Jamie Borthwick as Jay Brown (2011)
|Portrayed by||Jamie Borthwick|
|First appearance||14 December 2006|
|Introduced by||Kate Harwood|
|"East Street" (2010)|
James "Jay" Brown (also Mitchell) is a fictional character from the BBC soap opera EastEnders, played by Jamie Borthwick. He made his first appearance on 14 December 2006. Jay's storylines have included being part of a gang, being orphaned by age 14 which resulted in his going into foster care and then being taken care of by the Mitchell family, as well as maturing from a wayward teen and forming a relationship with Abi Branning (Lorna Fitzgerald).
Jay is the son of Karen Brown and Jase Dyer (Stephen Lord), and grandson of Bert Atkinson (Dave Hill) and Evie Brown (Marji Campi). Karen died in 2004 of breast cancer. Jay was first mentioned on 5 December 2006, when a dying Evie told Bert that he had a grandson.
Jay first appears after Evie's funeral, when he is taken to live with Bert in Walford, per Evie's wishes. Jay is troublesome: He steals, breaks into Pauline Fowler's (Wendy Richard) house, and offends Yolande Trueman (Angela Wynter) with a racist slur to impress his peers. When Jay's father Jase arrives, Bert leaves to allow Jay and Jase to bond. Jay continues getting into trouble, becoming involved with a gang of older boys, known as the E20 crew, led by Tegs Teague (Ben Smith). Jay helps them shoplift, and they give him a knife. The gang terrorises Dot Branning (June Brown) and Jay steals her keys so they can break into her house. The gang orders Jay to throw a brick through Dot's window, but realising it is wrong, Jay refuses and is rejected from the gang. Tegs later confronts Jay and a fight ensues, with Jay being stabbed in the leg. Tegs is arrested and his mother Tina (Kerry Ann White) tries to threaten Jay from testifying against her son at his trial. However, she is scared off by Jase's girlfriend Dawn (Kara Tointon). Jay gives evidence at the trial and Tegs is sentenced to two years in a Young Offenders Institute.
Jay and Jase try to flee Walford when Jase double-crosses a football firm but Dawn stops their departure by setting a date for her and Jase's wedding. The firm, led by Terry Bates (Nicholas Ball), holds Jay hostage to get revenge on Jase. Jase is able to save Jay with Billy Mitchell's (Perry Fenwick) help but is beaten to death by Terry's men, and Billy, too frightened to intervene, leaves Jase to die. Jay accuses Dawn of causing his father's death and goes into care to get away from her. Jay is later fostered by Billy, who is wracked with guilt for not saving Jase from the gang. Jay's behaviour worsens when he plans an arson attack on Dawn, but Billy is able to stop him and Jay eventually makes amends with Dawn. Jay and Billy move into a flat with Janine Butcher (Charlie Brooks), who tries to get rid of Jay by stealing and blaming it on him. Feeling unwanted, Jay befriends Marissa Moore (Finn Atkins), who works at a brothel, and they plan to run away together. When Marissa backs out, Jay runs away alone and sleeps rough, until Billy convinces him to move back in. Terry's trial for Jase's murder approaches and Jay is furious to learn that, rather than attempting to help Jase, Billy hid to save himself. Terry's wife, Viv Bates (Dido Miles), threatens to hurt Jay if Billy testifies. Jay is taken hostage by Terry's firm as a security measure, and Billy risks his own life to save him. Billy and Jay are both rescued by the police and Billy testifies, which results in Terry receiving life imprisonment for murder, partially redeeming himself in the eyes of Jay.
