|Portrayed by||Adam Woodyatt|
|Created by||Tony Holland|
|First appearance||19 February 1985|
|Spin-off appearances||EastEnders: E20|
|Date of birth||1 March 1969|
|Home||45 Albert Square|
Ian Albert Beale is a fictional character from the BBC soap opera EastEnders, played by Adam Woodyatt. He is the only character to have appeared continuously since the first episode on 19 February 1985. The character appeared in his 2,000th episode in the show on 26 March 2007.
Ian is the son of Pete and Kathy Beale, father of Lucy, Peter and Bobby Beale, nephew of Pauline Fowler and cousin of Mark, Michelle and Martin. Ian is currently married to Jane, his fourth wife. Ian is currently the longest serving character in EastEnders.
Ian Beale is one of the original twenty-three characters invented by the creators of EastEnders, Tony Holland and Julia Smith. Ian is a member of the first family of EastEnders, the Beales and Fowlers, and Holland took the inspiration for some of the series' earliest characters from his own London family and background. Ian's original character outline as written by Smith and Holland appeared in an abridged form in their book, EastEnders: The Inside Story.
Ian was meant to be fourteen when the programme first aired, but because of licensing regulations, the actor cast was required to be a 16 year old who could 'play down'. Because the actress playing Ian's mother (Gillian Taylforth) was fair, they also wanted him to be fair, and because of Taylforth's age he also had to look very young. Adam Woodyatt, born in East London, had worked as an actor in his youth, but had given it up and relocated with his family to Wales. He was recruited from his old agency and it was decided that he was perfect for the part and he was subsequently cast as Ian Beale.
Ian Beale has gone on to be the longest running character in the soap's history, and is the only remaining original character. Initial storylines shaped Ian as a sensitive young boy with professional aspirations that went against his father's wishes. Not content to follow in his father's footsteps and take over the family fruit and veg stall, Ian wanted to become a chef and this caused a certain amount of hostility between him and his father, who viewed the occupation as effeminate. Ian's keenness to succeed in his business ventures continued as the character grew, so much so that he started using underhand methods in order to get what he wanted and has arguably become one of the soap's most renowned 'slimeballs'. The character is regularly referred to as a "weasel" in the British press and has been voted one of the top five television characters "we most love to hate" in a Channel 4 poll in 2001.
In 1990, a deliberate continuity error (SORAS) saw Ian celebrating his twenty-first birthday just two years after his eighteenth. The producers felt that Ian needed to be a bit older, as they wanted him to be more mature for the storylines they were planning for him later in the year.
Obsession with success has been an underlying theme with the character for almost the entire duration of the show, but the acceleration of Ian's nasty side can perhaps be traced back to his disastrous first marriage to one of EastEnders most renowned bitches, Cindy Beale. The storyline centred on Ian's discovery that the child he thought was his (Steven), was actually his best friend's. The climax of this revelation was known to script-writers as the "Devon cottage climax" and aired in September 1990. The episode saw an enraged Ian trace Cindy and Simon Wicks to her parents' house in Devon, just after being released from hospital following a failed suicide bid. The script, written by Debbie Cook, led to a confrontation that contained elements of tragedy and farce. Particularly memorable was Ian furiously throwing bricks through the window of the house, followed by one of his crutches. The episode ended ominously with Ian finding Cindy's father's shotgun and stealing it. Directed by Matthew Evans, these episodes not only brought the story to a shocking climax but also laid roots for the next three months' worth of storylines, building up to Cindy and Simon's departure, and Ian's spectacular fall from grace.
Other notable storylines include Ian's attempted murder at the hands of Cindy, two other marriages both ending in disaster, the loss and rebuilding of his business empire, and an on-going feud with his stepfather hardman Phil Mitchell.
Initially portrayed as quiet and caring, Ian was too sensitive for his father Pete's liking. Ian's penchant for cooking displeased Pete so much that Ian took up boxing briefly in 1985, just to prove his masculinity.
From an early age, Ian got a keen interest in business. He began a short-lived knitting company ("Loftelian") with his friends Kelvin Carpenter and Lofty Holloway in 1985, and in 1988, became partners with Barry Clark, running a mobile disco. After successfully graduating from catering college, Ian began working for Ali Osman in his café on Bridge Street, whilst hiring himself out as a private caterer on the side. He began to show signs of becoming a ruthless businessman when he lent his café bosses, Ali and Mehmet, money at interest to finance their gambling. When Ali could no longer afford the repayments, Ian secured ownership. Ian transformed the café from a "greasy spoon" to a slightly more upmarket establishment.
