Joanne Francis

Joanne Francis

Infobox EastEnders character

character_name=Joanne Francis
actor_name=Pamela Salem
first=16 June 1988
last=3 January 1989

Joanne Francis was a fictional character in the BBC soap opera "EastEnders". She was played by Pamela Salem. [cite news|url=|title= Interview with Pamela Salem|publisher="BBC" | date = 2005-09-30| accessdate=2008-09-09]

Character creation and development


One of the most popular characters in the early years of "EastEnders" was Den Watts, played by Leslie Grantham.cite book |last=Smith|first= Julia|authorlink= Julia Smith|coauthors=Holland, Tony|title= EastEnders - The Inside Story |year=1987|publisher=Book Club Associates|id=ISBN 0-563-20601-2] The character was deemed so popular by the producers of the serial, that when Grantham announced he was quitting the soap in November 1987, creators Julia Smith and Tony Holland devised a storyline that would keep the character on-screen for a futher year, while only requiring Grantham to commit to a couple of months filming.cite book |last=Brake|first= Colin|authorlink= Colin Brake|title= |year=1995|publisher=BBC Books|id=ISBN 0-563-37057-2] This was done by sending Den to a remand prison, and mixing the previosuly filmed prison storyline in with the current happenings in Albert Square. On-screen, the build-up to Grantham's exit occurred throughout 1988, as Den, always portrayed as a petty criminal with shady connections, was recruited to work for the more serious East End organised crime operation, known as "The Firm". Various characters were introduced as part of the storyline. Among them was Joanne Francis, a middle classed, "hard woman", who was brought in to be the manageress of Strokes winebar, a facade for an illegal gambling den owned by "The Firm".


Actress Pamela Salem was given the role of Joanne. Salem had known Leslie Grantham for many years prior to her casting.cite book |last= Kingsley|first= Hilary|title= The EastEnders Handbook |year=1990|publisher=BBC books|id=ISBN 0-563-36292-8] Before "EastEnders" went to air, Grantham had served time in Wormwood Scrubs prison for the murder of a taxi driver, and occasionally actors were brought in to entertain the prisoners. Among the visiting actors were Louise Jameson (who later went on to play Rosa di Marco) and Pamala Salem. Both actresses were instrumental in introducing Grantham to acting while he was in prison, and helping him to enroll in drama school upon his release. Salem had already auditioned for a part in "EastEnders", Jan Hammond, the mistress of Den Watts. She was unsuccessful, and that part went to Jane How; however, Grantham later persuaded the casting director of "EastEnders" to give Salem the role of Joanne.


Joanne was first seen in Albert Square in June 1988. She was a member of the gangster organisation known as The Firm, and she had been sent to Walford by Mr Vinnicombe (The Firm's boss) to manage Strokes Winebar, which was actually a facade for an illegal gambling den. Her arrival upset Den Watts, as he had previously thought that he was being given managerial status. Despite initial hostility, Joanne and Den proved to be a good team and built up a strong working rapport with each other.

Den however, proved to be a live wire, and after his friend, Kathy Beale, was raped by the rival wine-bar owner, James Willmott-Brown, he went against The Firm's orders and instigated a revenge attack without their approval. With the help of another member of The Firm, Brad Williams, he had Willmott-Brown's winebar torched. This led to a police investigation in the Square, putting Strokes under surveillance and The Firm in the frame for the deed. In order to put the police off their scent, The Firm decided that Den had to take the blame for the arson. Den wasn't keen on this, but after heavy pressure from Joanne he decided to take the rap and go into hiding to avoid arrest. However, The Firm's real agenda was to lure Den into a false sense of security before killing him, thus stopping him implicating them for their heinous crimes. Realising this, Den managed to escape The Firm's clutches and went on the run, but when The Firm traced him to his hideout, he was eventually forced to turn himself into the police in order to avoid being killed by their heavies. Den was sent to Dickens Hill prison, leaving Joanne and the rest of The Firm to assume that it would only be a matter of time before Den divulged his knowledge about their criminal antics. Actually, Den had no intention of 'grassing', but the investigating officer, D.I. West, decided to play up to The Firm's fears, spreading rumours that Den was on the verge of implicating them. Gregory Mantel (a superior member of The Firm) made plans to have Den eradicated from within prison. Joanne did not believe that Den was a grass and she tried to do everything she could to stop her associates from setting up a hit on him, even going above Mantel's head and relaying her doubts to Mr Vinnicombe, which earned her the wrath of Mantel, but managed to spare Den his life temporarily.

Joanne moved into a flat in Albert Square and continued running Strokes, but her position was put in jeopardy when a new Detective Inspector, Bob Ashley, started to take umbrage with her presence in Walford. He began putting pressure on Brad Williams to frame The Firm, threatening him with prison unless he obliged. Brad divulged the whereabouts of evidence that would show Joanne's criminal dealings, enabling him to get rid of her and close down Strokes. Sensing her imminent downfall, Joanne considered resigning from The Firm. This did not please Mantel, he reminded her not to 'rock the boat' or else she would meet the same fate as her late husband. It turned out that Joanne's husband had also been employed by The Firm, and his association had led to his untimely demise. After this Joanne fled, stealing thousands of pounds of The Firm's money in the process. Her exit was nearly halted by a speeding car, driven by Brad, who had been instructed by Mantel to eliminate her. Brad missed his target and she managed to escape in her car unharmed. Her last appearance was in January 1989. Strokes closed down soon after.


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