Billy and Jay move in with Billy's relative Phil Mitchell's (Steve McFadden). Phil gives Jay a job as a mechanic and they bond. Phil is proud of Jay when he overpowers Connor Stanley (Arinze Kene), a man who sells stolen goods for Phil. In doing so, Jay stops Connor stealing Phil's profits. Impressed with Jay's courage, Phil is pleased when Jay decides to change his surname to Mitchell, though it upsets Phil's son Ben (Joshua Pascoe). Despite initial animosity between Ben and Jay, they grow fond of each other, referring to themselves as 'brothers'. Jay starts dating Abi Branning (Lorna Fitzgerald) despite objections from her father Max (Jake Wood), who thinks Jay is only interested in sex. Jay and Abi do plan to have sex several times, but on each occasion, they are unable to go through with it. Despite Abi's insecurities over Jay's friendship with Lola Pearce (Danielle Harold), she and Jay remain together, and eventually Max comes to accept them as a couple. In 2012, Phil is imprisoned for the murder of his ex-partner Stella Crawford (Sophie Thompson), who abused Ben then jumped from a building in 2007 after Phil confronted her. It transpires that Ben is behind Phil's arrest, having given a false testimony to the police to punish his father for rejecting him for being gay. Ben admits giving false testimony to his brother, Ian Beale (Adam Woodyatt), but Heather Trott (Cheryl Ferguson) overhears. Although it is Ian who tells the police about Ben's lie, Ben assumes it is Heather; he confronts her and in a rage, kills her. Jay witnesses the murder and is persuaded by Phil, who has just been released from prison, to cover-up Ben's involvement. Jay is traumatised by the murder and incensed to discover Ben has kept evidence to frame him for Heather's murder, should he need to. When Heather's finacé Andrew Cotton (Ricky Grover) is falsely charged with Heather's murder, Jay is unable to see him sent to prison and tells the police Andrew is innocent, saying he saw him elsewhere at the time of Heather's murder; Andrew is released without charge. With Phil and Ben frequently fighting in the wake of the cover-up, Jay decides he cannot remain living with them and moves in with Abi's family. However, after a long discussion with Abi's father Max (Jake Wood), Jay returns home to live with Phil and Shirley. When Abi wins a trip to Costa Rica in a competition, she hides it from Jay and her parents. However, Abi's mother Tanya (Jo Joyner) discovers the letter detailing the trip and accidentally reveals Abi's trip to Jay, who then confronts her. When Jay tells Tanya that he loves Abi, Tanya tells him that if he really loves her he'd let her go on the trip. Jay tries to convince Abi to go, but, when she begins to refuse, Jay proposes to Abi. She tells him she does not want to be a young bride and leaves for Costa Rica, leaving him heartbroken. Jay seeks comfort in his friend Lola Pearce (Danielle Harold), and after breaking into The Queen Victoria public house, Lola kisses a stunned Jay. While cleaning under Ben's bed, Jay finds the photo frame that Ben used to murder Heather. Horrified, Jay wants to report Ben to the police, but is tricked by Ben who goes to his house and tears up the photo of Heather and Shirley and hides the frame in a bin bag. When they both agree to dispose of the frame they later return only to find it has gone missing. They trace the bag to The Queen Victoria public house but, before they can find the photo frame, an angry Jean Slater (Gillian Wright) asks them to leave. They tell Phil what has happened, and as he storms over the Square, he notices some bin bags being disposed of outside the pub and they assume theirs is one of them. However, the photo frame has been handed in to the charity shop. Jay supports Lola Pearce (Danielle Harold) through her labour and bonds with the baby, Lexi, in the absence of the biological father. Shirley eventually uncovers the truth about Heather's murder and is horrified that Phil and Jay knew. Ben confesses to the police and they find the photo frame. Jay then backs up Ben's story, is charged with perverting the course of justice and released on bail to live with Billy (unable to return to Phil's as he is a witness). Jay visits Phil, who orders him to change his statement so Ben will not go to prison. However, Jay refuses and Phil disowns him. Jay is comforted by Patrick Trueman (Rudolph Walker). Billy then tells Jay he cannot stay with him; Jay brands him a coward, and breaks down as he misses his father. He is forced to sleep rough and Kat Moon (Jessie Wallace) lets him in for food and drink until her husband Alfie Moon (Shane Richie) turns him away. Jay then secretly sees Lola but she is scared of him and tells him not to go near Lexi. Rejected by the rest of the community, Jay then stays with Patrick, who has offered him a place to stay.
