Emmerdale actor Kelvin Fletcher was announced as the replacement for injured Jamie Laing on Strictly Come Dancing, just days before it was due to begin.
The soap star, 35, replaced Made In Chelsea star Laing who injured himself during filming for the Saturday night pre-recorded Strictly launch show.
Best known for playing Andy Sugden on the ITV soap between 1996 and 2016, Fletcher’s pairing with South African professional dancer Oti Mabuse turned out to be a winning one.
Fletcher, from Oldham, Greater Manchester, joined fellow soap stars Catherine Tyldesley, formerly of Coronation Street, and Emma Barton, from EastEnders, on the star-studded roster.
He said: “Is this really happening? It’s been the most surreal week of my life. I’m a massive fan of Strictly so it’s incredible.
“I’m so happy that I can be a part of it. But at the same time it’s quite bittersweet. I’m coming in on the back of Jamie’s injury – I keep thinking about him.
“I can’t imagine going through all this excitement and then having to pull out. My thoughts are with him – he seems like a fantastic guy and I hope he’s doing OK.”
Fletcher went on to wow the judges on many occasions, notably scoring his first 40 on the show for the quickstep he performed in the semi-final.
Mabuse also admitted on spin-off show It Takes Two that she had choreographed the routine, set to The Lady Is A Tramp by the cast of Glee, with getting a perfect score in mind.
The routine also earned the couple a standing ovation from judges Shirley Ballas, Motsi Mabuse and Bruno Tonioli.
Other notable performances include an American Smooth to Gaston from the Disney film Beauty And The Beast, for which the couple scored a total of 39.
Their jive at the Blackpool Tower Ballroom earned them the same score and praise from Craig Revel Horwood who said: “The strength, the stamina, the agility, absolutely formidable.”
His first dance on the series, a samba, set the tone for the rest of the show as he topped the leaderboard with a score of 32, which, according to presenter Claudia Winkleman, was the highest score ever achieved on Strictly for a first dance.
Fletcher married his long-time girlfriend Liz Marsland in November 2015, and they have a daughter, born in 2016, and a son, born in 2018.
He debuted in Emmerdale in 1996, when his character arrived as Andy Hopwood, but was adopted by Jack and Sarah Sugden and became a permanent part of the Sugden family.
His final scenes saw him bid an emotional farewell to his brother Robert (Ryan Hawley) as a fugitive on the run, leaving behind his on-off girlfriend Bernice (Samantha Giles), who decided not to go with him.
He had discovered he had been framed by Chrissie White (Louise Marwood) for the murder of Lawrence White (John Bowe).
Well-known storylines over the years have included Sugden setting fire to the farm’s barn, as well as a domestic abuse storyline and a plot which saw his brother shot.