EastEnders: Jake Wood teases “the best Christmas in a decade”

The actor on Max's comeuppance, Lauren and Abi's exits and the Branning family's future…

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Revenge is far from sweet for EastEnders’ Max Branning this Christmas, as his payback plan spirals dangerously out of control with devastating consequences for more than one Walford family.

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For much of 2017, Max was orchestrating a Machiavellian masterplan to manipulate the locals into selling off their business in a plot later revealed to be the brainchild of vintage villain James Willmott-Brown. Max’s motive was vengeance for being framed for the Lucy Beale’s murder with half the Square covering for the real killer, her brother Bobby.

Now, with Willmott-Brown having stabbed Max in the back and his family turning against him for a year of deceit, the stage is set for a truly epic Christmas that promises Max Branning’s ultimate downfall.

We caught up with Jake Wood to discuss yet another miserable festive season for his cursed character, and about what the future holds for Max with daughters Lauren and Abi set to exit…

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How does Max feel after being betrayed by Willmott-Brown and being exposed to the community?

He didn’t see it coming. Max knew they were shady business types, but he’s quite astute and feels he can handle himself in that kind of situation. But he’s been outmanoeuvred.

Does he feel bitter towards Fi Browning for leading him on? 

Yes, but. I think Fi had genuine feelings for Max. They had a real connection and he invested a lot into the relationship, believing thy were going to make all this money and run off together. That was going to be his future so once again, he’s hit a brick wall.

How isolated does he feel?

Totally isolated, everyone on the Square knows what he has been up to, he’s a pariah and he’s got nothing. The reveal to the community of his involvement with Weyland was supposed to be a joyful, successful moment, but he’s now cut loose from everyone and I don’t think he knows what he’s going to do. He’s in a traumatic mental state.

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Does he regret how this has affected things with Abi and Lauren?

He attempts to build bridges in the run-up to Christmas. Lauren is still blaming him for jeopardising her future with her own job at Weyland. Everything she hoped for there was based on a lie. Abi is a bit more forgiving.

Stacey is Max’s only friend at this point, why does she stick by him?

At the point at which Stacey comes to his rescue, he is not in a good place. Max has had a psychotic episode, that’s the only way I could look at it. The way Max behaves stems from this pain about what has happened to him. Max and Stacey still have a connection. He has lost everything and doesn’t care about the consequences of his actions, and she’s the only one who can get through to him.

Do you think there is any way back for him?

Yes, I always have done. Max was sentenced for 20 years for something he didn’t do and was set up by people who knew the truth. I don’t think Max is inherently bad, he’s very troubled and feels abandoned. There’s a lot of anger towards people and he doesn’t know how to deal with it. Can he be forgiven? It depends how you view why he did what he did. I’ve never felt at any point during this storyline that Max was irredeemable. The Christmas episodes give you a good indicator of how redeemable he is.

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Stacey has a voicemail on her phone from Jane – what would happen if she heard it?

That voicemail is a ticking time bomb! Max thinks Jane has been dealt with and doesn’t feel any threat from her. So if he knew about that message it would be a shock…

It’s 10 years since Max and Stacey’s affair was revealed on the DVD at Christmas 2007, is it good to revisit that relationship?

Yes and with Simon Ashdown back writing as well. He created the Brannings, the Max/Stacey relationship is very much his baby. His episodes are amazing as he understands the characters so thoroughly. In terms of how it compares to that storyline, this is the best stuff I’ve read since 2007!

Are you sad about Jacqueline Jossa (Lauren) and Lorna Fitzgerald (Abi) leaving? 

Of course. They’re not done yet so it will be tough to film those final scenes. Lorna I’ve known since she was 10 years old! But they’ll be fine, they’re both great. You forget how young they are, Jac and Lorna still have long careers ahead of them. They’re incredibly talented and I look forward to seeing what they go onto.

You can watch a 60-second rundown of all next week’s drama on EastEnders below. Beneath that, there’s our exclusive Week in Walford review show

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