After several unsuccessful relationships in his teens - Sharon Watts, Tina Hopkins and his cousin, Elizabeth - Ian began dating Cindy Williams in 1988. Cindy was attracted to Ian's money-making capabilities. They got engaged in February 1989; however, Cindy then had a one-night-stand with her former lover Simon Wicks and their tryst left her pregnant. The prospect of fatherhood frightened Simon, so Cindy begrudgingly married Ian in October 1989 and pretended her baby was his.
The baby was born on Boxing Day 1989 - a boy named Steven. Simon developed paternal instincts for the child. Whilst Ian was busy building a successful business, Cindy and Simon rekindled their romance, and in August 1990, Cindy told Ian that Steven wasn't his son. In a fury, Ian drove off and deliberately crashed his van in a suicide bid. While he lay in hospital, Cindy and Simon went to her mother's house in Devon. Ian followed them and was unhinged to discover Cindy with Simon. A feud erupted between the Beales and the Wickses. Ian started a campaign for revenge. He employed Simon as a driver and tampered with his van's brakes. This backfired when Ian discovered Simon was about to take Steven in the van with him. After the inevitable accident, it became clear that Ian was responsible, so Simon, Cindy and Steven left Walford in December 1990.
Ian engrossed himself in his catering business, "The Meal Machine", aided by Hattie Tavernier, though his exploitative working practices alienated his friends, employees and family. An affair with his older employer, Ronnie Bains, did not last long, as he missed Cindy and Steven. Ian traced Cindy in 1992 and discovered she had been abandoned by Simon. Ian began wooing her and, despite hostilities from Ian's mother Kathy, they reconciled in 1993. Things did not go smoothly for the couple. Cindy attracted the attention of market inspector Richard Cole, who took her rejection badly and sought revenge — he got the Meal Machine shut down by environmental health, and later when Cindy fell pregnant, told everyone that he was the father. Ian was ready to believe the worst, but truth prevailed, and Ian was overjoyed when Cindy delivered twins, Peter and Lucy, in December 1993. 1994 saw Ian embark on a new business venture, operating as a loan shark, before deciding that being a usurer wasn't for him, and opening a fish and chip shop. He became so obsessed with building his business empire and hounding Richard Cole out of the Square that he neglected Cindy. She found distraction elsewhere, embarking on two affairs, firstly with a lifeguard named Matt in 1994 and then with Simon's brother, David Wicks, in 1995.
By 1996, Cindy decided to leave Ian for David. David was uncertain but by now, Ian had become suspicious. He hired a private investigator to follow Cindy and was given a video of Cindy and David together. Ian took Cindy to court and was granted custody of their children - he blackmailed Cindy so she would agree to his terms. Cindy was forced to return to Ian so she could be near her kids. Unfortunately Ian made her life a misery, she decided to hire a hit man, John Valecue, who agreed to kill Ian for £1,500. A car pulled up alongside Ian and he was shot. Ian was only winged and recovered, but Cindy buckled under the pressure from the police and fled. She planned to snatch her children but she was unable to get to Lucy; Cindy was forced to leave without her. Ian was determined to retrieve his sons. He and investigator, Ros Thorne — who Ian also had a fling with — traced Cindy to Italy in 1997 with Phil and Grant Mitchell in tow. Whilst Ian distracted Cindy, Grant and Phil snatched Peter and Steven. Cindy refused to give her children up, returning to Walford with her wealthy boyfriend Nick Holland. She took Ian to court for custody of the children and won. However, with Annie Palmer's help, the imprisoned hitman was persuaded to implicate Cindy in Ian's attempted murder. Cindy, who was again pregnant, was jailed on remand, but died several months later in childbirth.
In 1998 Ian opened up a new bric-a-brac shop in Walford, employing Melanie Healy to manage it. Melanie was drawn to Ian when she saw what a loving father he was. Their romance began in 1999 and Mel proposed in August, agreeing to Ian's plans for a spectacular millennium wedding. However, while on holiday to Brighton, Mel slept with Steve Owen and began to have second thoughts about marrying Ian.
However, Ian's daughter, Lucy, was ill with suspected lymphoma, so Mel stuck by them. As the countdown to the millennium began, Mel realised that she was marrying Ian for the wrong reasons. Ian, guessing that Mel was trying to leave him, falsely told her that Lucy was dying to emotionally blackmail her into marriage - she had been given the all-clear. The ploy worked and Ian and Mel married in a joint wedding with Barry and Natalie Evans on New Year's Eve 1999. However, during their wedding reception, Mel found the letter giving Lucy the all-clear and left Ian as the clock struck midnight.
