|Born||28 May 1959
Hackney, East London, England
Michelle Danielle Collins (born 28 May 1959 in Hackney, East London) is an actress best known for her roles on television in the BBC soap opera EastEnders, as Cindy Beale, and BBC dramas Sunburn and Two Thousand Acres of Sky. At one time, she was also a TV presenter on The Word.
Collins trained at the Royal Court Activists and Cockpit Youth Theatre from the age of fourteen, and then Kingsway Princeton College where she studied drama and theatre at O/A level.
After her exams, she landed a role in Bulgakov’s The Crimson Island at The Gate Theatre, directed by Lou Stein. Her career changed direction when, having performed in the video for the Squeeze song "Up the Junction", she joined Mari Wilson and The Wilsations as the backing singer, “Candide”. The band spent eighteen months touring the country, working with artists such as Marc Almond, Level 42, Altered Images and Kid Creole and the Coconuts.
When the band broke up in 1982, she went back into acting and with the help of her friend, the British actor Tim Roth, she successfully gained a part in a musical with the late Gary Hutton and Gary Shail known as H.M.V.
Collins's first TV appearance was with Gary Oldman in the BBC drama Morgan's Boy. Other TV credits included: two series of the sitcom Running Wild, where she played Ray Brooks daughter; a part in ITV drama The Bill; a Screen Two production Lucky Sunil, directed by Michael Caton Jones and a BBC play Pressures. She later appeared in three films: Personal Services, Empire State and Poliakov’s Hidden City.Collins appeared in an episode of the BBC's Bergerac (series 4) in 1985.
While she was filming the BBC play Pressures in 1988, Collins was spotted by EastEnders's producer Julia Smith, and she was asked to audition for the role of Cindy, who was due to feature in eleven episodes of the soap. However Collins excelled in her role, and the manipulative, reckless nature of her character was a hit with viewers so her contract was extended and the character became one of the most renowned villains in soap history. She played Cindy Beale, the unfaithful wife of EastEnders stalwart Ian Beale (Adam Woodyatt), from 1988 - 1998. During breaks from Eastenders she filmed the drama Real Women for the BBC, with Pauline Quirke and Frances Barber. The drama was a success and it helped to confirm Collins as a versatile actress of considerable stature. Contrary to popular belief, she did not appear in the popular comedy show Knowing Me, Knowing You with Alan Partridge 1994. "Michelle Collins" is credited as a magician's assistant, but the role was played by a different actress with the same name, as confirmed in the audio commentary on its DVD release.
After leaving EastEnders in 1998 (when her character met an untimely demise offscreen), her career flourished with a series of drama roles. These include: two series of Real Women (BBC1); two series of Sunburn (BBC1), for which Collins also sang the theme song (which was a minor hit in the UK Singles Chart in 1999) reaching the official UK top 40 at Number 28!; Daylight Robbery (ITV); The Sleeper (BBC1); Uprising (ITV): three series of Two Thousand Acres of Sky (BBC1): the 2-part series Perfect (ITV); Lloyd and the Hill (ITV) and Ella and the Mothers (BBC1). In 2003 Collins played Sarah Barton in Single, which further established her reputation for playing tough, contemporary women who also have a touching vulnerability.
In 2003 Collins filmed the BBC drama Sea of Souls and then went on to star in a film for Granada/Channel 4 called The Illustrated Mum, which told the story of two girls coping with the unpredictable behaviour of their depressed, alcoholic mother. The film, written by Jacqueline Wilson, was based on the children’s novel of the same name. It was screened to great acclaim over Christmas 2003 and won an Emmy Award and two BAFTAs.
In 2004 she starred in an episode of the British comic sketch show French and Saunders and also starred alongside fellow EastEnders actor Martin Kemp in the ITV drama Can't Buy Me Love, which was watched by nearly 8 million viewers. The programme was inspired by the real-life story of Howard Walmsley, who was jailed for fraud after pretending to win the lottery in order to keep his wife Donna (played by Collins) from leaving him. Their lives and marriage were subsequently turned upside down by the events that unfolded.
She starred in the West End musical Daddy Cool, and while working during the night there shot sequences for a cameo in the short film Broken written and directed by Vicki Psarias, which went on to win the several international awards. She also featured in the film Don't Stop Dreaming, released in 2007. She left Daddy Cool in January 2007 to shoot the Doctor Who episode "42". .
In July 2009, Collins expressed interest in returning to EastEnders, despite the fact her character Cindy, died off screen in 1998. She acknowledged it would be unlikely that producers could come up with a believable storyline.
Collins has a daughter, Maia Rose (b. 1996) with ex-boyfriend Fabrizio Tassalini, who herself has appeared in various acting jobs, such as the short film 'Play'. Her pregnancy was written into her return to EastEnders the same year. Although having sperated some time ago, Tassalini lives in Muswell Hill close to Collins and their daughter.
Collins's complex love life includes dating cameraman Mark Waters, whom she met while filming the BBC travel rep drama Sunburn, for two years. Collins and her Welsh boyfriend Parry Cockwell called off their wedding in February 2005, saying things were moving too fast, before splitting in October 2005.
Collins is involved in charitable causes. She is an ambassador for Oxfam and has visited Brazil, South Africa and Armenia promoting the need for the basic right to education. She also continues to be involved with a variety of fund raising projects for Stonewall, Smart Justice; and Breakthrough Breast Cancer where she is a spokesperson for a project to recruit 100,000 women to research the causes of breast cancer.