy (Rita Simons). Ronnie was intended to come across as the more detached and icy sister, and a hidden secret was first alluded to eight months after their introduction, when Roxy made a veiled reference to Ronnie's child and a physical fight ensued. Several months later, off-set episodes shot in Weymouth and dubbed Mitchell Week by the BBC were aired, during which the audience were introduced to Ronnie and Roxy's father Archie (Larry Lamb), and learned that Ronnie had given a child up for adoption.
Treadwell-Collins explained that it was necessary to introduce Danielle shortly after this revelation, but in such a manner that she would arrive "under the audience's radar", to preserve the later revelation of her identity as Ronnie's daughter. The role of Danielle was given to the then-unknown actress Lauren Crace, who commented: "I’m thrilled. It’s a great first role and I just can’t wait to see what is in store." Crace accepted the role whilst still in her third and final year at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. She began filming in June 2008, at the same time as appearing in her final RADA show. EastEnders' executive producer Diederick Santer commented: "Lauren is a real find — a lovely, talented and hugely watchable actress. I'm delighted she's making her professional debut with us, at the start of what I'm sure will be a glittering and accomplished career." Upon her introduction, the show's producers attempted to deliberately deceive the audience into believing Danielle was nothing more than a new friend for Stacey Slater, and romantic foil for Callum. Crace herself was only told of Danielle's true identity after her successful audition, though as she only signed a six month contract with the show, was always aware Danielle would only have a short arc. She has stated that some audience members guessed Danielle to be Ronnie's daughter almost as soon as she arrived, and that she found maintaining the secret to be difficult.
Discussing her character's personality, Crace has disclosed that she considers Danielle to be initially "scared of rejection". Following a plot strand which saw Danielle's friend Stacey dress as a sexy Bond girl for a theme night, Crace commented: "I’d love to do that as [...] Danielle. I think that’s just what Danielle needs. She needs confidence and a bit of oomph. She needs a bit of Kat Slater (Jessie Wallace) in her. Maybe living with the Slaters will rub off on her." Comparing Danielle to other EastEnders characters, Crace assessed that: "She wasn't a Stacey or a Mo (Laila Morse) or that confident EastEnders type, and I think it took a while for people to warm to her". Questioned on the effect of Danielle's friendship with Stacey on the character's personality, Crace suggested that Stacey may "give her more confidence and turn her into a confident woman!! Stacey could be the making of shy Danielle." Prompted on Danielle's having been unlucky in love, Crace responded: "Yeah she has, she's a complete loser. She's completely unlucky in love. I could sort of understand it, she's a bit dopey and I can see her sort of scaring blokes off a bit, she's a bit eager." By the end of the character's tenure in the show, her personality developed to the point that she was, in Crace's words: "not a little mouse any more". Crace commented that she was bored by and had doubts about Danielle's constant naivety, explaining: "She doesn’t do much, people do things to her. She’s very passive, and it can be quite depressing to play that five days a week." She revealed that she had approached the EastEnders producer to suggest that Danielle should stand up for herself more, and this was something which was adapted into the character's personality. Her view of the transition is that Danielle "has got that Mitchell blood in her and it had to come out at some point [...] whatever people say about her, she's not a weakling, and she's got this strength in her that means she always comes back fighting. And so yeah she can be a bit wet and pathetic, but she is quite tough."
When the revelation was made to the audience that Danielle was Ronnie's long-lost daughter, Crace commented that: "Being part of such a big storyline is exciting and challenging for any actress." Explaining the back-story from Danielle's point of view, she detailed: "When Danielle's adoptive mother died, she thought it was time to find out who her real mother was. She always knew she was adopted. She also had a locket with a picture of Ronnie in it that was given to her when she was put up for adoption. She went to the adoption agency and found out that Ronnie had also been looking for her - the agency then gave her details of her mother’s whereabouts." Questioned on whether she thought Danielle hoped to have a relationship with Ronnie, she responded: "Deep down, absolutely... she’s completely intrigued by Ronnie and the Mitchell clan, but at the same time very nervous of them. In her head she thinks they are too different and Ronnie would be disappointed to know she was her daughter". Series writer Simon Ashdown explained of why Danielle kept her identity secret: "The idea about Danielle was that she was hurt and broken by her life and being rejected by this mother that the thing she fears worst of all is being rejected again. So she holds off, she wants to get to know Ronnie, and charm her and make her like her and then tell Ronnie who she is."
