Martin says that Max has to go
As fate dishes out fresh agony for Max, Jake Wood reflects on his alter ego’s past, ponders his present – and looks to his future…
Max Branning never fails to surprise us. Just when you think there is nowhere else to go for a character so destructive and damaged, there he is – setting our screens alight as one of Walford’s most watchable characters.
But what is it about the shameless love rat that we can’t get enough of? Star Jake Wood – who continues to act his socks off as Max, while regularly topping polls as the UK’S weirdest crush – is extremely modest when
Inside Soap probes him on the secret to his character’s success…
Lovely to chat to you again, Jake. What is it about Max that has kept you with Eastenders for so long?
I love playing him as much now as
I did when I joined the show 12 years ago. Max has been through so many changes, hasn’t he? And he’s not boring to play, that’s for sure! You just never know what he’s going to do next, and I’m as equally intrigued as anyone else to see what he’s going to be up to.
His time in Walford has been one hell of a ride, hasn’t it?
has been very kind to me – I’ve had fantastic storylines over the years. If you think back to everything Max has done, right back to his and Stacey’s DVD reveal, Max being buried alive and then run over by his daughter, there’s a whole list of dramas that he’s been through. It’s been amazing.
Can you remember what you thought when you found out that Rainie would return to the Square and team up with Max?
Yeah, it’s one of those ideas that sounds far-fetched, but actually just feels right. Rainie came along at the right time for Max, and they provided something for each other that they both needed. Max was very lost after last Christmas following the death of his daughter, Abi, and Rainie is a bit of a lost soul as well.
What is Tanya Franks (Rainie) like to have as your new leading lady?
I love Tanya as an actress – I think she is amazing, and it’s been great to have her back. When [Eastenders’ executive consultant] John Yorke told me, I was excited. The audience has reacted well to it, too – they like them as a couple!
Would you like to revisit Rainie’s addiction story, and explore how Max would cope with it?
I think that would be interesting. Max can be very solid when he needs to be, so I’d like to think that he would cope if that situation ever presented itself.
Max went to some dark places last year. Are you pleased he’s gone in a calmer direction since?
Yeah, I don’t think you can sustain a character at that kind of intensity for too long! They were amazing storylines for Max last Christmas, so it’s been nice to regroup the character a little bit. This year has been quieter in comparison!
Did it feel strange with Jacqueline Jossa and Lorna Fitzgerald (who played Max’s daughters Lauren and Abi) no longer on set?
They were here so long, the pair of them – especially Lorna, who had been playing Abi since she was 10 years old. There’s always people coming and going on Eastenders – I’m lucky to have been here a while and I’ve seen a lot of changes, so you get used to the revolving door. But I miss working with Lorna and Jacqueline in particular.
It was great that Jo Joyner (who played Max’s ex-wife Tanya) returned for their exit. After everything that has happened, who’s the right woman for Max?
I’d say Tanya is probably the one he should be with. He had the perfect family there for about 10 minutes – but the problem with Max is that he can’t see what’s under his nose, can he? So, what a shame that it didn’t work out. But you know, it’s Max!
What about Max and Stacey? After all this time, the chemistry between them is still red-hot!
I’ve always thought that it would be interesting if Max and Stacey got married! I don’t know if that’s something Eastenders has planned or will ever do, but personally I think that would be really interesting. On a selfish level I hope they do more together, as Lacey [Turner, who plays Stacey] is a great actress. Maybe it’ll happen sometime down the road!
“I love playing Max as much now as I did when I joined Eastenders…”
Meanwhile, the future for Max remains uncertain – but Jake is busy with other projects that will soon see him take a little break from Walford. The 46-year-old, who is married to wife Alison and has two children, Amber and Buster, will be touring the UK in January with his boxing podcast, Pound For Pound, for a series of live shows.
How are your plans shaping up for the tour?
Very good, we have some exciting guests lined up. Boxing is a love of mine, and it’s a pleasure to get people such as Tyson Fury, Tony Bellew, Carl Froch, Gary Lineker and Ray Winstone involved. People are loving the podcast, so we’re looking forward to getting it out on the road.
How long do you expect to be away from Walford?
Just a couple of months. I’m doing Nativity! The Musical for a week in December in Oxford, and then the Pound For Pound tour. Another reason to take a break is to regroup and spend time with the kids. That’s my favourite really, just being Dad at home – and then I’ll be back to Walford with a bang.
Have you managed to keep up with your salsa dancing after people went wild for it on Strictly Come Dancing?
I haven’t – and I always get asked to dance now! But unless you have an amazing partner like Janette [Manrara, who partnered Jake in 2014] teaching you, you’re not going to do that every time you hit the dance floor. I’m watching this current series, though, and always support my friends on the show.
Back to Eastenders, are you excited for Max’s future?
I’m very excited that
Kate Oates [Walford’s new senior executive producer] is joining us. She’s done amazing things at her other jobs [as the boss of Corrie and Emmerdale] so we’re really looking forward to what she brings.
Finally, did you ever expect to be on the show for 12 years when you started?
No, I don’t think you can, can you? The Branning family signed a three-year contract initially, so it’s worked out very well. I live not far from the studios, so in terms of a stable family life it’s just been the perfect gig, and I’m thankful every day that I’m there. It’s a dream job!
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