Ian threw himself into a new business venture: construction and renovation of high-market flats. He hired a new nanny, Laura Dunn, to look after his children. She was attracted to Ian so he took advantage and began using her for sex. After months of a casual relationship, Laura began demanding more commitment. He initially refused but changed his mind after his latest business venture left him bankrupt. Laura stood by him, raising the money to buy back the fish and chip shop and, in April 2001, Ian proposed. Despite initial fears that Ian only wanted her money, Laura accepted and they married in May.
They were happy for a while, but their marriage began to deteriorate after Laura found out that Ian had tried to kiss Mel. With Laura asserting herself as boss of the businesses, Ian felt worthless and belittled. When Laura said she wanted a baby, Ian refused, feeling three children was enough. Regular arguments followed so Ian started visiting local prostitute, Janine Butcher, to escape Laura's nagging. This backfired when Janine started blackmailing Ian. Laura discovered the truth from Ian's son, Steven, who saw Ian and Janine together, told Laura, and then moved to New Zealand to live with his biological father, Simon Wicks.
Laura forgave Ian, providing they could have a baby. He agreed but secretly had a vasectomy, telling the doctor that he was a widower. However, when Laura fell pregnant, later that year, Ian threw her out on Christmas Day 2002. He was so sure that her child wasn't his that he conned her into signing over control of their businesses. Laura had no choice but to turn to the man she thought was the father, Garry Hobbs. In 2003, Laura gave birth to a son, Bobby. Baby Bobby was sickly and needed a blood transfusion. Laura's blood was incompatible so she asked Garry but his blood was incompatible too, meaning he wasn't Bobby's father. Laura realised then that Ian had to be but kept this information to herself. Laura and Ian's feud continued until Laura's death in 2004 — she broke her neck after falling down the stairs. Pat Evans found Bobby's birth certificate which named Ian as the true father — Ian's vasectomy had worked but he was told not to have sex for six weeks so the procedure would have time to work. Not wanting to make Laura suspicious, he ignored this and Laura got pregnant. Bobby moved in with Ian shortly before his first birthday.
Ian's most notable feud has been with Phil Mitchell. Their long-standing rivalry began in 1995, when Phil flushed Ian's head down the toilet and then married his mother, destroying her life with abuse and alcoholism. Various vengeful tricks were played. Phil delighted in making Ian beg for a loan and then refused, leaving him bankrupt in 2000. Animosity escalated in 2001 after it was revealed that Ian had discovered Phil's wounded body and left him to die. Later, in April 2005, Ian tricked Phil into thinking he was helping him escape from police, but had him arrested instead. When he was released, Phil got revenge on Ian by bullying him into relinquishing ownership of his auto mechanic business (The Arches) — Ian had bought it off Phil's sister Sam for a pittance a year earlier.
After Kathy's death in 2006, Ian brought his half brother Ben to live with him and a custody battle ensued between him and Ben's father, Phil. Despite continuous meddling from Ian, Ben eventually opted to live with Phil. Following escalation of conflict in April 2007, Ian and Phil were persuaded to call a reluctant truce. They took their children camping, which ended in disaster after Phil crashed their car whilst arguing with Ian. The car rolled down a hill with Ben and Peter inside and crashed into a lake; it was left to Phil to dive in and save the drowning boys. Ian and Phil appeared to make peace after this, though it was short-lived.
Ian met a new romantic interest, Jane Collins, in 2004. They were initially hostile to each other, but they became friends and their friendship blossomed into attraction. When Ian acted upon this, Jane rejected him — she was married, and her husband David was terminally ill with Huntington's disease. Ian helped her come to terms with David's eventual death; they began a relationship and Jane moved in with the Beales. In 2006, Jane became frustrated by Ian's antagonistic attitude towards Phil. She was tempted by the charms of Phil's brother Grant. They began a brief affair, though Jane was plagued by feelings of guilt and finished with Grant. Ian eventually learnt about Jane's infidelity from Phil, but instead of being angry with Jane he decided to propose marriage. The wedding was a sham. He intended to humiliate Jane by publicly jilting her at the altar, but she discovered the truth and jilted Ian instead. Ian found Jane wandering around Albert Square in her wedding dress, devastated and soaked by torrential rain. They argued and ended up fighting in the mud, but after some talking they realised that they loved each other too much to split. They reunited, eventually marrying in July 2007.
