Entertainment & Arts

Sian Blake: Profile of former EastEnders actress

Sian Blake / Syan Blake

Actress Sian Blake went missing with her two children on 13 December, but on 5 January police found bodies in the back garden of her house in south-east London, which police confirmed on 7 January as being her and her two young sons.

Acting helps heartache

Sian Blake was born in East London in 1972 but she adopted the stage name Syan Blake when she became an actress.

She was an East Ender born and bred. Born in Walthamstow, Blake grew up in Leyton and Walthamstow and remained living in the area all her life, even following her success in EastEnders.

She was the youngest of three children in a large close-knit family. Her parents divorced when she was six and her Jamaican father died suddenly of a heart attack when she was 18, which she said was a period of immense heartache for her whole family.

"In the space of about 18 months, someone in my family died every month. My uncle had already died by then, to be followed by other uncles, aunties and cousins," she told the Daily Mirror in 1997.

Then her uncle in Jamaica was murdered by a robber in his shop. "Mum has been through a lot of suffering in her life - each death would be a blow to her health," she said.

Blake discovered she had a talent for acting at primary school.

"I used to round up the kids in the playground and get them to put on adaptations of musicals," she told the paper.

She appeared in local plays, had acting classes from the age of 11 and went on to study acting for three years at Guilford School of Acting.

Soon after college she landed a role in a Christmas special of Casualty.

"I was playing a young bulimic girl. It was a very big role. I was treated like a star. After that I just knew I had to make it on TV," she said.

Her time on EastEnders

In the run-up to landing her role in EastEnders she worked as a telephone receptionist for a doctors' emergency phone line.

She went to audition for a small role as a nurse on the soap as part of a plotline involving Kathy Mitchell's baby and a meningitis scare. But she was asked to audition for another role as a soul singer.

Despite saying she didn't think she could sing well she performed for the show's producers and won the part, playing the role of soul singer Frankie Pierre for 56 episodes between 1996 and 1997.

Image caption Frankie's affair with Alan Jackson rocked the soap

The actress said when she walked on to the set of EastEnders for the first time and "saw all those famous faces, I was terrified".

The role of Frankie was a home wrecker - she seduced happily married Alan Jackson, only to dump him when he left his wife Carol for him. She then seduced gay character Tony Hills, who had a boyfriend at the time.

Blake revealed to the Daily Mirror she received hate mail and even a death threat while on the soap.

"One woman wrote to me telling me that her marriage had almost been ruined when someone like Frankie went after her husband," she said.

"It was a really vicious letter, she threatened to kill me and warned me to watch out. It was very frightening.

"She started the letter: 'Dear Syan, stay away from Alan,' which worried me because she was obviously deluded and thought that I really am Frankie."

Other credits

Blake appeared in Casualty for a second time in 2003.

She also appeared in The Bill, The Last Detective, Whose Baby is it Anyway, Doctors and played an interpreter in the 2009 series of Skins.

And she had roles in the films The Death of Klinghoffer (2003) and Siberia (1998).

Her theatre work included productions of Joe Guy, The Walworth Farce, After Mrs Rochester, 100, Love's Labours Lost, The Three Birds, Twelfth Night and Tamagotchi Heaven.

Blake also directed several plays, including Oxford Street at the Soho Theatre and The Burial at the Almeida.

Her last credited work was voice acting in the video game Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward, as the character Yugiri in 2015.

Life outside acting

Blake was a registered TSLI: Trainee Sign Language Interpreter.

She used her sign language skills in a 2007 episode of The Last Detective starring Peter Davison.

She was diagnosed with the progressive neurological illness motor neurone disease, and was said to have been "very frail" at the time of her disappearance.

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