EastEnders legend Jo Joyner reveals if she would return to the soap

Jo Joyner as Tanya Branning in EastEnders.
Former EastEnders star Jo Joyner revealed if she would make a comeback to the Square. (Image credit: BBC)

EastEnders legend Jo Joyner has revealed whether she would return to the soap as Tanya Branning.

Jo, who's in new Channel 5 drama For Her Sins, played the iconic soap matriarch for 12 years and was the wife of infamous womaniser Max Branning (Jake Wood).

Tanya made soap history with her hard-hitting storylines, such as trying to bury her ex-husband Max alive and being involved in one of the best Christmas storylines EastEnders have produced.

After her turbulent marriage to Max, Tanya left Walford in 2013 to start a new life in Exeter with her son Oscar.

While EastEnders fans are desperate for Tanya to return, actress Jo has unfortunately ruled out a comeback to the Square and told The Sun's TV Mag the real reason she quit the soap.

Max Branning, Tanya Branning, EastEnders

Tanya Branning had an explosive marriage with Max Branning. (Image credit: BBC)

She said: "As soon as you got bored of one thing, you got a different thing, a new adventure. That was very much the reason to come back out and I’ve been lucky to do the same thing since, to mix things up. Variety’s the spice of life."

As Jo looked back on her time in EastEnders, she recounted the explosive 2007 Christmas Day special where Tanya discovered Max's affair with his future daughter-in-law Stacey Slater (Lacey Turner). Tanya's daughter Lauren Branning (Jacqueline Jossa) secretly recorded her dad and Stacey kissing on Stacey's wedding day to his son Bradley (Charlie Clements) and played the video in front of the whole family.

"That Christmas special, one of the things I love about that as well was that it was a real testament to great writing and investment in stories and characters because a lot of Christmas specials for things, they throw a lot of money at it, lots of stunts and things…

"We had a rain machine, maybe, and apart from that we just had the actors on one set so that was quite unusual. It shows that without good writing, it’s all nothing," she added.

Tanya Branning and her mother Cora Cross

Tanya and her mother Cora Cross. (Image credit: BBC)

Jo briefly reprised her role as Tanya in 2017 as part of her daughters Lauren and Abi Branning's (Lorna Fitzgerald) Christmas exit storyline. Tanya made a surprise return to the Square on Christmas Day to visit her children and saw them plunge from the roof of the Queen Vic as they tried to save Max from ending his life. 

Abi later died from her injuries, while Lauren survived and left to live in New Zealand with her son Louie.

Tanya was too grief-stricken to attend Abi's funeral and said goodbye to Lauren, before leaving Walford for good.

EastEnders airs Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings at 7.30 pm on BBC One — see our TV Guide for full listings. You can also catch up on episodes on BBC iPlayer now.  

Grace Morris
Staff Writer

Grace is a freelancer writer with WhatToWatch.com, and she now writes for our sister site TechRadar. She graduated from Anglia Ruskin University in 2020 with a degree in Writing and Film Studies, which only made her love for creative writing, film and TV grow stronger.

You'll usually find her watching the drama unfold in the latest reality series or much-loved UK soaps (usually with chocolate by her side!). She's an expert in EastEnders, Emmerdale, Coronation Street and everything reality-related from Selling Sunset and Married At First Sight UK to 90 Day Fiancé UK. Plus Netflix megahit Virgin River!

Grace also likes to explore new places with her friends and family and, of course, watch and read about the latest films and TV series.