Ian despaired in 2007 when his daughter, Lucy, became surly and rebellious. She began speaking to a mysterious person who began obsessively stalking Ian, claiming to be Cindy. Ian became anxious, paranoid and desperate to discover the stalker's identity. The stalker lured him to an abandoned block of flats, where he discovered a room filled with photos of Cindy. Ian came face-to-face with his stalker, Cindy's eldest son Steven. Ian was held hostage for weeks, while Steven returned to Walford to reunite with his brother and sister. In October, Steven returned to the flat, bringing Lucy with him. Lucy escaped and summoned Jane. Steven realised how depressed he was and pointed a gun to his head. Ian, Jane and Lucy tried to stop him; Jane was accidentally shot in the stomach and given a hysterectomy. Ian took Steven to a psychiatric hospital, but when he was released, Ian wanted nothing to do with him. Ian relented when he realised Steven was suicidal, and despite Jane's protests, Steven moved back in with the Beales. Animosity between Ian and Lucy continued until Lucy decided to run away in 2008. Ian was frantic. It transpired that Steven was aiding her disappearance. When Ian discovered this, he banished Steven from his life; Lucy returned home.
In 2009, Ian, Jane and Bobby went on holiday to Scotland. While away, the cafe exploded due to Nick Cotton. He returned in shock of what happened and confessed to Jane that he hadn't renewed the cafe's insurance policy before the explosion; although he did have the café refurbished to a 1950s American theme a couple of weeks later after taking dividends from Masala Queen. In July 2009 Ian entered Bobby into a children's talent contest but discovered his friend Colin is a better singer. Bobby lip-synced but Dotty Cotton exposed them. Jane wishes to adopt a child in October 2009, but Ian insists that his children are enough. Ian finally agrees, but Jane can see it is only for her sake. Ian threatens not to take her back when she leaves in a taxi. He tries to kiss Jane's best friend Tanya Branning but is rejected by throwing wine at him. Ian still misses Jane even though he states he wouldn't take her back. However he did not realised that her departure had affected Bobby the most as at one time Bobby shouted at him and that he wanted his mother, who he classes Jane as his own.
Phil gets into debt and tries to con Ian with the help of Max Branning, but Archie Mitchell warns him that it is a scam. Ian then gives Phil a loan on the condition that if the money is not paid back in two weeks, Ian gets The Queen Victoria public house. Archie tries to convince Ian to sell him the loan as he is trying to ruin the Mitchells. Ian then spends most of the day in the pub getting drunk. He sets up a date with a woman named Fiona (Madeleine Bowyer) through a dating website. He meets her in The Queen Victoria but has no money to pay for the champagne he ordered because the barman Ryan Malloy (Neil McDermott) goes back on an agreement with Ian to let him have drinks for free, and Fiona leaves. Janine asks Ian to dinner and he arrives early, telling Janine that he has worked out that she is trying to get him to sell the loan to her. Janine says Ian is still in love with Jane and he talks about his problems with Jane as he gets drunk, eventually falling asleep in Janine's bed. The next day he rushes to leave, offering Janine money. Janine later shows Archie a recording of her and Ian having sex and plans to bribe Ian with it.
Janine manipulates Lucy into giving Ian Jane's address in Epping and he goes there to find her. She refuses to come home and Ian gives her a picture that Bobby drew before he leaves. When he gets home, Lucy tells him that Bobby has gone missing from school. Jane returns to help search for Bobby, and when he is found, Jane realises that Bobby is as much her son as any child she could adopt and agrees to move back in. Janine then plays the recording to Ian, saying he must sign the loan over to her and Archie or she will give it to Jane. Ian realises that Janine and Archie are working together but refuses to sell them the loan for Ben's sake. However, after spending time with Jane, he signs it over to them. He subsequently tries to avoid Phil and Peggy, and when Phil thanks him for the extension and offers him a cheque, Ian says they might need the money for Christmas. However, Archie and Janine take control of the pub as the Mitchells celebrate. On Christmas Day, Archie tells Ian the CD recording of Ian and Janine is wrapped as a gift to Jane, under Ian's tree. Ian cannot find it and later breaks into The Queen Victoria to look for it. Archie hears him and says there is no CD but it is on his laptop and he can make copies at any time. Archie expels Ian from the pub and Ian is later seen nearby just before Archie is murdered. Ian later gets the laptop and takes it home where he deletes the file of the recording. When Peter asks about the laptop, he says he decided to treat himself to an upgrade but it is faulty and he will have to take it back.
