Deaths, break-ups, estranged family members. It can be hard to keep up with who’s coming and going in EastEnders.
So keep reading for a guide to who's joining and leaving the soap.
The dramtaic New Year's Day episode left viewers fearing the worst for Mick Carter after a character was shot when Aidan Maguire's hesit went sour.
Shots were fired at the end of Monday night’s instalment of the BBC soap and Mick (Danny Dyer) seemed to fall backwards as if he had been shot. Meanwhile, his wife Linda screamed.
Fans are now worried that the Queen Vic landlord might have been killed, and have been posting messages online insisting: “Mick cannot die.”
One upset viewer wrote on Twitter: “I’ve actually just been sitting there crying because mick got shot.”
Christmas Day drama
The big storyline for EastEnders fans over Christmas was a shocking accident involving both Branning sisters.
Lauren (Jacqueline Jossa) and Abi (Lorna Fitzgerald) had followed their father Max (Jake Wood) up onto the roof of the Queen Vic in a bid to stop him toppling from the building, but ended up slipping and falling into the square below themselves.
By the end of Boxing Day we were still none the wiser as to whether they had survived as Lauren was bleeding heavily during surgery and Abi's unborn baby was known to have survived, but she was headed for an MRI scan. A doctor uttered the ominous words to Max and Tanya (Jo Joyner) "I need to talk to you about your daughter" - but which one?
The pair had been central to the Steven Beale storyline which saw him lie to partner Lauren about having a brain tumour, whilst also having an affair with Abi who told him that she was pregnant just seconds before he died.
Whatever the fate of the Brannings, we do know that both actresses are leaving the soap, as confirmed by show bosses.
Jossa said: “I think when you’re leaving, it’s like ‘It better be Christmas’, and ‘I better be falling off the Vic’.
“That is what you want, you want it to be big, everyone speaking about it, and obviously it is, and it’s going to be, and it’s going to be one that everyone remembers.”
She added: “There’s been moments when we have just a look between us … all of a sudden, the look means so much more, because we know what’s about to happen in the story and where it’s going.
“Everything is so important now. It is telling a story and it’s coming together with that story, so it is really sad.”
Fitzgerald, 21, first arrived in Albert Square 11 years ago, while Jossa, 25, took over from Madeline Duggan in 2010.
Kandice Taylor (Hannah Spearitt}
EastEnders fans have praised former S Club 7 star Hannah Spearritt after she made her debut on Albert Square.
The singer appeared in Thursday night’s double-bill as Karen Taylor’s wealthy sister Kandice, who saved the day by eventually lending the Taylors £1,000 to settle their debts.
Welcoming the positive reviews, Spearritt posted on Twitter: “Thanku so much for the kind feedback guys… I’m on again at 9.30pm if you fancy a bit more…#Eastenders #kandicetaylor #bbc1."
She is the latest pop star to arrive in Albert Square and follows in the footsteps of Blue star Lee Ryan, who earlier this year took on the role of Harry “Woody” Woodward.
Spearritt, who previously appeared in ITV’s sci-fi drama Primeval, said: “I’m over the moon to be joining the show, it’s such a huge part of British telly.
“I’m really looking forward to getting started and I can’t wait to see the Square in the flesh… Walford here I come.”
The Taylor family first appeared in Albert Square in May, but little is known of Karen’s sibling.
Hunter Owen (Charlie Winter)
Abert Square is about to welcome a new arrival in the form of Mel and Steve Owen’s son, Hunter.
The teenager, played by debut actor Charlie Winter, will follow in the footsteps of his mother’s hotly anticipated return in the new year.
Viewers last saw actress Tamzin Outhwaite in April 2002 when she left the show while pregnant with her son.
While Hunter has never met his father, who was played by Martin Kemp, show creators have said that the young Owen has inherited Steve’s “charming and charismatic” traits, but hint he may also have an edge of his dad’s “dark side”.
Winter has already begun filming the scenes and will make his first appearance alongside his on-screen mother in 2018.
He said: “I’m so grateful for the opportunity to be on such an iconic show as EastEnders.
“It still feels really surreal that this has happened. It’s an exciting time for me and I can’t wait to get stuck in and for everyone to meet Hunter.”
Kat Moon is set to return to EastEnders once again in the New Year. The beloved character, who's been played by Jessie Wallace on and off since 2000, will be back on the Square after starring in her own spin-off Redwater with on-screen husband Alfie Moon (played by Shane Richie). Her exact return date is unconfirmed,but she won't be coming on her own.
