EastEnders' Charlie Brooks says fans constantly heckle her in the street for killing Barry – 17 years after he died

THE bitch is back – with legendary villain Janine Butcher returning to EastEnders this week.

And actress Charlie Brooks couldn’t be happier to reprise the role — even though playing scheming Janine means she will always be known as the woman who shoved Barry off a cliff.

Charlie, 40, says despite winning I’m A Celebrity and releasing a best-selling fitness DVD, the legendary soap death in 2004 is still the most talked-about moment of her career.

Believing car lot owner Barry had a short time left to live, devious Janine had married him in a rushed ceremony in Scotland — then was furious his illness was a false alarm and pushed him to his death.

Revealing what fans shout at her on the street, Charlie says: “‘You killed Barry!’ That’s the one I get the most.

“It used to be, ‘Here’s a tenner’ during the prostitution days. She’s been through a lot, this girl.”

That’s an understatement for the conniving daughter of Walford legend Frank Butcher, who was played by the late Mike Reid.

As well as killing Barry while on honeymoon in the Scottish Highlands, Janine also murdered fourth husband Michael Moon, tried to bump off ­second husband Ryan Malloy, fatally ran over Ronnie Mitchell’s long-lost daughter Danielle, attempted to defraud the Mitchell family and framed arch-nemesis Stacey Slater for attempted murder.

And, arguably worst of all, she had sex with Ian Beale while working as an escort.

In 2014, viewers saw Janine leave Walford for Paris to be with daughter Scarlett, having been shunned by Albert Square residents for getting away with killing husband Michael.

Kat Slater gave her a fake alibi, meaning, just like the other two deaths she caused, Janine got away scot-free.

Seven years later, she’s back in Walford and ready to cause more mischief, and Charlie says viewers would be disappointed if her character was anything other than evil.

She explains: “People have an expectation of what they want and so do I, so you want to live up to that.

“It would be criminal not to bring her back and go where we all want her to go, which is the whole ego and evil side, and we’re definitely getting that.

Janine may be showing some of the old traits, but Charlie herself has undergone a dramatic lifestyle overhaul since she was last on the Square.

The award-winning actress, who won the Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special in 2011 then I’m A Celeb in 2012, recently revealed she has quit booze and learned meditation in an effort to live more healthily.

Charlie, who has a 16-year-old daughter, Kiki, with her ex-husband, Ibiza nightclub boss Tony Truman, explains: “There wasn’t one particular moment I decided to give up.

"But over the years I’d thought, ‘I don’t know if I want to drink any more’. I just felt it was time for a lifestyle change.”

Charlie, who is “happily single” after splitting from long-term partner, architect Ben Hollington, four years ago, feels it’s the perfect time to return to the role that made her famous.

And EastEnders certainly needs a boost following a ratings plunge.

Of her joy at reprising the role, Charlie says: “I was genuinely excited when my agent first called. Instantly something feels absolutely right about this.

“I’ve said in interviews I always imagine where she’s been and what she’s been up to. She’s such a glorious layered character. So to come back and explore that, it’s really exciting.”

So what exactly does Charlie think Janine has been up to during her time away from the Square?

The actress says: “She’s been on the beach trying to redeem herself while smoking a joint. I imagined she couldn’t redeem herself.

“It’s really interesting with her because there’s a definite self-loathing going on and sometimes that makes her attack in some ways another human being might not. But she’s so much fun.

“I love the idea of walking in her shoes for a day, she’s like my alter ego, I suppose. I’m like, ‘I want to go out with Janine for the night — she is going to be fun’.

“But I get to play all sides of this fantastic character and I get such wonderful opportunities with storylines and stuff like that. I’m really blessed with her.”

Executive producer Jon Sen and showrunner Kate Oates have wanted to bring Janine back for some time, and are looking forward to seeing the character lock horns with some “fresh meat”, as many of Walford’s current inhabitants have yet to cross her.

Jon said: “When she comes back she’s going to be the character we all know and love her as.

“We would be robbing our audience if we didn’t bring her back in all her glory.

“But she’s older, she’s wiser, she’s had time to think about what she wants in life

“We’ve seen her spend her life on the wild side while growing up on the Square and now she’s working out what matters in life, what’s important to her.

“She’s obviously got Scarlett, her daughter, who’s in care and that’s given her pause for thought and perhaps the maternal instinct has finally clicked with Janine.

“Perhaps she’s trying to be a better person — if only the devil on her shoulder would allow it.”

Jon added: “It’s Janine but it’s Janine 2.0.”

Janine’s first encounter will be a reunion with fellow stalwart Kat, played by Jessie Wallace.

Charlie hints she lost contact with her former co-star during her hiatus, but says it didn’t take long for the pair’s chemistry to kick in.

Indeed, asked which character she enjoys getting into a slanging match with the most, Charlie replies without hesitation: “Kat”.

She adds: “All my first scenes are with Jessie so we’ve got a lot of really fun Janine and Kat stuff. It’s been really great.

“It’s so weird when you’ve worked so closely with people for such a long time and you go away. Life gets in the way, everyone goes in their directions and you go back and it’s almost like a school reunion.

“I was a bit nervous about it, I have to be honest. It was scary just because it’s new again and working this much is a shock to the system. But everyone has been ­amazing.

“Honestly, hand on heart, they’ve been fantastic and I’m buzzing to be here, I really am.”

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