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…

Inside Soap - - WELCOME! - Laura-jayne Tyler

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?

Easten­ders

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!

Slap and tickle: Rainie and Max’s pre­tend union has been a roller-coaster ride

Rainie days: Schem­ing Max got hitched to his for­mer sis­ter-in-law

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