Ian is the son of Pete and Kathy Beale, the father of Lucy, Peter and Bobby Beale, the nephew of Pauline Fowler and cousin of Mark, Michelle and Martin. Ian is currently married to Jane, his fourth wife.
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 one of the longest running characters in the soap's history, and as of December 2006 he is the only remaining original character left in the soap after Wendy Richard's departure. 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, 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 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 for a while in 1985, just to prove his masculinity.
Unsuccessful with women, Ian had failed relationships with his childhood friend Sharon Watts in 1986, and fellow student Tina Hopkins in 1987. Against the wishes of his parents, Ian moved in with Tina, but the couple soon found life with no money a struggle. Their relationship ended when Tina's parents forced her to return home. Ian's romance with his promiscuous cousin, Elizabeth, was just as brief, and his attraction towards barmaid Donna Ludlow turned out to be incestuous — she was actually his half sister, using him to get closer to his mother Kathy, who had put Donna up for adoption as a baby.
From an early age, Ian took 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 he became partners with Barry Clark, running a mobile disco — which ended when petty criminal Darren Roberts disappeared with all their money, and their equipment was repossessed. 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. This eventually led to Ian taking over full ownership of the café in 1989, when Ali could no longer afford the repayments. After a failed attempt at an insurance scam, Ian forced Ali to sign the lease over to him. Ian transformed the café from a "greasy spoon" to a slightly more upmarket establishment.
The baby was born on Boxing Day 1989, a boy, named Steven, and Simon soon developed a paternal instinct for the child. Whilst Ian was busy building a successful business, Cindy and Simon rekindled their romance, and in August 1990, Cindy finally decided to tell Ian that Steven was not his son — although she refused to name the real father. In a fury, Ian drove off and deliberately crashed his van in a suicide bid. While he lay in hospital, Cindy and Simon escaped 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 — who still couldn't accept that Steven wasn't his son — had blood tests performed and learned that he was definitely not the father. He abandoned his plans to seek custody and started a campaign for revenge, first getting Simon fired from his job at The Queen Vic and then tampering with the brakes in his van. This backfired when Ian discovered that Simon was about to take Steven in the van with him; he was forced to travel with Simon instead. After the inevitable accident, it became clear that Ian was responsible, so Simon, Cindy and Steven all departed Walford in December 1990.
With Cindy gone, Ian engrossed himself in his catering business, "The Meal Machine", aided by the eager Hattie Tavernier, though his exploitative working practices alienated his friends, employees and family. Ian began to show signs of just how lonely he was by drinking; making an impromptu pass at Hattie and purposefully causing problems in her relationship with Steve Elliot; hiring out escorts for dates and picking up prostitutes. An affair with his older employer, Ronnie Bains, did not last long, and he desperately missed Cindy and Steven. Ian tracked Cindy down in 1992 and discovered that she was living in a bed-sit, having been abandoned by Simon. Ian began wooing her and, despite hostilities from Ian's mother Kathy, they eventually reconciled in 1993. Things did not go smoothly for the couple. Cindy attracted the attentions of the market inspector Richard Cole, who took her rejection badly and sought revenge on the Beales — 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 distractions elsewhere, embarking on two affairs, firstly with a lifeguard named Matt in 1994 and then with the brother of Simon, David Wicks, in 1995.
Cindy became infatuated with David and in 1996 she decided that she wanted to leave Ian. David remained uncertain, but by this time Ian had grown suspicious. He hired a private investigator to follow Cindy. The proof he brought was a video tape of Cindy and David romping together, which was too much for Ian to handle. He took Cindy to court, and was granted custody of their children—he blackmailed Cindy into agreeing to his terms. Cindy was forced to return to Ian to be near her kids, but when Ian made her life a misery she decided to rid herself of him once and for all. She hired a hit man, John Valecue, who agreed to dispose of Ian for £1500. Just when Cindy began to rethink the situation, 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 decided to flee Walford. She planned to snatch her three children, but she was unable to get to Lucy; Cindy was forced to leave the country 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 and followed her there in 1997 with Phil and Grant Mitchell in tow. Whilst Ian distracted Cindy, Grant and Phil re-abducted Peter and Steven. Cindy refused to give her children up, and she returned to Walford with her wealthy boyfriend Nick Holland. She took Ian to court for custody of the children and won the case. 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 she died several months later in childbirth. Ian was given temporary custody of Cindy's new born daughter, Cindy Junior, but he quickly passed her on to Cindy's sister Gina — who he also shared a kiss with.