Big Mo Harris (Laila Morse) and Jean Slater (Gillian Wright) will also be returning. The trio are expected to be involved in a storyline with Stacey Slater (Lacey Turner) following her traumatic Christmas storyline with Max Branning.
Tiffany Butcher (Maisie Smith)
Maisie first appeared in EastEnders as Bianca and Ricky Butcher’s cheeky but adorable six-year-old daughter in 2008. Now returning as a teen, she’s about to shake things up in Albert Square as a troublemaker and natural rebel.
Maisie has already begun filming scenes to be screened in the New Year and said she’s thrilled to be returning.
“It’s great to be back on the set of EastEnders. It’s been lovely to see some old faces and meet new ones too. I can’t wait to show everyone how much Tiffany has changed,” Maisie said.
Tiffany left Walford in 2014 with her family for a new life in Milton Keynes but is about to turn her half-sister Whitney’s world upside down when she returns on her doorstep – seemingly for good.
We last saw Maisie briefly in 2016 when she returned with her brother Morgan for Whitney and Lee’s wedding.
Mel Owen (Tamzin Outhwaite)
The BBC has revealed that Tamzin Outhwaite will be returning to EastEnders after a 15-year break as fan favourite Melanie Owen.
The actress, who has starred in hit dramas such as New Tricks, will return for her first appearance since 2002 later this year.
"EastEnders is in my DNA and I always knew deep down that someday I would revisit Mel," saId Outhwaite.
"To be stepping back into Mel's shoes nearly twenty years after I first started feels just perfect."
EastEnders creative director John Yorke promised an "incredible storyline" that will "awaken a lot of old ghosts, some great memories, and a whole new series of adventures too."
Melanie Owen departed the soap after Phil Mitchell put up money for her bail and she fled the country. Her husband, Steve Owen (Martin Kemp), died in a crash after a fight with Phil.
She has connections in Albert Square with Phil, her ex-husband Ian Beale and Billy Mitchell, who she had a brief fling with.
Masood Ahmed (Nitin Ganatra)
EastEnders star Nitin Ganatra has said he is “over-bloody-whelmed” after fans welcomed news of his return as postman Masood to Albert Square. Ganatra, 50, quit EastEnders in November 2016 after nine years in Walford, saying he wanted to explore other roles.
Viewers saw his character leave with his son Kamil, to begin a new life in Pakistan and reunite with ex-wife Zainab. But he will return later this year, with new cast members playing his extended family as Masood “tries his best to settle (them) into Albert Square”.
Ganatra confirmed he would reprise the role, writing on Twitter: “I am somewhat over-bloody-whelmed for the love being shown for Masood for his return (not onscreen for a while yet) Thank U. Love u.”
He said in a statement: “It was a lovely surprise to be asked back to EastEnders so soon after I left. In fact I was bowled over.
“When I was told Masood has still much to give to the show and is missed by the audience, it was hard to refuse.
“It is with great pride that I will grow my Masood goaty once again to help create and base an extended family around him. Exciting days to come Walford with Masood back on the Square.”
Cora Cross (Ann Mitchell)
Max Branning's life has been spiraling out of control for months, and its just got a whole lot worse as Cora Cross (played by Ann Mitchell) has made her dramatic return to Albert Square.
When Max hoped to be reunited with his estranged son Oscar for his brithday, fiesty Cora burst back onto our screens to ensure that it never happens. Max is far from being on good terms with his ex-mother-in-law, and she's made it very clear she thinks her grandson is far better off with Max out of his life. And to make matters worse, Cora told Max she knows all about his twisted plot to destroy the Square.
We know that Max is headed for an epic (and perhaps final) showdown over Christmas, and surely Cora's return will do little to save him from his own undoing. As for whether Cora will be back anytime soon we don't know, but we wouldn't be surprised if she pops up in the near future as Max's schemes continue to unravel.
Johnny Cater (Ted Reilly)
EastEnders star Ted Reilly has said he will miss his “amazing” co-stars after announcing his plans to leave the soap.
The actor, 26, first arrived in Albert Square as Johnny Carter last year, stepping into the shoes of previous actor Sam Strike and winning viewers’ hearts with his romance with Ben Mitchell.
In a moving Twitter post, he told his fans that it had been a “really tough” but necessary decision.