The relationship between the two began to develop when Danielle fell pregnant, and was supported in seeking an abortion by Ronnie. Treadwell-Collins has explained that Danielle's pregnancy was a plot-device to bring the two closer together, discussing the tragedy of Ronnie being unaware she was encouraging the aborting of her own grandchild. Of Danielle's emotions during this period, Crace illuminated: "Having Ronnie show her some affection and willingly offering to come with her and to help her and give her advice, it was a huge thing for Danielle, because from always being knocked back by Ronnie, from always being knocked back by everybody, suddenly someone out of the blue offered to help her, and it was the one person in the world that she wants to be there." When Ronnie failed to attend Danielle's second clinic appointment, Danielle was, in Crace's opinion, "hurt and distraught", describing the development as "a step back for Danielle" whereby "she probably feels less willing than ever to tell Ronnie the truth than before". On Ronnie's part, Janus assessed that "Ronnie knows she wants to help this young girl but she's not sure why they have this bond". She explained: "Ronnie knows that Danielle is very vulnerable and is in Walford with no family and only a few friends. As Ronnie gave her a job in R&R maybe she thinks that Danielle interpreted that that as more than it was." Asked if Ronnie had noticed the resemblance between herself and Danielle, Janus responded: "She has never thought about any resemblance - why would she? As far as Ronnie is aware her baby passed away so the thought would never have crossed her mind." Following Ronnie's failure to attend her second appointment, the character briefly departed from the series, said to have returned to her native Telford.
Danielle returned from Telford "on the edge emotionally", and increasingly angry with Ronnie, believing that she deserved to belong to the Mitchell family. The writers had Archie Mitchell discover her secret as "a test of character", posing the question: "would he be despicable enough not to tell Ronnie?" Lamb commented that his character felt Danielle posed "a huge threat" to his family, explaining why he lied that Ronnie was suffering from depression and Danielle ought not tell her. Crace commented that her character "thinks that’s why [Ronnie] is always so hot and cold with her […] she takes it upon herself to try to look after Ronnie and help her to get well again." She offered the insight that although Danielle sees Archie as “a domineering figure”, she initially trusts him and believes he will reunite her with her mother when the time is right. However, as time passes, "she starts to see Archie’s true colours and is scared by this different side to him." Asked how Danielle feels about being accepted into the Mitchell family, Crace explained: "When she first came to Albert Square, Danielle didn’t really know what to expect. For one thing, she never thought her mum would be so young and attractive and own a night club. That’s pretty cool! But she is so pleased that Ronnie is her mother and can’t wait for her secret to be revealed at last." On Danielle's developing relationship with Ronnie at the time, Crace expanded: "Those two have such a turbulent relationship - one minute Ronnie's really nice to Danielle, the next she's ignoring her and calling her a freak. But at the end of the day, Ronnie's her mum, and deep down, that's all Danielle has ever wanted."
The ultimate revelation of Danielle's true identity was set at Archie's wedding to Peggy (Barbara Windsor), matriarch of the Mitchell family. Crace deemed the wedding "the perfect opportunity" for the storyline to conclude, while Santer explained: "Weddings are great because they bring the community together. A wedding gives you a stage, it gives you an event, the context to play things out, so it felt right that these big Mitchell stories would collide at Peggy's wedding." Writer James Payne concurred: "There's no point making the reveal of the Mitchell secret in the caff at half past nine in the morning over a bacon sandwich, it's not EastEnders. EastEnders at its best will make that moment as dramatic and sensational as it possibly can be." The episode saw Danielle announce that she was Ronnie's daughter in front of the entire wedding reception party, in what Crace has named her favourite scene on the show. She opined that the disbelief Danielle was faced with was "heartbreaking" and served to highlight the fact that "she came as the outsider and she still is the outsider because no one steps in to help her".
