Mitchell first arrived in Albert Square on 20 February 1990, and was soon joined by his brother, Grant and later his sister Sam and mother Peggy. He has become one of the soap's most popular characters and is the second longest-running male protagonist to appear in the serial. He was first introduced as the lesser of two thugs, but became a darker character upon his brother's exit. More recent storylines, such as the return of his son Ben, have shown a softer side to the character.
He has at various times owned many businesses in the Square, including the Queen Vic, The Arches, Bridge Street Café, the Snooker Hall and Walford Video. He has been married three times and he has featured in numerous high profile storylines, including the much-hyped whodunnit, dubbed "Who Shot Phil?" — when the character was gunned down outside his home — and an affair with his brother's wife, dubbed "Sharongate".
Following a relatively unsuccessful inclination towards comic storylines throughout 1989, Ferguson decided to take the soap in a new direction in 1990. Big changes were implemented both off-screen and on-screen. Ferguson altered the way the episodes were produced, changed the way the storylines were conceptualised and introduced a far greater amount of location work than had previously been seen. EastEnders scriptwriter Colin Brake has said that it was a challenging period, but "the results on-screen were a programme with a new sense of vitality, and a programme more in touch with the real world than it had been for a while".
As a consequence of these changes, a large number of characters were axed in early 1990 as the new production machine cleared way for a new direction and new characters. Two major new characters, the Mitchell brothers, made their first appearance in February 1990. Ferguson wanted to introduce a couple of young men who would bring an air of danger, characters who would be "unpredictable" and "bursting with energy". Phil and Grant Mitchell went on to become major long-term characters, who are rooted firmly at the heart of the series.
To cast Phil and Grant Mitchell many actors were screen-tested together. This was done to assure that the chosen actors — who would work predominantly alongside each other — had a strong rapport and physical resemblance. Producer Corinne Hollingworth has commented: "There were some good actors we had to turn down because we couldn't find the 'right' brother." Steve McFadden, an actor who had worked extensively in television, was cast in the role of Phil. His shape, skills in stage fighting and a variety of sports including boxing, football and karate made him an ideal choice to play one of Walford's latest "tough-men." Ross Kemp was given the role of Grant. Both actors worked well and convincingly together and both shared similar physical characteristics, such as short cropped hair and a "round, open face" — facial characteristics also shared by Danniella Westbrook, who was partly chosen to play their sister Samantha because of this.
Family is important to Phil, as it is to all the Mitchells. He is dependable to his brother, paternalistic towards his sister and dutiful to his mother — responsibilities that fell on him as the eldest, following the death of his father. Despite the brothers' closeness, rivalry between them is sometimes evident and particularly shown by Phil, who at times expresses his dissatisfaction regarding his parents' favouritism towards Grant. Indeed this caused a rift between him and his mother. His relationship with his volatile father, Eric (unseen in the serial), has often been referred to by the character, usually in moments of emotion — his initial inability to bond with his child an indirect result of his father's abuse, and his treatment of women a learned response that mirrors his father's treatment of his mother. The character has often expressed fears that he will become like his father and alienate his children in a similar way. Despite being opposed to this, he is at times incapable of breaking 'the cycle', which has resulted in alcoholism, marital abuse and separation from both of his children. Phil strives to be a good father and often reiterates the importance of this.
Phil has occasionally shown sadistic traits. His bullying of Ian Beale is often done as a means of deriving pleasure. Equally the ceaseless degradation of his girlfriend Lisa showed a particularly malicious side to the character. While Phil has shown compassion to the women in his life, he frequently finds that he is unable to provide them with the emotional security needed to sustain the relationship. Several women have left him due to his repressed issues and his inability to put their needs above his family's.
