EastEnders Joe Wicks star makes career comeback after drug and health scare

Former EastEnders star Paul Nicholls is to lead a major show in a dramatic TV comeback.

After minor roles in the early 90s, the 43-year-old actor got his big break on the BBC One soap in 1996.

Paul was cast as loveable teenage rogue Joe Wicks but departed EastEnders just one year later as his life spiralled out of control.

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Amid the pressures of fame and his partying, Paul developed a high-dependency addiction to cocaine and upon deciding to get sober in 2008, would relapse several times.

Following a throat cancer scare in 2016, Paul's health woes went from bad to worse.

After yet another drug relapse in 2017, the actor suffered two broken legs after falling down a waterfall as he ran from a pack of wild dogs in Thailand.

Paul spent three days trapped at the bottom of the waterfall before being rescued.

The incident also left Paul with 37 different infections, which were only diagnosed after they caused him to suffer a stroke while rehearsing for a theatre role.

Following the traumatic health scare, Paul suffered yet another drug relapse.

He previously told The Sun: "The rabbit hole I went down led to places that I never thought I'd end up in – flats with people I didn’t know.

"At certain points I'd be gone for three or four days and not sleep at all. I stopped caring.

“The last time I ended up in a flat with people smoking stuff, doing this and that. They recognised me. I looked around and thought, 'If I don’t stop, I'll die.'”

While continuing to work during his traumatic ordeals, Paul took a lengthy career break after portraying teacher Steve Bell in Ackley Bridge in 2018.

His TV comeback is scheduled for 2023, where he leads the cast of forthcoming BBC iPlayer drama Phoenix Rise.

Set in a West Midlands school, the show will follow six teenagers making their return to education after being excluded.

Paul will play absentee father Carl in the six-part series.

Phoenix Rise will air in 2023 on BBC iPlayer.

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