I was in EastEnders' most controversial storyline with my brother… he became a huge star but I love my normal job | The Sun

THEY might have pitched up on Albert Square in an ice cream van, but the Miller family was anything but vanilla.

The fivesome and their dog Ghengis, who arrived in 2004, became embroiled in some of EastEnders' most controversial storylines.

The most memorable was arguably the teenage pregnancy plot, which saw Demi Miller – played by Shana Swash – give birth aged just 11.

Demi then ran away with her boyfriend Leo Taylor and both became heroin addicts, before Leo took his own life in a Romeo and Juliet-style overdose.

Shana's time on the soap came to an end in 2006 when her character moved to the Cotswolds with on-screen mum Rosie – despite the public launching a petition to keep them both in Walford.

But for her real-life brother Joe Swash, it was just the beginning of a blossoming career that exploded after he was crowned I’m A Celebrity’s King Of The Jungle in 2008.


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While Shana is still acting – having had roles on Doctors, Top Boy and My Feral Heart, which bagged her a British Independent Film Awards Best Supporting Actress nomination – and stars in an upcoming film, she also has a more 'normal' job.

The 32-year-old tells us she runs a pop-up coffee shop from a trailer in Islington, north London – and is "loving every minute of it".

She says: “I really fell in love with coffee and lockdown gave me the push to get out of my comfort zone and start my own business.

“Honestly, I’ve loved every minute of it. There’s only me, I run it full-time on a day-to-day basis and am your local barista in a park near to where I grew up.

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Shana Swash says she 'loves every minute' working in a coffee trailerCredit: Instagram
Shana with her family, including brother Joe, at her coffee shop trailerCredit: Instagram

“It’s allowed me to meet loads of people, like the really die-hard EastEnders fans, and become friends with them too. 

Shana – who is engaged to partner Nick Jones, a joiner – says she's wanted her own coffee shop for 20 years and it’s her “dream” to expand to a bricks and mortar venue.

And she hopes one day her Swash & Jones brand will become mainstream.

“I’ve only been open for a year-and-a-half but I want to expand," she says.

"I’d love us to be a brand that people recognise so watch this space. Hopefully we’ll be taking over… Starbucks who?”

Tough storylines

Just like her character, Shana was only 13 when she landed the part on EastEnders, after lots of audition rounds.

She tells us: “When I finally got the job they said, ‘We’ve got some great news, you’ve got the part but we’ve also got something you maybe want to discuss with your mum’.

“They told me I was going to be pregnant and was going to have to give birth on screen and there would be a heroin storyline.

“I had to be really grown up, sit down with my mum and work out if I could portray it and if it was something I wanted to do. I realised it was.”

It was a lot of pressure for someone so young, but Shana and Joe – who is nine years her senior and played her on-screen brother Mickey – had mum Kiffy to keep them "grounded".

My coffee business has allowed me to meet loads of people, like the really die-hard EastEnders fans, and become friends with them too

Shana explains: “Mum reminded us that the job allowed us to have lovely holidays – and for Joe it paid for the roof over his head and put food on the table.

“She also instilled in us that while we may get on each other’s nerves, we had to be professional – she said, ‘You better not be fighting or taking the mickey!’ 

“So we kept that brotherly-sisterly fighting and getting on each other’s nerves at home. Thank goodness because otherwise, we would have beaten each other up!”

But Shana reveals "cheeky" Joe didn't always take his mum’s warnings to heart, as he once played a prank that landed him in big trouble.

She claims he and a gaggle of other EastEnders stars broke into another BBC show's studio and defaced a wall. 

“He was so mischievous,” Shana recalls. “There was a crew of them, all in their early twenties… they broke into the Top Of The Pops studio, had selfies taken and then signed their names on the walls which the artists wrote on.

“They got into so much trouble. They were pulled into the office and told off like schoolchildren. It was such a cheeky and funny thing to do.”

Smelly co-star

One co-star she will never forget is Irish wolfhound Genghis – especially his pongy breath.

Speaking about the Millers' arrival scene, she recalls: “We were filming smack in the middle of the summer, between July and August, but the episode was going to air around winter.

“So we were all sweating from wearing these big coats with this smelly, bleeding dog who was panting and dribbling over everybody. 

“It’s one of those memories I’ll never forget. The smell of his breath will never leave me, I promise you.

“I wouldn’t have put it past him to fart to ruin scenes either, and I’m sure he did that plenty of times when we were on set.” 

Shana was on EastEnders at the same time as the late Barbara Windsor, who she says was “a dream” to work with. 


She admits she was gutted when her character was axed, adding: "I always remember it as a really sad time for me because it came to an end, which was difficult to accept as a kid.

"It's amazing that there was a petition [to keep me] when you think about it because we're such a small family in a big production.

"I'm always grateful – when I think of things like that, it puts a smile on my face. It was a special time and I couldn't have asked for anything more."

Shana says the role served as a springboard for her career and taught her invaluable skills, but she has no immediate plans for a soapland comeback. 

“Never say never but I’d need a really big bang storyline and for Demi to come back with a personality transplant and be a bit more horrible," she jokes.

“I’ve always wanted to play a nasty role like Janine. To come back and have the level of hate from the public that Charlie Brooks had would be like a badge of honour.

“If the timing was right… and my brother Joe was coming back with me, then 100 per cent I'd return to EastEnders.”

These days Shana is happy to let Joe hog the limelight, joking: "I'm A Celebrity? I’ll leave that one to my brother.

"I won’t tread on Joe’s toes. He can be the King of the Jungle. In all honesty, I don’t think I could do as good as Joe – but don’t tell him that!

"He’s done us really proud so I take my hat off to him. I’d be puking at those Bushtucker trials.”

I won’t tread on Joe’s toes. He can be the King of the Jungle

Shana tells us her upcoming film, Love Without Walls, is a British Indie film that follows a young married couple’s struggles after suddenly becoming homeless. 

She tells us: “It touches on HS2, the cost of living crisis, personal struggles, the cashless crisis and what happens you lose everything. 

“Ultimately, it’s a love story but they hit all of those different elements one after another and you see how they deal with it and how they can move forward.

“Without giving away any spoilers, all I can say is it’s something you’ve probably never seen before and will change your beliefs about what’s going on at the moment.

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“It has taught me so many things, so get off your sofa and go down your high street to a local cinema to see this lovely, British, independent film.”

Love Without Walls will be in UK & Irish Cinemas from June 9 – find out more here: www.lovewithoutwallsfilm.com.

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