Phil's behaviour earned him a number of sworn enemies in Albert Square and by 2001 the character had become one of the soap's nastiest villains. In an interview with The Guardian McFadden commented on his alter ego's descent into villainy "Phil's been had over by a lot of people, so now he feels like he can do it back. It's his history". However the character finally received his comeuppance in one of EastEnders most highly anticipated storylines, dubbed "Who Shot Phil?". Phil was gunned down outside his home in March 2001 in a "Dallas-style" whodunnit mystery. Various key characters were in the frame for the deed and viewers were left guessing for weeks as to which of them was the real culprit. Several outcomes were allegedly filmed and it was reported that only a few TV executives knew the identity of the would-be assassin — even the actors were kept in the dark. A spokesman commented "The cast are only getting their own scripts. They are not being told anyone else's storylines. Not even Phil knows who shot him. It's top secret." Script writers were reportedly given private security after a writer's laptop was stolen in what was believed to be an attempt to gain the identity of the assailant. The storyline captivated the public's imagination leading to thousands of bets being placed at the bookies across the UK — bookmaker William Hill said there was about 50,000 bets on who was responsible. An estimated 22 million viewers watched EastEnders on April 5 2001 to find out that Lisa Shaw — Phil's former girlfriend — was the culprit. The episode caused the third-largest power surge on record and the Liverpool and Barcelona UEFA Cup semi-final was postponed for 15 minutes to accommodate a special 40 minute edition of the soap.
The Mitchell brothers arrived in Walford in February 1990, buying the garage on Turpin Way with money Phil had won gambling. They got involved in various dodgy scams, but more often than not, their money making schemes backfired. In 1991, Phil went into partnership at The Queen Vic with Grant and his fiancé, Sharon Watts. Phil moved in with them, but was frequently caught in the middle of their tempestuous relationship. Following a failed romance with Anne Howes—who turned out to be a habitual liar—Phil grew close to Sharon, who turned to him for comfort during Grant's violent outbursts in 1992. Sharon and Phil slept together, but she chose to stay with Grant, who remained unaware of the betrayal. Sharon and Grant's reconciliation was brief, and amidst more rowing and physical violence, Grant was arrested and sent to prison. In his absence Phil and Sharon continued their affair, although they were both tormented by feelings of guilt, and neither were prepared to tell Grant the truth. When Grant came out of prison a reformed man, Sharon—realising that she and Phil would never be a legitimate couple—reconciled with him, and Phil watched on heartbroken as they began to patch up their marriage.
On the rebound, Phil entered into a marriage of convenience with Nadia Borovac, a Romanian refugee, enabling her to stay legally in the UK. They married in July 1993 and Nadia departed. In the Autumn of 1993, Phil began a romance with Kathy Beale, but their relationship stalled due to the reappearance of Nadia, who needed Phil to play her husband in more realistic ways to prevent deportation. She moved in with him while the home office undertook their investigation. Feeling jealous, Nadia seduced and slept with a drunken Phil at Christmas. Phil regretted it, but Nadia refused to give up and she informed Kathy about their tryst. Phil denied it and Nadia then disappeared after Grant threatened to kill her, though Phil was later forced to bribe her into agreeing to a divorce.
When Kathy discovered that Phil was responsible for torching Frank Butcher's car lot in an insurance scam, killing a homeless boy, in 1994, she left him. He managed to win her back by proposing marriage, which left Sharon jealous. Sharon was intent on winning him back, they kissed, before Phil stopped himself. During Phil and Kathy's engagement party, Grant listened to a cassette of Sharon confessing to the affair and more recent kiss; he played it to the entire party. Kathy was incensed, and Grant beat Phil so badly that he was hospitalised with a ruptured spleen and a blood clot to the brain. Phil underwent surgery, which stirred remorse in Grant. He pressured Phil into blaming Sharon for their affair and Grant chased her out of Walford. Phil and Grant made peace, although things between them were never the same again. Kathy and Phil sorted out their differences in 1995, and married.
Kathy fell pregnant and gave birth to a boy, Ben, in 1996, who she doted on. Phil felt neglected and in his depression he turned to alcohol, developing an addiction. Phil became abusive and neglectful of Ben, so Kathy left him. Realising what he'd lost, Phil gave up drinking to rebuild his marriage. He attended Alcoholics Anonymous, which helped reveal the basis of his problem — the physical abuse he'd received from his father and his fear that he will do the same to Ben. Kathy took him back, but their reunion was short-lived. When Phil attended counselling in the summer he began an affair with a fellow alcoholic named Lorna Cartwright, who later started stalking him. With their relationship in jeopardy, Phil took Kathy to Paris, hoping that it would bring them closer, but it had the opposite effect—Phil confessed to his affair with Lorna and Kathy responded by chucking her wedding ring into the Seine.
