Jo Joyner left ‘EastEnders’ fans gobsmacked when she made a surprise comeback as Tanya Branning on Christmas Day, but it turns out she had to be convinced to return.
The actress has admitted she was initially hesitant about reprising the role she originally played from 2007 to 2013, claiming she didn’t believe there was much she could add to the Max Branning revenge storyline.
Jo also had problems fitting it into her packed schedule, but had her arm twisted after realising the plot would tie in with the departures of her on-screen daughters Lauren and Abi, played by Jacqueline Jossa and Lorna Fitzgerald.
Speaking to Digital Spy, Jo revealed she was first approached by writer Simon Ashdown about her return back in the summer.
She explained: “He said, ‘How do you feel about coming back for Christmas, for a special?’ I said I’m not sure there’s anything in it for me, if I come back, I’ll come back properly, I don’t know that there’s any point just dipping in.
“At the time I knew that I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me, a full 10 episodes of ‘Shakespeare & Hathaway’ taking me up to Christmas and then 12 episodes of ‘Ackley Bridge’ until the following summer. So I didn’t think I could fit it in to be honest.
“He then said, ‘It’s going to be a big Branning thing and the girls are going to be leaving,’ which made me think about it. There’s a funny thing about that place that makes you feel very connected and protective over your family. You genuinely feel responsible for them.”
She continued: “I felt like I should be there for them. I’ve watched Lorna grow from a little 10-year-old sweetie into a beautiful and talented woman. Jacqueline has been such a pleasure to work with and I love her to bits.
And while it sounds like the actress would have been up for reprising the role on a more permanent basis if her workload would have allowed it, she explained how it had already been a nightmare filming this short guest stint.
“It was hard as I was filming full time on ‘Shakespeare’ so I had to give up my Saturdays for them which turned out to be night shoots with the rain machine,” she said. “A lot of long six/seven day weeks in the cold. I must really love that family!”
Lauren and Abi’s lives currently hang in the balance, after they fell from the roof of the Queen Vic during the dramatic Christmas Day episode, which saw Tanya expose the full extent of their father Max’s wrongdoings.
′EastEnders’ continues on Thursday (28 December) at 8pm and 9.30pm on BBC One.