And then Max’s secret comes spilling out…
Yes, it’s a real rollercoaster. There are so many strands to these episodes, so many different things coming together, so many storylines peaking. It’s just one thing after another. It’s everything people have come to expect from an EastEnders Christmas.
And how do the shocks compare to that famous Branning Christmas of 2007 when Max’s affair with Stacey was exposed? Will we be rooting for Max and Tanya to stay together?
It’s a very different kind of shock, a very different scenario. It’s very sad watching them fight for their marriage, but I do think they can get over this one. I really don’t think that there’s much worse than having an affair with the gorgeous 17 year-old who’s about to get married to your son. So anything that Max has now done, any possible flings or affairs, could they really hurt as much? And he had had affairs before they came to the Square.
If it’s an affair that’s the secret, of course! And not, you know, money! But it certainly felt different this time. The writer Simon Ashdown has always said that, with Max and Tanya, he’s trying to do a portrait of a marriage. And he really has. There’s a maturity to it. It’s not a marriage I’d want to be in though!
And we also have the death of Derek. How does Tanya react to that?
She has to put a lid on how she feels because, ultimately, her husband is grieving for his brother, so it becomes a difficult period. There are things she’d like to say and arguments she’d like to have, but she can’t at that point. She’s still in shock as well from Max’s revelations and Derek’s involved with that too. So she feels sorry for Carol and Jack and the grieving family, but she also feels quite remote from it. I don’t think she’ll miss him.
Tanya’s always had a deep loathing for Derek, which certainly predates his recent attempts at blackmail following Lauren and Joey’s car crash. Why do you think she hates him so much?
Do you know, I had started to think that Lauren was his daughter. That maybe he’d forced upon himself upon her when they were teenagers and there was some deep dark secret there. But I don’t think that’s going to be the case.
If you think about it, though, Lauren has got brown eyes. And Max and I have both got blue eyes. And I don’t think that’s even possible. So I’m just throwing it out there. Me and Scott Maslen always used to joke, back when Jack and Tanya were having their thing, that Lauren was his! But who knows?
The only thing I can think of is that, in the past, Tanya would have known that Derek knocked his wife about. And he slept with Rainie at our wedding when she was young, drunk and vulnerable. So he’s not a nice guy. In fact, he’s a different league of ‘not a nice guy’ – he’s been in jail for armed robbery, for instance. And so, it’s just a genuine fear of him and not wanting for him to lead her family astray.
Will you miss Jamie Foreman?
He’s such a nice guy. I think he’s wonderful – it’s a real loss. I worked with him years ago on a series called Family where I played his character’s mistress. So I already had an appreciation of what he does and how lovely he is. So yes, I’ll definitely miss him and we’re having a little dinner out next week. The Brannings are hitting Soho to say goodbye to Jamie.
And what’s it been like working with Ann Mitchell, who plays Cora?
She’s lovely. She’s such a fantastic woman and she’s incredibly generous to work with. And it feels really right. Because we look like we could be related. There was a scene recently in which me, Ann and Lorna [Fitzgerald, who plays Abi] were chatting in a line and it struck me how good the casting is. People constantly ask me if Lorna’s mine. And even I can see that she could be mine. It just feels incredibly natural.
Can you give us a clue as to what to expect from Tanya’s wedding?
Well, there are certainly a couple of wedding dresses. Various options, you know. And there are bridesmaids at the ready and a very pretty Square. The first one I chose, which actually gets ripped up by Lauren, is quite good fun. It had a touch of TOWIE about it. I maintain that she should have had a little Audrey Hepburn jacket – a more mature wedding outfit. But no – she looks like mutton.
But, obviously I don’t get to wear it because it gets ripped up. I’m trying to get hold of one for my little girl’s dressing-up box, actually. The second one is not very Tanya. It’s very romantic as it’s chosen by Max. It’s not necessarily what Tanya would have chosen.