The character was killed off on 2 April 2009, run down by local resident Janine Butcher (Charlie Brooks) minutes after revealing her true identity to Ronnie, and subsequently dying in her mother's arms. Although different outcomes to the storyline were considered, Santer explained that "we always came back to [Danielle dying] because in the end, Ronnie is our tragic heroine character". Treadwell-Collins opined that "to give Ronnie her daughter at the last minute and then take her away suddenly is horrible, and the viewers could hate us for it. But if you have Ronnie have her daughter, this one thing that is key to her character, you weaken her character as you go along." Santer agreed that while having Ronnie and Danielle spend time together as mother and daughter would be touching, ultimately it would become boring. The scene in which Danielle dies was filmed during winter, but as it was set in early April, snow had to be cleared away from the set before filming could commence. A body double was used for the moment Danielle was run over. Crace deemed her final scenes: "Really tough, but great", expanding: "For so long you have so many scenes where you're just getting coffees in the caff or standing around in the back of Vic scenes, and then suddenly when you leave you get written for and you've got all these amazing scenes, and I had such great scenes with Larry and with Sam. And those last few scenes in the Vic with myself and Sam were so, so tough, it was such such a hard day and I went home feeling like hell, but it was worth it." Although sad to leave, she felt that the story's conclusion was the right one, and was glad that Ronnie and Danielle finally shared a brief moment in the end, explaining: "It was so important that that tender moment was finally found, because that's all people wanted. It's all Danielle wanted, and it's all Ronnie wants." Crace concluded: "I think Danielle will leave quite a big mark on the Square and on the people in the Square - probably a bigger mark than she did when she was alive.
News of Danielle's death was subject to a media embargo, although several newspapers and magazines including the Radio Times leaked news of Crace's exit in advance of the event. Digital Spy's Kris Green reports that most of the online EastEnders community had anticipated the character's exit from the soap beforehand, some as early as January 2009. Danielle's death received a mixed reaction from the EastEnders fanbase, with 90% of viewers polled by The Sun opining that killing Danielle off was a mistake, however the decision was defended by Santer, who stated:
Last night's EastEnders contained all the elements of a classic soap episode – a wedding, high drama and tragedy. We acknowledge that we didn't deliver the happy ending that many of the audience may have been hoping for, and that for some people this was upsetting. We hope viewers understand that our aim is to deliver the best drama. That doesn't always lead to a happy ending. EastEnders - like all good drama - contains a balance of storylines, both happy and sad. We’re proud of the episode, the storyline which built up to it and the way the audience have engaged with it.
The BBC used viral promotion on the EastEnders homepage to further develop the character of Danielle. A new section named 'Danielle's Diary' was launched, encompassing events in the show from 6 October 2008 onwards, written in diary style from Danielle's point of view. Insight was given into the character's thoughts and feelings on the events surrounding her each week, beginning with the introduction: "Bit new to all this. Need some way to clear my head though. Can't really talk to Stace. Or Callum. Or anyone. Maybe if I write it all down, my head won't explode... Anyway, welcome to my life in Walford."