Phil began sleeping rough, gambling, and blaming Kathy for his decline. By April 1998 Kathy had decided to leave Walford to live in South Africa. A marriage proposal from Alex Healy and an impromptu offer of elopement from Grant couldn't dissuade her from leaving; however she let it be known that an offer of reconciliation from Phil would make her reconsider. Phil left it to the last minute to win her back, but he was stalled by Lorna, who locked herself in his bathroom and attempted to commit suicide. Thinking Phil no longer wanted her, Kathy left for the airport. Phil followed, but was accosted by her son Ian Beale, who persuaded him that Kathy was better off without him. Kathy departed leaving Phil agonising over the loss of his son.
Phil took his mind off things by getting involved in a protection racket with Annie Palmer, who he was also having casual sex with. Phil thought he could soften Annie, but she was too business-oriented to allow this. Phil grew tired of being bossed around by her and quit in the midst of a turf war with a rival firm. He then began seeing Lisa Shaw, but the relationship stalled due to Kathy, who returned briefly in September 1999. Instead of making up with Phil, she picked up where she left off with Grant and they slept together. Just before she was due to return to South Africa, Kathy asked Phil to leave with her. However, Grant had planned an armed robbery that same day and Phil would not let his brother do the job alone. Kathy became infuriated with Phil's loyalty to Grant, so she decided to reveal their recent tryst. This led to a showdown between the Mitchell brothers. Phil confronted Grant after the heist and Grant confessed that he slept with Kathy to get revenge on Phil for sleeping with Sharon. While trying to escape the police in a getaway car, Phil pulled out a handgun and began shooting at the dashboard, which caused Grant to crash into the River Thames. Phil was rescued, but Grant's body was not recovered, though he survived, and fled to Brazil.
Phil took against Peggy, a result of Phil's dissatisfaction regarding her favouritism towards Grant. When Grant sent Phil his half of the Vic, he sold it to Dan Sullivan for £5, just to spite Peggy.
By 2001, Phil had many enemies: Lisa; Steve, who found out that Mel had slept with Phil; Ian, who wanted revenge for Phil's continual bullying; Mark, who wanted to avenge Lisa, and Dan Sullivan, who returned and wanted payback. On Steve and Mel's wedding night in March, someone hid in the bushes and shot Phil in the back; he collapsed in a pool of blood. Phil was hospitalised. Steve was prime suspect for the shooting and was arrested. However, it wasn't Steve, and after being discharged from hospital a month later, Phil went to confront the culprit, Lisa. Lisa had stolen Steve's gun and went on a rampage in a moment of madness. Realising he had driven Lisa to it, Phil decided to let her off. He took the gun she'd been hiding and framed Dan for the deed. Phil approached a dodgy contact, Ritchie Stringer, who supplied Dan with the gun. Not realising he was being set-up, Dan held Phil at gunpoint, demanding money. However, the police had been tipped off. Dan was caught red-handed and charged with attempted murder. Steve was called as a witness at Dan's trial, and Phil persuaded him to give a false testimony, further implicating Dan, but to everyone's astonishment he was found "not guilty". Dan sought revenge. He kidnapped Mel — the only common link between his adversaries, Phil and Steve. He threatened to kill her unless they gave him £100,000 each. Phil and Steve had to work together to retrieve her. Phil went to Dan's hideout with the ransom and would've killed Dan if it wasn't for Mel's interference. Dan outmanoeuvred Phil and escaped with the money.