Abi returns from her trip and learns from her parents about Jay's involvement in Heather's murder, and she rejects him. The next day she tells him he should have done more to stop Ben. He resumes his friendship with Lola and helps her steal cleaning supplies to make money, and they end up sharing a kiss in front of Abi. Abi insists she is happy for them both, however, Lola says she was just winding Abi up, and the three friends reunite. Jay gains employment from Max but is sacked when Phil refuses to work with Jay, when he has to collect cars from Phil. Abi consoles Jay, and after she is attacked by Alexa Smith (Saffron Coomber), Jay comforts her and they declare their love for each other. Jay is later pleased when Lola asks him to be Lexi's godfather, he has doubts whether he will be good enough but Abi's grandmother and Lexi's godmother Cora Cross (Ann Mitchell) assures him he will be. In court, Jay is sentenced to community service for his part in Heather's death.
Jay, Abi, Lola, Dexter Hartman (Khali Best), Peter Beale (Ben Hardy) and Cindy Williams (Mimi Keene) go on a caravan holiday, where Abi discovers her period is late and tells Jay that she could be pregnant. Jay and Abi argue because she wants an abortion if she is pregnant, while Jay would rather be a father. Abi is not pregnant but Jay thinks thinks their relationship is over, so kisses barmaid Kitty (Chloe May-Cuthill), witnessed by Dexter. Jay and Abi reunite but he feels guilty, and when Kitty keeps calling him, he tells her to stop, but is overheard by Lola. Jay promises Lola that he only loves Abi, and Lola agrees to say nothing to Abi.
Casting and development
Borthwick was 12 years old when he joined the cast of EastEnders. He attended three auditions, followed by a screen test, after which he was offered the part of Jay. Originally a recurring character, Jay was considered a regular from July 2007. He was involved in a minor racism storyline, where he called another character a "black cow". EastEnders' executive producer Diederick Santer said this was inspired by the race row in Channel 4's reality show, Celebrity Big Brother, commenting: "The Celebrity Big Brother race row kicked off as I took charge of my first scripts. I thought it was fascinating because it showed there was a real need for a debate about race in Britain. [Big Brother] didn't do it particularly well, so I thought it could be something EastEnders should do. Our stuff won't be overly moralistic or preachy but it will tackle this serious issue head on." Another controversial storyline saw Jay get involved with a gang of youths, ending with him being stabbed in the thigh. A BBC spokesperson said "This is easily one of the most shocking and controversial storylines EastEnders has ever done. It is not a decision bosses have taken lightly, but it is an issue that is top of the news agenda. [...] We're going to tread very carefully — it won't be gratuitous. The plan is to screen the episodes in the usual slots before the watershed. Hopefully by showing the suffering that gang violence can cause, some people may think twice about getting involved."
In January 2008, the BBC received 184 complaints from viewers over 13-year-old Jay's stabbing storyline, angry that children would have seen it. Ofcom received a further seven complaints. The BBC allowed the controversial broadcast despite a clampdown on soap violence being ordered. John Beyer of Mediawatch-uk said: "I think this shows that at a flagship programme such as EastEnders they are prepared to ignore public opinion, prepared to ignore the regulator and the complaints and carry on regardless." A BBC spokesperson defended the storyline, stating: "EastEnders has always tackled difficult issues and we acknowledge that some viewers could consider this storyline challenging. However, we aim to reflect real issues and during this storyline the audience will see Jay's torment through to him deciding not to yield to peer pressure like his father did many years ago. This is part of a long-running storyline that in no way glamorises the use of knives, or portrays violence in a positive light. In fact the storyline will culminate in the character of Jay doing the right thing."
Borthwick has been praised by critics for his portrayal of Jay. Nancy Banks-Smith of The Guardian wrote that the episode in which his father died "offered Jason's young son, Jay (Jamie Borthwick), a chance to steal the show, which he duly did with a touching torrent of grief. His father, a thief himself, would have been proud of him." Borthwick won the award for 'Best Dramatic Performance from a Young Actor or Actress' at the 2008 British Soap Awards, and was nominated for 'Best Child Actor' at the 2008 Digital Spy Soap Awards.
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