When ITV talent show SoapStars first hit our screens 20 years ago in September 2001, it looked like the resulting soap family could have been a new hit for Emmerdale.
A spin-off of popular show PopStars – which birthed the likes of Hear’Say – the casting programme featured thousands of contestants auditioning to take part of a brand-new family in the Dales, consisting of a mum, dad, and three teenagers.
With a judging panel comprised of drama producer Yvon Grace, casting director Paul de Freitas, and Emmerdale scriptwriter Bill Lyons, it looked like the new family just had to be a hit.
But when the winners were eventually announced and scooped themselves a coveted three-month contract on Emmerdale, things didn’t turn out as well as they’d hoped.
Dee Whitehead was cast as Maggie Calder, Mark Jardine as Phil Weston, Elspeth Brodie as Lucy Calder, Jason Hain as Craig Calder, and Ruth Abram as Jess Weston.
But though they were offered the chance to extend their contracts, all five winners eventually ended up upping sticks and leaving Emmerdale before August 2002, not even a year after they rose to victory on the show.
Their characters were all axed from the show, despite a statement from soap bosses announcing: “We have been delighted with all five of the actors from day one and they have all turned in very impressive performances.
“We can’t fault their work and their impressive acting ability.”
A spokesman for Yorkshire Television told Reuters at the time: “The actors’ contracts have not been renewed and they will leave as we scale back on the holiday village.”
So where are the Calder family now?
Dee Whitehead – Maggie Calder
Dee’s character Maggie first turned up in the village as soap stalwart Rodney Blackstock’s old pal, and was in charge of running the holiday village in Emmerdale.
The forgotten Home Farm Holiday Park was initially opened up in 1991 by Frank Tate, in order to make Emmerdale more of a tourist attraction.
She had plenty of storylines in her brief appearance from November 2001 until August 2002, having had an affair with Phil Weston, feuding with Nicola King, and even being involved in a car crash.
Maggie officially moved to Scotland as her exit storyline, and actress Dee went on to star as Janet Brown in BBC drama The Chase in 2006.
But since then, she’s had no further TV or film credits.
However, some fans still insist that her character Maggie shouldn’t have been axed from the show at all, posting on social media: “It was Emmerdale’s fault that the family weren’t well-received, the actors were fine.
“The mum was great, I thought it was a mistake axing the entire family, Maggie should have been saved.”
Another echoed: “I think the Maggie character could have had a longer life-span – the actress was quite natural in the part and her ongoing feud with Nicola was fun.”
Mark Jardine – Phil Weston
Phil caused ripples of drama in the Dales during his affair with Maggie.
Actor Mark Jardine has arguably been the most successful of the bunch, going on to have an illustrious acting career after leaving Emmerdale.
After appearing in Emmerdale, he’s appeared in everything from Heartbeat spin-off The Royal to Yorkshire sitcom Barbara.
He even appeared in crime drama Diamond Geezer alongside David Jason, in which he played Webster.
But perhaps most on trend for Mark was a stint in Coronation Street.
He first appeared on the cobbles in 2010 as a doctor, and returned in 2015 as side character Graham during David and Eva’s search for David’s then-wife Kylie.
Elspeth, who played youngster Lucy Calder, seems to have undergone a full career change, and decided her skills lie best behind the camera.
After appearing in Emmerdale, Elspeth went on to star in two episodes of crime soap The Bill as Sarah Fuller, and short film A Burst of Love as Fran.
She also racked up an acting credit in drama flick Acts of Godfrey as Sheila Timms.
But she found huge success as a dialogue coach in hit films including 2012 musical masterpiece Les Misérables, war flick The Book Thief and even Disney movie Maleficent.
She also worked on mystery flick Oldboy, campus thriller The Riot Club and 2021 film The Road Dance.
Jason Hain – Craig Calder
Not much is known about what Jason Hain – who played the teenage Craig Calder in Emmerdale – is up to now.
According to his iMDB page, Jason did have one credit in the Valentine’s Day special of karaoke game show Night Fever back in 2002, but since then hasn’t gathered any more film or TV credits.
He appeared in 54 episodes of Emmerdale before leaving in 2002.
Ruth has also gone on to stick with the acting industry after appearing in 13 episodes of Emmerdale as Jess Weston.
She appeared in rival soap Hollyoaks as Midwife Wilson, as well as a reconstruction on CrimeWatch as Clare.
Her current CV lists a wealth of advertising credits too, including ads for medical insurer BUPA, clothing store Matalan, and food brand Birdseye.
Ruth’s CV also lists dance skills including ballet, jazz, tap dancing and aerobics, and states she’s competent with several accents including Northern American, Scouse and Yorkshire.
Ruth is a mum to two children, Teddy, born in 2013, and Florrie, born in 2018.