Phil began a second relationship with Sharon Watts, who returned in May 2001. They ran the Vic together, although Phil was regularly caught between Sharon and Peggy's squabbles. Phil wanted children, but Sharon revealed she was infertile and that Lisa's baby, Louise, was really his daughter and not Mark's, which ended their relationship. Phil confronted Lisa about Louise, demanding to be part of his child's life, much to her dismay. Steve got involved in Lisa's plight in 2002, offering to take her family to California, but when Lisa was unable to leave, Steve absconded with Louise. Phil was informed and a car chase ensued. Steve crashed into a wall and Phil rescued Louise but could not save Steve, who burnt to death. Phil knew that to get custody of Louise, he had to win Lisa back. Lisa was easily swayed and began an affair with Phil, who slowly began to exclude her from Louise's life. In desperation, Lisa fled to Portugal with Louise. Phil's nephew Jamie helped her escape, earning him a beating from Phil, which only stopped when Jamie's girlfriend, Sonia, admitted where Lisa was. Phil went to Portugal and arrived back a month later with Louise, but not Lisa. Some residents suspected that Phil had murdered Lisa.
Phil fell for manicurist Kate Morton in 2003, but she was really an undercover police officer, investigating Lisa's disappearance. After gaining a confession from Phil (he manipulated Lisa into handing over their daughter), Kate revealed her true identity, that she loved him, and would give up her job. Phil responded by threatening to slit her throat. Kate then disappeared, but Phil ran into her several months later while she was working undercover for gangster Jack Dalton. Phil ended up saving her life after Jack ordered her dead. Jack called off the hit, but told Phil he owed him for it. Phil and Kate reconciled and she moved in with him. Jack decided to call in his favour soon after and ordered Phil to kill Dennis Rickman. Phil cornered Dennis at gunpoint, but Dennis offered to kill Jack instead, which he did.
Phil and Kate married in September 2003, but at their wedding Lisa made a surprise return. She demanded access to Louise and planned to shoot Phil again, but failed and was outmanoeuvered by him. Lisa broke down until Den Watts vowed to get revenge on Phil for her. Den loathed Phil after discovering that he'd slapped his daughter, Sharon, and animosity worsened after Phil attempted to frame him by planting drugs in his club. Den planned a robbery and coaxed Phil into joining him, but Den set Phil up and he was arrested for armed robbery. Kate was forced to hand Louise over to Lisa, who left Walford with her. Phil couldn't forgive Kate for giving away his daughter and their marriage ended. Phil escaped from jail and attacked Den on Christmas Day. Den gave Phil money to survive while on the run.
In April 2005, Phil returned in need of money. In desperation, he attacked Ian Beale, who led him to believe he would help him escape, but then called the police. Phil was arrested. In October 2005, Phil returned, the armed robbery case had fallen through after Grant paid a witness to change his testimony. Phil and Grant set about trying to prove the innocence of their sister, Sam, who'd been accused of murdering Den by his real killer Chrissie. The brothers still felt resentment towards each other, but working together towards a common goal enabled them to move on. Chrissie was eventually apprehended and the murder charge against Sam was dropped.
Phil had one other clear enemy remaining in Walford, Johnny Allen, who had made threats to harm his family. He attempted to get at him via his 17-year-old daughter Ruby in December 2005, by paying 27-year-old Juley Smith to begin a relationship with her, sleep with her and then break her heart. On New Year's Eve 2005, Dennis Rickman got involved in Phil and Johnny's feud. He was ready to leave Walford with his wife Sharon, not realising that Sharon had been threatened by Johnny and that he would be killed if he did not. Phil used the situation to exert revenge on Johnny by informing Dennis. Dennis gave Johnny a beating and Johnny contacted Danny Moon to murder Dennis. Dennis was stabbed and died. Phil felt responsible for Dennis's death, which worsened when he discovered Sharon was pregnant. He vowed to make Johnny pay for the murder.
Phil and Grant confronted Johnny in March 2006, attempting to gain a confession for Dennis's murder. Johnny escaped and a car chase ensued. However, the brothers' squabbling allowed Johnny to get the upper hand and they were captured. Johnny ordered Danny Moon to kill them. He was just about to kill Grant when Danny's brother Jake turned up and shot Danny, killing him. Johnny surrendered.
