Shane Richie has told how his 'EastEnders' character Alfie Moon was originally going to have an affair with Peggy Mitchell.
The 58-year-old star is returning to the BBC One soap later this month to reprise his role of cheeky chappy Alfie, who heads back to Walford as the love of his life Kat Slater (Jessie Wallace) gears up to marry to Phil Mitchell (Steve McFadden).
But Alfie nearly once hooked up with Peggy - who was played by the late Dame Barbara Windsor - in a 'The Graduate'-style liaison, after bosses were inspired by the 1967 film, in which Dustin Hoffman's 21-year-old character Benjamin Braddock is seduced by an older, married woman, Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft).
He said: "When I turned up 20 years ago, [writer] Tony Jordan was going to create 'The Graduate' story with Alfie and Peggy. Yes, and I was gonna be Dustin Hoffman - I don’t know how that was going to work - and then we were going to recreate 'The Graduate' story."
But the story was scrapped after the producers saw the great chemistry he and Jessie had off screen.
He said: "And then, off-camera, I met Jessie and we were having a right laugh, and the writers saw this chemistry. That relationship happened by accident, and from now keeps escalating.
"Now, 20 years later, all these things that have happened between Kat and Alfie, and there's still a spark."
Shane has played Alfie in several stints since 2002, with the last one ending in 2019.
And since his return to filming this year, the star admitted the show has a new sense of "community" about it behind the scenes, following the appointment of Chris Clenshaw as executive producer.
Speaking to BANG Showbiz and other media, he added: "I mean, when I left four years ago, I came in to do a storyline, get pushed down the stairs and I left to go and do something else. And coming back, there's really a sense - because, you know, I do a lot of theatre - there's a sense of a theatre community."