EastEnders fans were delighted to see Jo Joyner back on their screens for a special Christmas episode – even if it did mean deadly disaster for Lauren and Abi Branning! The girls’ mum Tanya Cross was forced to look on in horror as they fell from the Queen Vic roof and now they are fighting for their lives – and with Jacqueline Jossa and Lorna Fitzgerald leaving their roles, it’s not looking good!
With Jo juggling Shakespeare & Hathaway and upcoming filming for Channel 4 school drama Ackley Bridge, it was a tight squeeze to get some intense EastEnders scenes filmed too but when Jo heard that it was for the departures of her on screen daughters, she was convinced that she had to be there for such important Branning episodes.
She told us: ‘Simon Ashdown called me whilst I was on holiday this summer. He was our lead writer when Jake and I first arrived at the show, he created them, their marriage and the rollercoaster of a family. He writes beautifully and I love what he’s created. He said, “how do you feel about coming back for Christmas, for a special?” I said “I’m not sure there’s anything in it for me, if I come back, I’ll come back properly, I don’t know that there’s any point just dipping in.”
‘At the time I knew that I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me, a full 10 episodes of Shakespeare & Hathaway taking me up to Christmas and then 12 episodes of Ackley Bridge until the following summer. So I didn’t think I could fit it in to be honest. He then told me it’s going to be a big Branning thing and the girls are going to be leaving which made me think about it.
‘There’s a funny thing about that place that makes you feel very connected and protective over your family. You genuinely feel responsible for them. When I thought that the girls might be leaving, I felt like I should be there for them. I’ve watched Lorna grow from a little 10 year old sweetie into a beautiful and talented woman. Jacqueline has been such a pleasure to work with and I love her to bits. I couldn’t say no to being involved in their exit stories. So I said yes. But it was hard as I was filming full time on Shakespeare so I had to give up my Saturdays for them which turned out to be night shoots with the rain machine. A lot of long 6/7 day weeks in the cold. I must really love that family!’
Fans have loved seeing Tanya just as much, with her electric scenes alongside Jake, Jacqueline and Lorna – not to mention Lacey Turner as Stacey Fowler – were a highlight of the special episodes.
Reflecting on the role as a whole, Jo continued: ‘It’s always a pleasure to work with Jake, Lacey and the girls. It does feel very quickly like you’re back home. The writing makes it easy, the history in the relationships is easy to click back into. I really enjoyed it. I’ve also always loved Christmas there. Even when you’ve been in it for years and it feels like a very normal work place, you can come in, see the big tree in the square and think to yourself “blimey, how weird?! I’m actually in EastEnders, mad!”
Merry Christmas to all! Judging by my timeline it was worth all the Saturdays in the rain. Thanks for all the love guys. It’s only a visit but stay with us….. are my girls alright? #EastEnders
— Jo Joyner (@dollyjoyner) December 26, 2017
‘I’ll always be very proud to have been part of that Max and Stacey affair at Christmas and to have been in the family. So it was great to go back and we had a lot of laughs in between the rain and hot water bottles.’EastEnders continues on Thursday 28th December at 8pm and 9:30pm on BBC One.
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