EastEnders: Jo Joyner on her exit – Max and Tanya love each other but she has to walk away

The actress also reveals how the cast marked her departure: "Khali Best, Jamie Borthwick, David Witts and Jake Wood all sang songs – I got serenaded all night!"

They’ve spent the last seven years lying, cheating, reuniting and indulging in the odd woodland live burial. But Jo Joyner is still convinced that, despite the heartache, Max and Tanya remain soulmates:

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“Yes, I think deep down they will always love each other and no one will ever come close for both of them,” says the actress. “They shared some amazing times together and when things have been good between them, they’ve been very good. But when they’re bad, they’re very, very bad. It’s terribly sad but Tanya knows she has to walk away from the whole situation for the sake of the children. She has to put them first.”

The latest crisis for the Brannings (and the one that ultimately leads to Tanya’s departure in next week’s episodes) sees Lauren in hospital suffering from acute alcoholic hepatitis. But, as ever, the family finds it hard to concentrate on just one trauma at a time, especially after Tanya decides to secretly pack a suitcase and Max (Jake Wood) discovers that Kirsty (Kierston Wareing) isn’t actually pregnant after all. So how does Tanya react when Max delivers this bombshell?

“She’s stunned but it also reaffirms to her that she’s doing the right thing. She knows that, yet again, this could be a situation that puts them back on the toxic rollercoaster that they’ve been on for so long and she’s damned if she’s going to yet again let the children be a victim of their mistakes.”

What – not even when Max makes it clear that Tanya is the one he really wants to be with and always has? “Well, Tanya is always tempted by Max!” admits Joyner. “That’s at the very heart of all their troubles. However, knowing that their problems have contributed to Lauren’s problem makes Tanya realise that they cannot do this again. At this point, she is so desperate for Max not to know what she’s doing that she doesn’t give him a straight answer. She’s not as good at lying as Max is though, so he of course discovers the truth.”

And so the stage is set for a classic Max-and-Tanya confrontation on Friday 28 June in which grievances are aired and tears flow.  It’s fair to say that the on-screen relationship between these two has always been fraught, but – in real life – is Joyner going to miss working with Wood?

“Jake’s a wonderful actor and I have been incredibly lucky to play opposite him. When you have chemistry with someone like that it is effortless. You just find yourself reacting regardless of how you thought it might go. We’ve built such a history together with these characters that I shall really, really miss working with him.”

The details of Tanya’s departure are being kept under wraps but Joyner is happy to divulge how her exit was marked behind the scenes:

“I got a karaoke machine in at my party because we have got some amazing voices among the cast and crew. Especially the ‘brat pack’ as I call them – all our young gorgeous ones. Khali Best, Jamie Borthwick, David Witts and Jake Wood all sang songs – I got serenaded all night! Lindsey Coulson and I gave our best Dolly Parton and our head of makeup brought the house down with Don’t Cry for Me Argentina! Rachel Bright, who plays Poppy, and our AD Gareth both made the most fantastic cakes. It was a great night.”

So, out of all of Tanya’s many troubles from down the years, what has been Joyner’s highlight? “Always the ‘Stax’ reveal at Christmas when Max’s affair with Stacey was revealed. I’m so proud of that story for us all. I loved every second. It feels like such a long time ago now – I’ve buried him alive since!”

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And, if the circumstances were right, could we one day see Tanya back in the Square? “Who knows? I’ve loved playing her over the years and I would never say never. I’ll take away lots of happy memories of laughing on set with my ‘family’ and feeling proud of scenes with Jake where we felt we’d really got it. It’s been seven amazing years – she’s had so much drama and I have been very fortunate.”