In 1998 Ian opened up a new bric-a-brac shop in Walford, employing Melanie Healy to manage the shop for him. Melanie was on the rebound from Steve Owen and she soon found herself drawn to Ian, particularly when she saw what a loving father he was. Their romance was kindled in 1999 and by May they were not only living and working together, they were also sleeping together. Mel proposed to Ian in August and agreed to Ian's plans for a spectacular millennium wedding. However, on a subsequent holiday to Brighton, Mel ended up in bed with Steve Owen, and she began to have second thoughts about marrying Ian. However, Ian had discovered that his daughter Lucy was ill with suspected lymphoma, so Mel decided that she couldn't abandon her new family. As the countdown to the millennium began, Mel realised that she was marrying Ian for all the wrong reasons. Ian, guessing that Mel was trying to leave him, falsely told her that Lucy's was dying in order to emotionally blackmail her into marriage—she had actually 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 out the truth about Lucy, and left Ian as the clock struck midnight into the new year.
Ian threw himself into a new business venture, construction and renovation of some high-market flats. He hired a new nanny, Laura Dunn, to tend to his children. She was attracted to Ian, and although Laura was less glamorous than his other women, Ian took advantage and began using her for sex. After months of being in a casual relationship, Laura began to demand more commitment from Ian. He initially refused, but had a change of heart after his overzealous business venture left him bankrupt. Laura stood by him, raising the funds to buy back Ian's repossessed fish and chip shop and, in April 2001, Ian proposed marriage. Despite initial fears that Ian only wanted her money, Laura accepted and they married in May.
They remained happy for a while, but their marriage began to deteriorate after Laura discovered that Ian had tried to kiss his catering partner and ex-wife, Mel. With Laura asserting herself as boss of the Beales businesses, Ian began to feel worthless and belittled. Laura then decided that she wanted a baby, which Ian flatly refused. Regular arguments followed, and a dishevelled Ian then started frequenting the local prostitute, Janine Butcher, to escape his nagging wife. This backfired when Janine began blackmailing money from Ian for her silence. However, Laura discovered the truth in the end, from Ian's son, Steven, who witnessed Ian and Janine together, informed Laura, and then went to live with his biological father, Simon Wicks, in New Zealand.
Laura took Ian back on the promise that he would provide her with a child. He agreed, but then secretly went behind her back and had a vasectomy. However, later in the year Laura did fall pregnant. Thinking that the child could not be his, Ian threw Laura out on Christmas Day 2002 after conning her into signing over control of their businesses. Laura had no choice but to turn to the man that she thought was the father, Garry Hobbs. In 2003 Laura gave birth to a son, Bobby. Bobby was sickly at birth, and had to have a blood transfusion - during which it became clear that Garry wasn't his father after all, meaning that Ian was. Laura decided to keep this information to herself, and appropriated Garry as the father. Laura and Ian continued to feud right up until Laura's death in 2004 — she fell down the stairs in her flat and died. Pat Evans discovered Bobby's birth certificate which revealed Ian as the true father — Ian's vasectomy had worked, but he had ignored the instruction for sexual abstinence for six weeks, resulting in Laura's pregnancy. Bobby came to live with Ian shortly before his first birthday.
Ian has had various feuds over the years, and once even tried to have Wellard euthanised in 2004 after the dog bit him on his backside, though he was unsuccessful. 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 took great delight in making Ian beg on his knees for a loan, and then refused him, leaving him bankrupt in 2000. Animosity escalated in 2001 after it was revealed that Ian had discovered Phil's body after he was shot, and had 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 returned from prison later that year, 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. Ian was loath to let Ben see his father, Phil, and many rows erupted, which upset Ben. He ran away from home, forcing Phil and Ian to re-evaluate their behaviour. Ian resentfully allowed Ben to live with Phil, though he continued to meddle in their relationship. Following escalation of conflict in April 2007, Ian and Phil were persuaded to call a reluctant truce. They took their children on a camping holiday, which ended in disaster after Phil crashed his car whilst arguing with Ian. While Phil and an injured Ian continued to squabble, neither noticed the car rolling down a hill, with Ben and Peter still inside. The car crashed into a lake and it was left to Phil to dive in and save the drowning boys. Peter was dragged up unconscious, and while a devastated Ian panicked, Phil gave Peter mouth to mouth resuscitation, saving his life. Ian and Phil appeared to make peace after this, though it was short-lived, and Ian was quick to blame Phil when he discovered that Ben had been abused by Phil's girlfriend, Stella Crawford. Further petty feuding since developed between Ian and Phil's cousins, Ronnie and Roxy.