He wrote: “Thank you for all your lovely messages regarding EE! It was a really tough decision to leave, but at this stage in my career it’s very important to keep being challenged & experience new things!
“I’ll miss the amazing people on the square especially my Carter clan!”
After being written out of the BBC One show, Reilly has now stopped filming and his exit will be aired early in the new year.
The broadcaster said in a statement: “We can confirm Ted has finished filming with EastEnders and wish him all the best for the future.”
Ben Mitchell (Harry Reid)
EastEnders sources have confirmed that Ben Mitchell, played by Harry Reid for the last three years, will be exiting the soap in early 2018.
Phil Mitchell and Kathy Beale’s son has long been a resident bad boy. Storylines have included him accidentally killing Heather Trott, having a lovechild, struggling to come out as gay and being part of a homophobic attack.
Now in a twisted relationship with Luke Browning, the son of James Wilmott-Brown, who raped his mum Kathy some twenty plus years ago. Already Luke has shown early signs of being abusive towards the significantly younger Ben, causing fans to speculate whether he will be connected to the character’s departure.
A spokesperson for EastEnders has announced:
"We can confirm that Harry will be leaving EastEnders. Harry has been a great addition to the cast and we wish him all the best for the future.”
Linda and Mick Carter? (Kellie Bright and Danny Dyer)
Mick and Linder Carter have been pushed out of The Queen Vic and have just announced that they’re seriously considering a new job in Stratford-upon-Avon for a “new start”.
Does this mean the famous Enders couple is leaving for good? Surely they're not going to let their beloved Queen Vic be turned into luxury flats after all?
While rumours have been swirling for months that Danny Dyer will be leaving EastEnders, we’re still waiting for an official confirmation from the soap’s bosses. Watch this space…
Mariam and Arshad Ahmed (Masood's aunt and uncle)
Not only is Masood Ahmed expected back on Albert Square later this year, but he’s also bringing his aunt and uncle with him. EastEnders bosses have just announced that postman Masood’s aunt and uncle will be joining the EastEnders cast.
Mariam (played by The Kumars at No 42 star Indira Joshi) and Arshad Ahmed (played by former Casualty star Madhv Sharma) are Masood’s aunt and uncle and shall rent number 41 from their nephew.
Before they know it the two will become embroiled in the EastEnders drama, with Mariam described by EastEnders writers as having a “no nonsense yet gentle attitude” and Arshad as possessing “jovial and mischievous ways.”
EastEnders Executive Consultant, John Yorke said of the new joiners:
“We’ve always known that Masood came from a big family, and the time has now come to reveal a few more of them, of which Mariam and Arshad are just the first. Nitin has been invaluable to the show since he and the Masoods first rolled up in Albert Square. We’re really excited to bring in the next generation of the family, for some incredibly challenging, fun and exciting stories ahead.”
Joshi and Sharma have already begun filming scenes for EastEnders, which will be shown in early 2018.
Hollywood star Patrick Bergin has joined EastEnders to play Aidan Joseph Patrick Maguire, a charismatic old school villain who is full of charm but cross him at your peril…
Aidan is an old friend of Phil Mitchell’s; they used to live together at Her Majesty’s Pleasure in 2005. During their time inside the two formed a strong friendship helping each other out if and when they needed it. Although they haven’t been in touch for years, when Aidan turns up on Phil’s doorstep it’s not long before the old bond is instantly reignited as well as Phil’s passion for dabbling in things that aren’t, well, strictly legit… High status, enigmatic and full of charm, Aidan Maguire’s presence in Walford will most certainly be felt.
Patrick Bergin has starred in many films and television dramas including Mountains of the Moon, Dracula, Robin Hood, Red Rock and most famously Sleeping with the Enemy.
Speaking about joining EastEnders Patrick said: "I am delighted to be joining EastEnders as I have watched and admired it since the days of Dirty Den. It is an iconic show that has the ability to shape the way people think, whilst also telling big explosive stories that keep the audience gripped. I am really looking forward to seeing what they have in store for Aidan as it's bound to be dramatic."
John Yorke, creative director, EastEnders said: "EastEnders deserves the very best and in Patrick we are absolutely privileged to have a truly great actor join the show. It’s a huge honour to have him on board, where he’ll be working hand in hand with Phil Mitchell and Mick Carter to carry a truly explosive storyline for Christmas and New Year. We can’t wait to get started."