Following Kathy's death in 2006, Phil's son Ben returned to live with his half brother Ian. Despite Ian's attempts to keep them apart, Phil tried to build a relationship with Ben. Ben was initially unwilling, but they slowly began to bond. Phil met lawyer Stella Crawford and they entered into a relationship. In December 2006, she moved in with the Mitchells, although this caused problems with Ben as he was unwilling to accept her. Ben played various tricks to get rid of Stella and she and Phil split and reunited several times because of him. Stella began using underhand tactics to make Ben more obedient and she and Ben became rivals for Phil's affections. Unbeknown to Phil, she began to psychologically and physically abuse Ben, doing such things as burning his hand, watching him get attacked by bullies, and breaking his hearing aid. Stella manipulated Ben into persuading Phil to propose to her. Phil begrudgingly proposed to provide Ben with a stable family unit. Ben revealed the exent of his abuse during Phil and Stella's wedding ceremony. Stella fled to an abandoned warehouse with Phil in pursuit. They ended up on a rooftop and Stella plummeted to her death. The police accused Phil of pushing Stella, but it was revealed by CCTV footage that she jumped. The aftermath saw Phil turn to alcohol once again for a period.
Phil became embroiled in a feud with Jack Branning in 2007. Jack used his police contacts to trace Louise for Phil, but Phil was incensed to discover that she called another man \"daddy\" and that Jack did not warn him. Jack tried to blackmail Phil regarding his involvement in a motor scam with Kevin Wicks, which inadvertently killed Kevin. Phil teamed up with Jack's brother Max Branning in 2008, to remove Jack from Walford.
During a period of heavy media criticism aimed at EastEnders throughout 2004 and 2005, the character — who was on a hiatus from the show — was reintroduced twice in what was branded by the press as a bid to \"boost flagging Enders and \"revive the soap's ailing ratings\". His first return in April 2005 was generally well received with media comments such as \"the excellent, bug-eyed Steve McFadden proves nobody does psychotic thug better than him\" and \"McFadden's blistering performance on Tuesday defies that old cliché of a soap being bigger than its stars\". Of the Mitchell brothers highly publicised return in October 2005, one reporter commented \"Soapville must confess that we did get goosebumps and feel properly excited when we first saw the Mitchell Brothers back on the Square...After all, you associate them with the golden days of Enders\".
In addition the character has been praised for being good value, realistic, consistent within his character and convincing.
In November 2005 the character was blamed for turning children into playground bullies by Dr. Sally Henry, who claimed that impressionable children look to male soap characters as role models and subsequently copy their violent behaviour.
Indeed the character's violent behaviour evoked concern from viewers in October 2002. A scene in which Phil beat his godson Jamie, was criticised for being too realistic by TV watchdogs. The Broadcasting Standards Commission upheld 31 complaints from viewers, saying that the scenes were too strong for a programme shown before the 9pm watershed.
A certain level of criticism was aimed at the character due to the stark personality change he underwent circa 2000. One reporter commented "Formerly the milder-mannered sibling, Phil has gone from Abel to Cain without an intervening period of plausibility. And it doesn't suit him". His violent tendencies have also been spoofed by the television series 2DTV.
There were mixed reviews for the highly publicised storyline (dubbed Get Johnny Week) involving the Mitchell brothers reunion in 2006. It was criticised as "patchy" and "awkwardly written...unveiling a common weakness in the EastEnders camp, that character continuity can often fall by the wayside when you are dealing with larger characters". Additionally, the show was criticised for turning the brothers into a comical farce by incorporating uncharacteristic humour into their dialect, which was described as "cringeworthy".
EastEnders' Phil Mitchell Shooting: WHO GUNNIT?; TOP COP JOHN STALKER INVESTIGATES CRIME THAT'S GOT ALL BRITAIN PLAYING TEC STALKER INVESTIGATETS
Mar 04, 2001; THE shooting of EastEnders' Phil Mitchell has gripped the whole nation. More than 17 million viewers tuned into last Thursday's...