Ian hides the laptop during the night and the next day Billy Mitchell tells him the police found evidence of a burglary. Ian returns home to find Lucy using the laptop, saying she has fixed it. Ian grabs it and tells her never to touch it, but she says she does not understand why. Unbeknown to Ian, Peter uses the laptop and deletes some files, but changes his mind and asks Tamwar Masood to try to recover them. Tamwar finds the recording of Ian and Janine and his mother, Zainab, hears it. After an argument between Zainab and Jane, Zainab brings the laptop to the Beales' and plays the audio file. Ian explains to Jane that he was set up by Janine and Archie and when Jane asks him if he is hiding anything else, he says it is Archie's laptop and he was using the file to blackmail Ian. He says he broke in to The Queen Victoria on Christmas Day and Jane suspects Ian of murdering Archie. They go to the canal together to dispose of the laptop. Ian tells Jane he has contacted an adoption agency, but she says it is not a good time. However, she agrees to a visit from a social worker. Janine arrives and threatens to tell the police about Archie's laptop unless they pay her £10,000. Ian tells Jane he will go to the police and tell them the truth before Janine gets a chance to twist it. Before he goes in, Jane stops him and says to pay Janine the money. When they get home, the social worker is there with Janine. Ian tells Janine to meet her later, and he offers her £500. He returns home and tells Jane everything is sorted. The meeting with the social worker goes well so they go to The Queen Victoria to celebrate but DCI Jill Marsden turns up to arrest him. While he is in custody, Janine tells the police that Ian took advantage of her and the police search the Beales' house. In interview, Ian gives no comment until he is shown CCTV footage of him throwing the laptop into the canal and is then shown the recovered laptop. He confesses to breaking in and stealing it but denies murder. Marsden later charges him with murder. When Jane is allowed to visit Ian, he tells her about the laptop and CCTV. Jane says they will fight and win. She tells Pat Evans, who tries to get Janine to change her story. Janine eventually does, so Marsden tells Ian the murder charge has been dropped due to new evidence, but there is still the matter of the stolen laptop.
Ian returns home and says he is going to Archie's funeral. Jane wonders if it is just so he can dance on Archie's grave. Phil tells Ian they have both got what they wanted so they can wipe the slate clean and they shake hands, but Ian thinks he is just doing it because the police are watching. Weeks later, Ian digs up a box from the allotment, seen by Lucy. When Lucy is drunk the next day, she threatens to tell Jane about the box and says maybe Ian did kill Archie. Phil overhears and asks to speak to Lucy, who refuses to say anything. Phil then ransacks Ian's house looking for the box, but it contains old family photos and videos. Ian later sees Bradley Branning fall to his death after being chased by police officers.
Ian forbids Lucy from seeing Leon Small, and grounds her when she tries to leave, taking her stereo until she agrees to follow his rules. Jane tells Lucy she should go on the pill, and she is moody when she returns from the doctor's. Ian receives a suspended sentence and community service for stealing Archie's laptop and they plan Ian's birthday celebrations with a holiday to Spain, as it may be their last chance of a holiday before they adopt a baby. When Lucy comes in calling Peter stupid and says Jane does not deserve a baby, she tears up the plane tickets and runs out. Jane follows her and she reveals to Jane she is pregnant by Leon. Lucy apologises to Ian for her behaviour and they hug. Jane says she has not told Ian, and Lucy doesn't have to. Jane says Lucy should think about having an abortion, but Lucy offers Jane to raise the baby as her own, and she accepts. Lucy and Jane tell Ian that Lucy is pregnant, and he reacts badly, attempting to book an abortion and find Leon. When they tell him their plan, he says they are mad. He later seeks advice from Dot Branning and agrees to the plan but tells Peter he will try to make Lucy see she is making a mistake by telling her people will make fun of her. However, she says she does not care. He steals a DVD from his employee Marie of her giving birth and surprises the family with it at a DVD night. Although Lucy is sick watching it, she says she should watch it and afterwards, says she has seen worse in sex education classes, and still wants to go through with the plan. Ian admits to Jane that it was he who wanted to watch the DVD and realises that Lucy's baby is real and he cannot force her to have an abortion.
In 2009, Ian Beale came ninth in a poll by British men's magazine Loaded for 'Top Soap Bloke'. Woodyatt has received a number of award nominations for his portrayal of Ian, including a best actor nomination at the British Soap Awards In 2010.