With Max Branning about to leave Walford for good, Jake Wood tells us all about his character’s departure and reveals what’s next for him, too.
In scenes due to air tonight, the character will finally make his departure from Albert Square. But the question is, how does he leave?
If Max could choose his own happy ending, we reckon he’d want it to include Linda Carter.
He’s certainly a man who can’t take no for an answer, because even though Linda’s told him that it’s over between them and has since returned to her husband, Mick, Max still thinks there’s a chance they could get back together.
A new start?
When the pair had a fling at the end of last year, Max hoped that Linda would leave Mick for him.
It looked like they were all set to leave Albert Square together until, at the eleventh hour, Linda decided she still loved her husband and told Max it was over between them.
After going home to sort things out with Mick, Linda was horrified to discover the real reason Mick had been distant and withdrawn.
He told her he was dealing with the torment of being sexually abused by his former social worker Katy Lewis (Simone Lahbib) when he was 12 years old.
But to add to the horror, Mick revealed he'd also fathered a daughter Frankie (Rose Ayling-Ellis) with Katy.
Since then Linda’s been helping Mick through his trauma and supporting him as he tries to bring Katy to justice, while keeping Max at arm’s length.
Undaunted, Max has made one last attempt to win back Linda, but things haven't gone to plan and he's found himself facing the wrath of Mick, Phil and Jack…
Here, Jake tells us about Max’s last few days in Walford, filming his final scenes and recalls some of his favourite moments from his time on the Square…
Why do you think Max is drawn to Linda?
"Max is one of those characters where the grass is always greener. He’s never settled, but then he’s had this connection with Linda, although Max obviously thought there was more to it than there was. I think she probably reminded him of Tanya, in some respects. Tanya had a drinking problem, she was blonde and was a one-man woman, just like Linda."
When does Max realise he has nothing left in Walford and decide to leave?
"I guess it comes at that point when he absolutely realises it’s not going to work out with him and Linda. There’s not much for him in Walford, if I’m honest. He’s living with Jack, but Jack’s asked him to move out. He hasn’t got any kind of business there, and Ian Beale’s gone missing while still owing him a load of money. It’s all gone a bit wrong for him."
What’s running through his head when he decides to leave Albert Square?
"Maybe, ‘Is there a job going at Coronation Street?’ No, I think he’s seeing it as a chance for a new beginning."
How did you feel while filming your last scene?
"My last scene was with Steve McFadden, who plays Phil, which I was really pleased about. He’s been a mate of mine for years and years and years. I’ve known him since we did a film together when I was about 15 or 16 years old. I’ve always been a big admirer of his work ethic and the way he approaches what he does. "
What did you do before you left the set for the last time?
"Obviously, because of the pandemic, there was no party, so I just mooched out. I said goodbye to the person on the front gate and walked away. That was it, which was a bit weird after 15 years. I’ve known that I was leaving since the summer, so I had plenty of time to talk to everyone before I left. "
What have been your personal highlights of Max’s time in Walford?
"It’s hard to pick out any particular moment. There have been so many! All the stuff with Jo Joyner, who played Tanya, was great. Getting buried in the woods by her was good. All the stuff with Bradley and Stacey, which is kind of iconic when you look back now. There was also the reveal when Max’s secret wife, Kirsty, turned up. That was great and fun to play. It’s been a crazy roller-coaster ride over 15 years."
Were you pleased to hear that Max isn’t being killed off?
"I’m very pleased they kept the door open, but I haven’t got any plans to go back at the moment so we’ll see what happens further down the road. I’m excited about what’s next, but I’m in no rush to get into anything straight away. I’m homeschooling my two children, so that’s keeping me busy and I’m grateful to be at home for that. It’s been 15 years of hard graft and not being at home very much, so it’s just nice to have a bit of a break. It’s all good."
Who do you think was the love of Max’s life in the end?
"Definitely Tanya. She had been with him since they were young, so she understood him the most. Probably the most exciting was Stacey. I think he will always have a connection with her and I always thought that they might get back together. "
Did you take any souvenirs from the set with you when you left?
"I’ve got one of Max’s hat and I’ve got a signed EastEnders roadsign. I’ve actually still got my very first script from when I joined. I think I’ve got a couple of signed wedding programmes and funeral programmes. I might auction them off for a charity at some point."
What would you say was your proudest moment while working on EastEnders?
"I think all of it. From beginning to end. I think doing 15 years in a show like EastEnders and hopefully having made a mark there, it’s not for me to judge what I’ve done there. But in terms of being there that long, probably the longevity is what I’m most proud of. "
What’s next for you?
"Just homeschooling. No one might ever offer me a job again. This might be the last time you see me on screen. I might just slip off and open a shop somewhere. Or become a farmer. I quite fancy that. "
EastEnders airs on Mondays at 8.05pm, Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7.35pm and Fridays at 8.30pm on BBC1 – see our TV Guide for full listings.
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