In 2006, Jane became frustrated by Ian's antagonistic attitude towards Phil. He became so preoccupied in his vendetta that he began to neglect her and 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, realising that she loved Ian, finished with Grant. Ian was none the wiser, but he continued to upset Jane—paying Dawn Swann to act as his wife at the Walford Community Charity Trust committee. This charade lasted for a couple of months, ending when Jane discovered what Ian was up to, only to forgive him because she felt guilty for having an affair. Ian eventually learnt about Jane's infidelity from Phil, who silenced him with the truth during an altercation. Ian was stunned, but instead of being angry with Jane he decided to propose marriage. However, he later revealed to his aunt, Pauline, that the wedding was a sham. He intended to humiliate Jane on their wedding day, by publicly jilting her at the altar, but she discovered the truth from Phil and jilted Ian at the altar instead. Ian found Jane wandering around Albert Square in her wedding dress, devastated and soaked by torrential rain. They argued and ended up fighting each other 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.
He was held hostage for weeks, while Steven returned to Walford to reunite with his brother and sister. However, on 12 October 2007, Steven returned to the flat, bringing Lucy with him. After confrontation Lucy was asked to wait outside whilst they talked. Lucy escaped and brought Jane to the flat. Steven then threatened to shoot Ian to stop him calling the police. Steven realised how depressed he was and pointed the gun to his head. Ian, Jane and Lucy tried to stop him and a struggle ensued. In the struggle, Jane was shot in the stomach and taken to hospital. Before being operated on, Ian and Jane said that when she recovered, they would have a baby of their own, however, the doctors were unable stop the bleeding around her pelvis and she was therefore given a hysterectomy. Ian confronted Steven who told Ian he thought he was unwell as things made sense one minute and not the next. Ian then took Steven to a psychiatric hospital where Steven decided to stay. He was furious when Pat announced that she was taking Steven in to live with her.
Ian and Steven constantly clashed whenever they came across each other. Ian was hoping that by not accepting Steven, he would go back to New Zealand. When Steven decided to leave for good, Stacey went to Ian and questioned his ability as a father. Ian stopped Steven from going and the two of them with Pat had a long discussion about their relationship. Ian told Steven he wanted to help him get his life back on track. Steven was thrilled that Ian was accepting him as his son. However when Jane found out that Steven was still in Walford she was furious. Ian invited Steven over for Christmas dinner. Jane was opposed to this but he stressed that Steven was his son and Lucy and Peter's brother. Jane allowed him to stay but only for the hour. After Steven left, Jane told Ian that if Steven ever stepped foot in the house again, she would leave him.
Ever since Ian has carried on arguments with Lucy, they ended up making up, however instead of spending time with Lucy, Ian and Jane went off to meet the Queen. So as revenge, she threw a party which caused Ian to hit her for telling her off. The day afterwards she ran away, however on the 6th May 2008, found out that Steven had been hiding Lucy and after finally winning her back, chucked Steven out of the family telling him if he returned to the Square again, he'd kill him. However Ian and Lucy's arguments didn't stop for long as her boyfriend Olly came to Walford but since left when Ian caught Lucy and Olly just about to have sex. He then dragged Olly onto the gallows (part of the Square's fun day) and let the Square's residents pelt him with wet sponges. He then found out Lucy was running away with Olly again and convinced her to stay, however thought as he wasn't an enough appropriate father for her, that she could live with Christian.
On 14 July 2008, he announced to Billy Mitchell he was selling the Beale's fruit and veg stall as it would be better for business (as Ian had taken out a second mortgage on Number 45 to purchase 89 George Street), leaving Billy distraught and out of a job.
However, Ian did plan to sell the stall to Billy but Peter was distraught because Pete would want the Beale empire to expand. But eventually, Ian put the deal off again leaving Billy and Honey distraught.
Olly came back to Walford on the 18th August 2008 and Christian told Ian of Lucy's plans of going on the pill, however he flushed her pills down the toilet, he found Olly's address and invited him and his mother to dinner and realised that he wasn't who he thought he was and told Olly's snobbish mother to get out. The day after, Lucy returned home.
On 9th September 2008, Ian was taken into hospital after accidentally slipped on some margarine, deliberately being put by Bianca. She planned to slip on some margarine when she was in financial difficulty in order to receive compensation. She thought this would benefit her as she would like to sue Ian to receive this compensation, but instead of her getting this, Ian does. But after some persuasion from Ricky, Ian changes his mind from trying to sue her. When he starts spying on Walford residents, he discovers a shocking transaction between Max Branning and Phil Mitchell as he discovers Phil handing Max a gun. But when Lucy tells Max about this, he gets into contact with Phil and they both confronted a terrified Ian about the situation, but revealed to him that it was a car part even though it was true that there was a gun being handled.