Danniella Westbrook has revealed it was a "blessing" when the BBC chose to recast the role of Sam Mitchell in EastEnders in the early 2000s.
The star, now aged 47, was recovering from cocaine addiction when the show decided to bring back her character, and they subsequently introduced Kim Medcalf to play the role from 2002 until 2005.
Westbrook originated the role of Sam Mitchell in 1990 and left Albert Square in 1993 to pursue other projects, returning for several stints throughout the 1990s — interrupted by her battle with addiction.
Westbrook told the Soap From The Box podcast that she had a telephone conversation with the casting director and head of continuing drama prior to the character's 2002 return, who informed her they were already recasting the role.
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They said: "We were dreading making the phone call. We're not offering you it, because you've been so ill the last few times you've come back.
"We do want to look after your safety first. How do you feel about it?"
Westbrook responded: "Do you know what? You've just taken the decision out of my hands and I feel I can put that to bed.
"Maybe one day, if anything ever comes around, I hope we can all sit down and have dinner and have a lovely time about it, and look at the lovely memories."
Westbrook would later regain the role in 2009 and appeared in EastEnders for another year, briefly making another return in 2016 for the funeral of on-screen mother Peggy Mitchell.
"All respect to the powers that be at the BBC for letting me go away for 14 years and get well," she said.
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Westbrook's struggles with cocaine addiction were widely publicised in the tabloids throughout the 1990s and 200s and the star said in 2019 she was just one more relapse away from dying.
She is planning to train as a therapist in order to help others who are battling drug dependency and has also worked as a motivational speaker.
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