EastEnders' Teddy actor Roland Manookian's surprising link to TOWIE star

-Credit: (Image: BBC/Jack Barnes/Kieron McCarron)

New EastEnders star Roland Manookian, who joined the soap at the end of June, has arrived in Albert Square as Billy Mitchell’s long lost brother Teddy.

Fans of the show were quick to recognise Roland from the 2004 movie The Football Factory, where he played Zeberdee, a young member of the football gang led by Tommy (played by former EastEnder Danny Dyer), but only truly eagle-eyed viewers have realised there is a link between Roland and a TOWIE star, thanks to one of his other film performances.

As well as appearing in The Football Factory, the Guy Ritchie movie Rocknrolla and crime thriller Piggy, Roland had a role in the 2007 movie Rise of the Footsoldier, starring as Craig Rolfe, and has also appeared in the movie’s four sequels – including 2019’s Rise of the Footsoldier: Marbella, which featured The Only Way Is Essex star Jessica Wright in a small role.

Rise of the Footsoldier: Marbella
TOWIE's Jess Wright in Rise of the Footsoldier: Marbella -Credit:Film still

Rise of the Footsoldier is a British gangster movie franchise, with the first film based on the true story of Inter City Firm hooligan Carlton Leach, who went from being a football hooligan to becoming a hired muscle for the Essex firm that was involved in the murders of three men, including Pat Tate and Tony Tucker, who were gunned down in their Range Rover on an Essex farm track in 1995.

While the first two movies focused on Carlton Leach, the later films are prequels about Tucker and Tate, and Rise of the Footsoldier: Marbella follows Tate to Spain where he asks Roland’s character Craig to deliver cash from Essex to close a drug deal. Jess Wright, in her only acting role to date, has a small role as a girl in Amsterdam who Craig meets on his travels.

Roland has recently spoken to OK! about his new role in EastEnders as Teddy.

The Football Factory
Roland in The Football Factory -Credit:no credit

“If you were to say to me nine months ago that I’d be joining EastEnders , I wouldn’t have believed you,” says Roland. “It’s first and foremost a great honour to join the show – EastEnders is such an institution. I feel really, really lucky.”

Roland describes Teddy as an “old school gentleman” and says he’s definitely played guys like him before. “My experience in acting is always to play a little street urchin, a character with flaws,” he says.

Jess, meanwhile, left TOWIE in 2016 and is married to William Lee-Kemp, with whom she shares two year old son Presley.