It’s a momentous time for the Brannings this Christmas on EastEnders, with Max’s revenge having a cataclysmic fallout for everyone around him. So what better time to catch up with the trio at the centre of the drama? Here, we get the full lowdown on the festive drama coming your way over the next week:
So, what is Max’s state of mind at Christmas? The way I understand it is to think of him as having a psychotic episode. He’s completely consumed by revenge. He wants to kill Ian and Phil and everyone who’s wronged him. And for me, it’s the busiest I’ve ever known it – Christmas is the best I’ve read since 2007 [the reveal of Max and Stacey’s affair]. It’s non-stop action.
Can Max be redeemed?
Everyone is aware that he needs to be redeemed if he’s to stay in the show. And I never thought he was irredeemable. From Max’s point of view, he’s been wronged. So in his mind, he’s justified in what he does – but he takes it too far.
Has the storyline gone on too long?
I’ve had a sense that people have been frustrated by the build-up. But when people look back, they’ll only remember the pay-off. It was the same with the Max and Stacey affair – people were complaining that it was dragging on, but all they recall now is that Christmas 2007 episode. It’ll be the same with this because Christmas 2017 is so emotionally charged. Sometimes, you have to spin these stories out for a long time to get those incredible pay-offs.
What will your own Christmas be like? My life away from EastEnders is very different to Max Branning’s – and thank goodness for that. We love Christmas – we go to pantos with the kids, the decorations always go up early, in fact my wife Alison starts counting down from the summer! The earlier the better, as far as I’m concerned. You’ve just got to dive in with kids, haven’t you?
Has there ever been a Branning-style disaster? Not with the family. But when I was about 10, my mum and dad got very drunk at a Christmas Eve and I persuaded them that it’d be a good idea if I opened all my presents early. The trouble is, there was a lot of stuff that I needed for school. I remember getting a protractor, which wasn’t the most joyous gift. And when I woke up on Christmas morning, there was nothing to open. That wasn’t the best Christmas. And I’m scarred by the thought of that protractor!
How bad will Christmas be for the Brannings? It doesn’t disappoint. In fact, it’s catastrophic, the worst one yet. We don’t even get to sit down for dinner this year. The episodes are wicked.
How will your own Christmas compare?
I’m hoping it’ll be a lot different! I’m going to rein it in with my daughter Ella because I spoilt her way too much last year. She got bored opening all the presents. Daniel [husband Dan Osborne] has actually told me what he wants this year, which is unusual. It’s Lego, which is quite shameful, isn’t it? Either the Disney castle or Big Ben. Did you know that Adam Woodyatt is also into Lego? I always say that I’m married to a young Adam Woodyatt – they’re very similar.
How does it feel knowing that this is your last EastEnders Christmas?
I’ll be sad, but I’m leaving when everyone else goes on their Christmas break, so that helps. The difference is that I’m not going back. But I’m really looking forward to spending more time with Ella – it’s such an important time in her life and I do feel like I’ve missed stuff these last two years.
Will it be a relief to not be in the spotlight so much?
Yes, definitely. I wish, in a way, that once you’re not on the show, you could go to, say, Nando’s and not be recognised. I don’t want everyone coming up to me for the next ten years saying, “didn’t you used to be on EastEnders?” But that’ll probably still happen.
Does this Christmas on EastEnders feel like the end of an era? Yes, but I’m feeling positive about it. I can’t really remember a time in my life before EastEnders, so everything that comes next is going to feel new and exciting. And if you’re going to go, it may as well go at Christmas. The build-up has been huge and what happens is very dramatic.
And what of life after EastEnders? Well, I’d like to work, obviously. Just putting it out there – I wouldn’t want to be homeless. Maybe a play – I’d like to do something gritty in front of a live audience.
What are your own Christmas plans? Last year, I cooked the dinner for the family. Well, I shoved it all in an oven. It came ready-made from M&S, but I like to think of it as cooking. I had to get the timings right and play a bit of Tetris because there was a lot of food and I’ve only got a small oven. So that was fun. But I don’t know what’s happening this year. They haven’t asked to come back…
Are you easy to buy for?
Yes – it’s embarrassing, but I collect mugs. I now have two shelves full of them. When I leave here, Kathy’s café are going to be wondering where all theirs have gone. It is getting out of control – I’m going to be on to my third shelf soon. My 80-year-old neighbour has the same habit, but I’m only 21. I don’t even drink that much tea.
So, it’s a Christmas of ready-made food and gift mugs, then?
Oh no, please put something in there about me going out raving. Try and make me sound cool!
You can watch a our Christmas EastEnders videos below
And visit our dedicated EastEnders page for all the latest news, interviews and spoilers.
Sign up to the Radio Times newsletter for the latest TV and entertainment news