Is Jo Joyner returning to EastEnders? The star of new school drama Ackley Bridge speaks out on the rumours

That Tanya Branning comeback might have to wait...

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Jo Joyner has denied rumours she is returning to EastEnders as Tanya Branning. 

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Speaking at the press launch of Channel 4’s new school drama Ackley Bridge, in which she stars as the headteacher of a multi-cultural school in urban Yorkshire, Joyner expressed surprise at recent press reports that hinted she was to reprise the role.

“My mum actually sent me the picture of an article saying that yesterday! On my family’s WhatsApp group they were asking me was this true, and why hadn’t I told anybody!

“I love soaps and the history that characters have, and these rumours are useful to get people excited about storylines.

“But no, I haven’t been approached by EastEnders – and I’m a bit tied up right now.”

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Joyner played Tanya, the long-suffering wife of Max Branning, for seven years between 2006 and 2013. She reprised the role for a few episodes in 2015 when the character returned as part of the soap’s 30th anniversary live week.

In current storylines, Max is scheming to destroy Walford in a slow-burning plot that has so far seen many surprise twists. One of the many fan theories doing the rounds was that Tanya could return as part of Max’s mysterious agenda, but Joyner’s denials appear to quash the viewers’ hopes – for now…

The actress takes centre stage as Mandy Carter, beleaguered head of Ackley Bridge. The series starts on the first day of a new term for two local schools merging as a single inner-city academy, but as one school was predominantly Asian and the other was made up of mainly white pupils, the scene is set for high drama and racial tensions as the two communities collide.

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Ackley Bridge is due to start next month on Channel 4.