In this manner, viewers were able to keep up with the character during her temporary absence from the show in February 2009, when she returned home to Telford following her abortion: "Back in Dawley. Feels strange to be away from Stacey... away from R&R... away from Ronnie. Been sleeping a lot - so tired. When I was younger I never dreamt that I’d go through all of this. Stace keeps ringing, but I can’t speak to anyone. I can’t even listen to my voicemail", and were privy to Danielle's internal worries about her relationship with Ronnie: "It's like I scare R. It was as though she scared herself, as she actually admitted that she cared. For about ten seconds I felt close to her again. Like watching the sun appear from behind a cloud... feeling the warmth across your skin again. But, then it disappears as another cloud sweeps over it." The final entry, dated minutes before Danielle's on-screen death, reads: "All I ever wanted was for mum to look at me with love in her eyes. To call me her baby. To tell me she loved me. I have to leave now. I have to go back to Telford. Goodbye Walford." After the character had been killed off, the diary format gave way to a wall of memorial messages, supposedly penned by other EastEnders characters, including Abi Branning (Lorna Fitzgerald), Lucy Beale (Melissa Suffield), Callum and Stacey.
Danielle arrives in Walford having just moved away from her hometown of Telford. She is befriended by local resident Stacey Slater, who gives her a job on her market clothing stall and offers her the spare room in her family’s home. Danielle quickly develops a crush on fellow stall-trader Callum Monks, who leads her on in an attempt to make Stacey jealous. Callum helps Danielle acquire a second job, cleaning at The Queen Victoria public house, where she becomes embroiled in a feud between father and daughter Ronnie and Archie Mitchell. Both attempt to use Danielle to get information from the other, with Archie having Danielle steal Ronnie’s post. Ronnie discovers this and is furious, sacking Danielle from her job at club R&R, as well as publicly berating her. Danielle is devastated, and is later seen clutching a locket containing a photograph of Ronnie, revealing herself to be Ronnie's long-lost daughter Amy.
It transpires that Danielle is the result of a one-night stand between a then 14-year old Ronnie, and her first boyfriend, Joel Reynolds. Ronnie's father disapproved of her pregnancy, and put Danielle, named Amy by her mother, up for adoption within hours of her birth, for which Ronnie never forgave him. Danielle was adopted by Andy Jones (Aneirin Hughes) and his wife, and when her adoptive mother, Lizzie Jones, died in 2007, she decided to try and locate her birth mother. Following Ronnie's tirade against Danielle, she attempts to leave Albert Square, but is stopped by Stacey and her family and persuaded to stay with them. Ronnie’s sister Roxy gives birth to a baby girl who she names Amy, to Danielle’s surprise. Ronnie’s dislike of her lessens with time, and when Danielle falls out with Stacey and ends up squatting in a flat owned by landlord Ian Beale (Adam Woodyatt), Ronnie convinces him not to call the police.
Danielle later breaks down and confesses to Ronnie that she is pregnant by Paul, a barman she had a one-night-stand with, but who was only interested in her for sex. Ronnie comforts Danielle and then contacts Danielle's adoptive father and suggests he take her home to Telford, however Danielle resists in favour of staying in Walford, close to Ronnie. She is dismayed when Ronnie confides in her that having her own child was the biggest mistake of her life. Danielle makes up with Stacey, who advises her against terminating her pregnancy, however this is ultimately the course of action she decides upon. She is delighted when Ronnie accompanies her to the clinic, but dismayed when she backs out of attending her second appointment. Following her abortion, Danielle returns to Telford to stay with her family for a while, but soon comes to miss Ronnie and Stacey, and returns to Walford.
Danielle becomes increasingly angry with her mother for rejecting her. She decides that she will tell Ronnie who she really is and leave Walford for good, but is stopped by Archie who discovers she is his granddaughter. He had previously lied to Ronnie that Amy had died as an infant, so in order to preserve his story, he convinces Danielle that Ronnie suffers from depression, and she should keep quiet until he decides the time is right to make her revelation. Although Danielle continues to press Archie to reveal the truth, he repeatedly puts her off to maintain his lie. Eventually, believing that Archie has already told Ronnie about her, Danielle explains the truth and is rejected by her disbelieving mother. Distraught, Danielle is intent on leaving Walford once more, when Ronnie discovers her father has been lying all along. She chases after Danielle, and calls out to her. Danielle realizes that Ronnie believes her but just as the pair are reunited, Danielle is accidentally run over by Janine Butcher. Distraught, Ronnie cradles Danielle and apologises for not believing her, saying that if she had known, she would never have given her up. Danielle dies in her mother's arms. Her final credited appearance is the next day when her body is seen on a metal table.
