HOLLYOAKS star Charlie Wernham is the latest big name to bag a role in EastEnders.
With no shortage of drama lined up for 2021, here’s everything you need to know about cast changes in the popular BBC One soap…
Aaron Monroe (Charlie Wernham) – joining
EastEnders has cast Hollyoaks star Charlie Wernham as Harvey’s son and Dana’s sister, Aaron Monroe.
Aaron is expected to make his Walford debut this autumn – and cause quite a stir with his arrival.
BBC bosses have teased a strained relationship between Harvey and his son, with the pair on bad terms after Aaron bagged a city job, left home and didn’t look back.
Speaking about his casting, Charlie said: “It was always a childhood dream of mine to be in EastEnders.
“It’s a show that’s constantly on TV in my household as my family are massive fans so it’s always been close to my heart. I can’t wait to get cracking and join an incredibly talented cast!”
Jon Sen, Executive Producer, EastEnders added: “We’re very happy to be welcoming Charlie to Walford. His character Aaron joins the Monroe’s, our newest family set to move into the Square with connections to the Beale’s.
“In many ways he’s the opposite to his sister Dana and Harvey’s relationship with them both is likely to be tested. There’s more to Aaron than his bravado lets on and we look forward to Charlie’s arrival on screen later this year.”
Janine Butcher (Charlie Brooks) – returning
EastEnders legendary character Janine Butcher is returning to the soap as part of a “huge story” later this year.
Charlie Brooks is reprising her role as the villain more than seven years after her last stint as Janine.
It’s not yet known whether murderer Janine, who killed two of her husbands, will be reformed.
An EastEnders source said: “Bosses have a huge story planned for Charlie’s return.
“They are keeping tight-lipped about whether Janine will come back as a reformed character after all the chaos she has caused in the past.
“But she certainly has a lot of history in Albert Square so whether she will be welcomed back with open arms or not remains to be seen.
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“One thing the viewers can be sure about is that it is bound to be explosive. Wherever Janine goes, drama is never far behind.”
Harry Redknapp (playing himself) – joined
I’m a Celebrity star Harry Redknapp surprised fans with a cameo this summer.
The former West Ham manager portrayed himself – and not a character – as he popped into the pub for a pint.
Harry’s cameo aired to to coincide with the delayed Euro 2020 tournament, which took place between June 11 and July 11.
“What better way to mark a special summer for football fans than by having none other than West Ham legend Harry Redknapp pay a visit to Walford,” executive producer Jon Sen said of Harry’s appearance.
“He’s synonymous with London’s East End and we were delighted to hear he’s a fan of the show too. We can’t wait for audiences to see what brings Harry to Albert Square.”
Harry said: “It’s no secret that I’ve wanted to be in EastEnders so I’m over the moon to be making a special cameo this summer.
“With a nod to the Euros, it’s a lovely fit and as a proper East Londoner it’s been so much fun. [My wife] Sandra’s a huge fan, she watches it every day so it’s a real special moment for the whole family!”
Brian Conley (Terry Cant) – joined
Brian Conley has joined the cast of EastEnders as Sonia’s long lost father Terry Cant.
Brian made his debut in the BBC One soap back in May, with his character getting off on the wrong foot with Sonia.
Speaking about his new role, Brian revealed: “As you can imagine being a Londoner and now being part of EastEnders is such an incredible moment for me.
“I know for sure my dad’s looking down from above and saying ‘Good on yer son!’ It was always his favourite programme.
“So in so many ways it really is an honour to be part of such an iconic show and to be working with an incredibly talented team on camera and off. I cannot wait to order my first pint at The Queen Vic.”
Sonia searched for her long lost father online last year but failed to find him.
Gwen Taylor (Violet Highway) – joined
TV legend Gwen Taylor has joined EastEnders as Violet Highway, straight-talking grandmother of Callum and Stuart Highway.
Violet made her first appearance in May 2021 just in time for Callum’s dramatic wedding to boyfriend Ben Mitchell.
Violet quickly made clear she wasn’t happy about her grandson marrying into one of the Square’s most notorious criminal families.
Speaking about her character’s arrival, actress Gwen Taylor – who plays Vi – revealed to Digital Spy: “She’s very much stuck on Callum’s previous ill-fated wedding with Whitney and doesn’t let them forget it.”
“She likes to get a dig in but she also wants to make sure that Callum is going to be alright and not get hurt too. Vi’s not totally okay with their relationship but she’s accepting it because Callum seems happy.
“She does make comments about them, but she softens it a bit to not be completely harsh.”
James Farrar (Zack Hudson) – joined
James Farrar made his debut on the Square in March 2021 in the role of Zack Hudson, Sharon Watt’s estranged half-brother.
Zack made quite a scene at his late dad Gavin’s funeral, leaving the guests reeling with a scathing toast.
The newcomer then rocked up in Walford and insisted on building a relationship with his sister, even helping her set up her new gym business.
Zack then struck up a romance with Nancy Carter, but sabotaged his chances at happiness when he covered for Frankie after she ran Nancy over.
Maddy Hill (Nancy Carter) – returned
Actress Maddy Hill reprised her role as Nancy Carter back in April 2021, five years after her exit.
Nancy quickly sparked suspicion following her return when she was revealed to be visiting a doctor and using CBD oil.
Linda eventually confronted Nancy about her mysterious hospital visits and was stunned when Nancy announced she is choosing to be sterilized because she doesn’t want children.
Speaking about her return to EastEnders, Maddy said: “I’m so excited to be coming back and reconnecting with all the hilarious, warm, talented cast and crew and meeting some lovely new faces.”
Big Mo (Laila Morse) – left
EastEnders legend Laila Morse has left her role as Big Mo after more than 20 years.
Bi Mo swanned off with Fat Elvis to go on a cruise earlier this month (June 2021).
The Sun understands that actress Laila’s exit will only be temporary.
An EastEnders spokeswoman told The Sun: “Just like many occasions before, Big Mo will be departing Walford but as always she’ll no doubt be back in the not too distant future”.
Davood Ghadami (Kush Kazemi) – left
EastEnders Kush Kazemi was brutally murdered by serial killer Gray Atkins earlier this month, marking the end of Davood Ghadami’s time in Walford.
Gray shoved Kush under a train in a shock twist as he prepared to flee the Square with his fiancee Whitney Dean.
EastEnders confirmed at the beginning of 2021 that Davood would be leaving his role as Kush as part of an explosive storyline set to unfold later in the year.
It was confirmed that Davood’s EastEnders role been axed after producers made the choice not to renew his contract in favour of a dramatic exit.
Jake Wood (Max Branning) – left
Jake Wood left his role as Max Branning in EastEnders back in February 2021 as part of a huge storyline as his affair with Linda Carter came to a bitter end.
Max sealed his exit when he revealed Mick’s abuse hell to Linda – and the entire pub – and accused her of staying with him out of pity.
Linda later ordered Max to leave Walford and never speak to her again.
But it was Jack who finally persuaded Max to leave after discovering he’d blabbed about Mick’s abuse ordeal.
It was confirmed back in September that Max – who is played by Jake Wood in the BBC One soap – would be leaving in a huge new storyline after 15 years playing Max.
He told fans at the time: “I have loved playing Max Branning who amongst other things in that time has had 4 marriages, 10 affairs, 4 children (2 dying from falling from the roof of The Queen Vic), been buried alive, watched unwanted DVDs at Xmas and perhaps most traumatising of all…shared a hot tub with Ian Beale.
“I have made some truly great friends whilst on the show and I’ll miss everyone there. I’m grateful they have left the door open for Max and I’m excited to see what new horizons are around the corner.”