Fans may have been up in arms at the news that a brand new actress would be playing Michelle Fowler in EastEnders, but they’ve had little time to get used to the idea.
Just 24-hours after the news broke, the new look Michelle was pulling up in a taxi at Albert Square in the Christmas Eve soap special on Saturday night.
Actress Jenna Russell takes on the role from Susan Tully, and as she arrived in Walford headed straight for her late father Arthur’s memorial bench.
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Making her entrance: Jenna Russell’s Michelle Fowler made her Albert Square debut on Saturday night
Meanwhile, with her partner Phil Mitchell in dire straits, Sharon was sobbing outside the Queen Vic when her long lost best friend arrived.
Noticing her, Sharon called her friend by name, to ensure any long term EastEnders fans would realise a new actress was playing the feisty Fowler.
Susan had originally played the infamous role for a decade after she joined the soap from its conception in 1985 until she bid farewell to the show in October 1995.
Friends reunited: Sharon and Michelle were thrilled to see each other again
Hugging it out: Sharon and her old pal embraced in the Square
Is it really you? An upset Sharon notices Michelle looking at her across the Square
The 49-year-old – who gave up acting and is now a successful director – had soap bosses trying for nearly two decades to lure her back to the much-loved series but to no avail.
A source said: ‘EastEnders have been trying to convince Susan to come back for more than 20 years but they agreed enough was enough and have decided to recast the role.
‘They thought Jenna was a great fit and think she will do a great job as Michelle who is one of the most popular characters in the show’s history.
Who’s that girl: Fans are intrigued at the new storylines in store for the new look Michelle
Great job: The shows bosses apparently thought Jenna was a great fit and think she will do a great job as Michelle who is one of the most popular characters in the show’s history
Perfect timing: Michelle’s arrival came at a good time for a distressed Sharon
‘The show has faced accusations of being boring lately, but curveballs like this shows it still keeps viewers on the edge of their seats.’
A spokesperson for EastEnders told MailOnline they have no comment.
Now taking over the role, Jenna, 49, is best known for Olivier Award winning turn as Dot in Sunday in the Park with George in the West End and on Broadway.
The news of the replacement caused outrage on social media with a number of fans taking to Twitter in their droves to express their opinion.
One loyal viewer wrote: ‘Michelle Fowler has been recast! I think that for some characters you just can’t do that. Michelle is too much of a legend to change faces.’
She’s back! : Jenna Russell (left) plays Michelle Fowler in EastEnders instead of original actress Susan Tully, 49,(pictured in 1996)
Shaking things up: Meanwhile, Michelle was involved in a number of major storylines during her ten years on the BBC1 soap
The lady’s not returning: Susan Tully has been asked multiple times over the last two decades to go back to the square but she has refused
While another weighed in: ‘If its true that @bbceastenders have re cast Michelle Fowler its got to be one of there lowest moves sue made this character iconic’.
A fan posted: ‘I haven’t watched EastEnders in years but recasting Michelle Fowler? Could they not have dreamt up a new character for the actress to play?’
Before one echoed many’s sentiments: ‘Just when you think we’re safe from 2016, EastEnders go and recast Michelle Fowler.’
Meanwhile, Michelle has been involved in a number of major storylines during her ten years on the BBC1 soap.
Outrage: The startling reports have since caused outrage on social media with a number of fans taking to Twitter in their droves to express their opinion
She famously had two children from one-night stands on the series – Vicki, who she had with Dirty Den, and then Martin, who she had with Grant Mitchell.
Michelle has since been mentioned throughout the years on screen by her nearest and dearest but hasn’t appeared on the show since she moved to America in 1995.
The soap character missed family funerals, including her father Arthur, mother Pauline and brother Mark, and was even name checked by Ian Beale’s after his daughter Lucy died in 2014.
Shocking storylines: She famously had two children from one-night stands on the series – Vicki, who she had with Dirty Den, and then Martin, who she had with Grant Mitchell
Back in the day: Susan Tully (far right) pictured with Bill Treacher as Arthur Fowler, Wendy Richard as Pauline Fowler, Gillian Taylforth as Kathy Beale, Peter Dean as Pete Beale (back row) as well as Adam Woodyatt as Ian Beale, Anna Wing as Lou Beale (front row)
When it was revealed Peggy Mitchell – played by Barbara Windsor – was dying from cancer, Sharon called Michelle to inform her of the icon’s illness.
Yet, Michelle was too late to correspond with the landlady after a letter she sent her arrived the day following her death, but Sharon read the letter and immediately visited her.
Upon her return to Walford in August, Phil discovered the letter and discovered that Martin was his brother Grant’s son.
Back in the day: Michelle has since been mentioned throughout the years on screen by her nearest and dearest but hasn’t appeared on the show since she moved to America in 1995
Michelle Fowler (Susan Tully) and Lofty Holloway (Tom Watt) decorate the Christmas tree in the square. Many are furious at the show’s decision to recast the character