What your favourite 90s soap heartthrobs look like now, from Paul Nicholls to Jack Ryder

IN the late 90s and early Noughties, the likes of Paul Nicholls, Jack Ryder and Gary Lucy left soap viewers hot under the collar. 

But what happened to these teen heartthrobs who gained legions of fans thanks to their ripped six-packs and floppy boyband haircuts?

We catch up with some soap favourites to see what happened after they bowed out of the likes of EastEnders, Corrie and Hollyoaks…

Paul Nicholls (EastEnders)

EastEnders heartthrob Paul Nicholls made a name for himself and became a teen pin-up when he joined the cast of EastEnders in March 1996.

During his 18 month in the Square, Paul played Joe Wicks, who had schizophrenia. His portrayal of the condition won huge praise from viewers.

Before starring in the hit BBC soap, he was a child star, appearing in Children's Ward, Earthfasts and The Biz.

The actor is still regularly papped when he is out and about, reminding fans that he's still got his devilishly handsome looks.

Since leaving EastEnders, Paul has had several roles both in TV and film.

He has starred in City Central, Harley Street, Secret Diary of a Call Girl, Law & Order: UK and Holby City.

Paul also starred alongside Renee Zellweger playing bad boy Jed in Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason.

In 2017 Paul was rushed to hospital after plummeting from a jungle waterfall in Thailand and spending three days trapped in a rock pool with a smashed leg – he only survived thanks to a sharp-eyed Thai local.

Chris Fountain (Hollyoaks)

Every girl loves a bad boy and Hollyoaks proved to be no different when Chris Fountain joined in 2003 as heart throb Justin Burton.

Justin had many explosive storylines – who else remembers Justin getting his teacher pregnant? Or pushing his sister through a window?

After leaving in 2009 he went on to play Tommy Duckworth in Coronation Street, came runner up on Dancing on Ice, and played a number of roles in Casualty and other shows.

Chris, now 33, was sacked from Corrie in 2013 after a foul-mouthed video of him in a Halloween mask with a baseball cap and hoodie emerged.

It showed him rapping about rape, drugs and extreme violence as hip hop character ‘The Phantom’.

He said at the time: “I would like to sincerely apologise for any offence I have caused. I am deeply ashamed by the lyrics and very much regret my behaviour.

“The videos were made over a year ago when I was experimenting with music and I’ve not done anything like it since and nor will I.”

Jack Ryder (EastEnders)

Ex-EastEnders star Jack Ryder looked completely unrecognisable as thrilled Loose Women viewers called him a "hottie" back in May 2020. 

The 39-year-old is best known for playing Jamie Mitchell in the BBC One soap from 1998 to 2002.

He left Albert Square after his character was sensationally killed off on Christmas Day 2002, when he was run over by a car driven by love rival Martin Fowler.

In the same year, Jack married Kym Marsh, who was yet to find fame playing Michelle Connor on Coronation Street and was then best known as one  fifth of the Popstars band Hear'Say.

The couple divorced in 2009, around the time  Jack started to turn to more directing roles, and has starred in Holby City and Doctors. 

Eighteen years on since his dramatic exit, fans were over the moon about the throwback as he appeared on the daytime show.

Nigel Harman (Eastenders)

Former EastEnders star Nigel Harman, 47, has undergone something of a transformation since his days in Walford.

The actor – who played badboy Dennis Rickman in the BBC soap from 2003-2005 – has shown off his flowing locks in recent years.  

Nigel left his role on EastEnders – which landed him numerous awards and nominations – just before Christmas 2005 and his final scenes saw his character stabbed to death in the street.

Since his stint on Albert Square, Harman has had a string of TV and theatre roles.

In December 2005, he played Sky Masterson in Guys and Dolls at the Piccadilly Theatre in the West End.

He also played Simon Cowell in an X Factor-inspired West End musical.

In 2009, he played hotel manager Sam Franklin in BBC drama Hotel Babylon, and in 2013 he appeared as Green in ITV's Downton Abbey.

Nigel also starred in Sky comedy drama Mount Pleasant as Bradley Dawson.

Rob James-Collier (Corrie)

Hunky Rob joined Coronation Street in 2006 as Liam Connor, who was struggling with the loss of his brother Dean, who died in a car crash. 

He had a string of on-screen romances, including Leanne Battersby, Maria Sutherland, his sister-in-law Carla. 

Things didn’t end well for Rob’s character when Carla’s partner, Tony, hired a hitman to kill him in 2008.

You may have seen Rob, 44, showing his beautiful face in Downton Abbey from 2010 to 2015, as Thomas Barrow – and later starred in the Downton Abbey movie too. 

Nick Berry (EastEnders)

Former telly heart-throb Nick Berry looks in, er, different nick these days.

The ex-Heartbeat star, 57, who was spotted last year in Essex, made his last TV appearance back in 2012 in a one-off EastEnders episode for the funeral of his on-screen mother Pat Butcher. And it seems like a lot has changed since then…

Nick first began playing EastEnders' Simon Wicks in 1985 — the hit soap's first year. He left after five years when his character emigrated.

At one point he tried his hand at singing and landed a No1 hit in 1986 called Every Loser Wins before returning to acting to play PC Nick Rowan in Heartbeat.

After his six-year stint on Heartbeat, Berry moved to the BBC where he starred in the show Harbour Lights.

The show was less successful than his previous roles, with the coastal drama being axed after two series.

At the age of 39 he turned his back on acting for good and focused on being a stay-at-home father to his two sons.

Gary Lucy (Hollyoaks)

Essex actor Gary Lucy played the brooding Luke Morgan in Hollyoaks.

The 38-year-old was part of a controversial rape storyline, which was the first time the issue had been tackled in a British soap.

After his show exit, Gary went on to star in EastEnders and the ITV talent show Dancing on Ice.

Gary also won a host of female admirers for his raunchy role in Footballers’ Wives and later the Full Monty, where fans could watch him strip down on stage. 

Will Mellor (Hollyoaks)

Mancunian actor Will Mellor played Jambo Bolton in Hollyoaks.

The 44-year-old enjoyed a brief pop career before going on to star as Gaz in Two Pints of Large and a Packet of Crisps and Warren Stamp in EastEnders.

Since then he has played Steve Connolly in the ITV detective drama Broadchurch in 2013, and in 2016 he played armed response officer Rod Kennedy in the popular BBC cop drama Line of Duty.

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