EastEnders: Jo Joyner bows out as Tanya for the foreseeable future

"Both she and EastEnders decided to not put a time limit on her time away but to see where things go in the future," says a show insider

Jo Joyner has announced that she is to take an indefinite leave of absence from EastEnders. Speaking today, the actress – who plays Tanya Cross on the BBC1 soap – said:

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“I love playing Tanya and being part of such a great show, but she has been on quite a rollercoaster over the past seven years and I have come to realise that it’s right for her to step away from Walford for a bit longer than originally planned.  I have been very fortunate to have been part of some fantastic storylines over the years, and I have worked with some wonderful people during my time on the show which I will always be very grateful for, but I feel that as a mother and an actress it is time for me to explore some other avenues for a while.”

Joyner had originally planned an eight-month break from EastEnders during 2013, but is now set to exit for the foreseeable future.

Lorraine Newman, executive producer, commented: “As the mother of Lauren, Abi and Oscar and the on/off wife to the ever errant Max, life for Tanya has never been easy. However, Jo Joyner’s portrayal of Tanya allowed viewers to instantly fall in love with her, creating the cement for a great family. From Jo’s portrayal of a cancer sufferer’s fear to dealing with her daughter’s excessive drinking, Jo has delivered high-class drama time and again. 

“Later this year we will see the Branning family cope without her. They will of course miss her, as will her colleagues and no doubt the viewers. We wish Jo well on her ventures new.”

An show insider also added: “EastEnders is a full-on commitment and, on reflection, Jo felt that eight months may not be a long enough break to try her hand at other projects as well as spend the time she wants with her family. So both she and EastEnders decided to not put a time limit on her time away but to see where things go in the future.

“Although Jo will be missed, Tanya’s departure will mean new changes ahead for the Branning family which will add a whole new dynamic for them and the rest of Walford. Lorraine’s long term plans for EastEnders are now starting to really take shape and she has some very exciting things in store over the next few months, which are going to have the fans on the edge of their seats when they hear what’s coming.”

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Beautician Tanya made her debut in 2006, since when her turbulent marriage to Max Branning (Jake Wood) has often been at the centre of many long-running storylines. Over the years, she has also been involved with his brother Jack (Scott Maslen), Greg Jessop (Stefan Booth) and Sean Slater (Robert Kazinsky), the latter of whom once helped her to bury Max alive in woodland. During Christmas 2012, Tanya again featured prominently when her nuptials to Max were interrupted by the arrival of his secret wife Kirsty (Kierston Wareing) in an episode watched by 11.31 million viewers.