Crace is pleased with the reaction Danielle has received over the mother-daughter storyline, explaining of public reception: "Everyone seems desperate to know why Danielle hasn't told Ronnie yet, so I'm taking that as a sign they're enjoying the story. Viewers are always telling me that they love it when Danielle and Ronnie have a scene together - I think they're on the edge of their seats, waiting to see when Danielle is finally going to admit the truth about her identity." Miles Hosken, a former mayor of Telford, welcomed the choice to give Danielle a Telford background. He stated "I think it’s wonderful Telford has been mentioned on national TV", with Sarah Raper, chief executive of economic development company Transforming Telford, commenting: "We hope the new character will portray Telford in a positive light and increase national awareness of the town", and Councillor Eric Carter, Telford & Wrekin Council cabinet member for regeneration, adding: "There are a lot of people working to put Telford on the map and this will help". The Daily Mirror have sympathised with the character over the storyline which saw her manipulated by Archie Mitchell, deeming "the way Archie uses poor little Danielle to spy on Ronnie" to be one of the more interesting EastEnders plot strands. However, The Guardian's Gareth McLean has described Danielle as a "wet weekend incarnate", criticizing the drawn out nature of the secret Mitchell storyline. Grace Dent has been similarly critical of the storyline, stating that "None of the scripts are any good". The Daily Mirror's Tony Stewart has written that "when a downcast Danielle walks into a room, it’s like all the lights have been switched off", while Jane Simon has christened the character "Drippy Danielle", writing that "If she's half Mitchell, her father must have been a marshmallow."
Danielle's final episode was watched by an average of 10.6 million viewers, peaking at 11.5 million during its broadcast, and attaining a 48.3% audience share. A further 1.2 million viewers watched the episode's repeat on BBC Three later that evening. The high ratings caused a power surge more than double the national average, seeing a grid surge of 1270MW compared to the 550MW usually experienced during EastEnders episodes. A National Grid spokeswoman commented that the surge was "equivalent to around half a million kettles being switched on at once." The episode was selected as recommended viewing by The Guardian's Sarah Dempster. Discussing the character's death, Digital Spy's Kris Green praised Crace's acting. He compared Danielle's revelation that Ronnie was her mother to the EastEnders storyline several years previously, when Kat Slater (Jessie Wallace) revealed she was actually the mother of her supposed sister Zoe (Michelle Ryan). Green opined: "Although it didn't quite capture the magic of [the Kat-Zoe scene] it definitely comes an extremely close second." He summarised: "I'd probably go as far as to say that it's one of the best episodes EastEnders has produced in a long time". Jane Simon called it "the EastEnders episode of the year", though was again critical of Danielle, writing: "As a nation we've been driven mad by Danielle screwing up her forehead, shrugging her shoulders and walking around like a wide eyed simpleton.She isn't the first person in the world to track down their biological mother and while it's seldom easy, I can't imagine it's ever been quite so hard as Danielle has made it." Writing for The Times, Tim Teeman was critical of the length of time it took for the storyline to conclude, calling it "the most drawn-out 'reveal' in soapland". He deemed Simon Ashdown's scripting of Danielle's exit to be "mad crescendo after mad crescendo", and the storyline as a whole "implausible", concluding that by the time Danielle died in Ronnie's arms: "EastEnders had hit the misery mother lode." Following Danielle's final episode, regulator Ofcom confirmed they had received a number of complaints from the public about the "violent nature of the show and the horrific death at the end", and the fact it was broadcast before the 9 p.m. watershed.