Jo Joyner as Tanya Branning (2013)
|Portrayed by||Jo Joyner|
|First appearance||27 June 2006|
|Last appearance||28 June 2013|
|Introduced by||Kate Harwood|
Tanya Lauren Cross (previously Branning and Jessop) is a fictional character from the BBC soap opera EastEnders, played by Jo Joyner. She made her first appearance on 27 June 2006. She left the show temporarily on 25 December 2009 for maternity leave and returned for one episode on 23 June 2010. She made her full-time return on 27 September 2010. Tanya's storylines have included opening her own salon, giving birth to her third child, divorcing and then burying Max Branning (Jake Wood) alive, marrying Greg Jessop (Stefan Booth), starting an affair with Max, dealing with her cervical cancer and discovering that Max has a secret wife, Kirsty Branning (Kierston Wareing). On 1 May 2012, it was announced Joyner would take another break from the series in 2013, however, on 1 April 2013, it was announced her departure would be indefinite. On 15 May 2013, Joyner filmed her final scenes and departed on 28 June 2013.
Tanya is the second child born to Bill and Cora Cross (Ann Mitchell). She grew up on a council estate in East London and dabbled with drugs and alcohol. Aged 18, she began an affair with Max Branning (Jake Wood), not knowing he was married, and fell pregnant. Max left his wife Rachel Branning (Sukie Smith/Pooky Quesnel) and six-year-old son Bradley (Charlie Clements) to be with her. Their daughter Lauren Branning (Madeline Duggan until 2010, Jacqueline Jossa thereafter) was born. They married in 1994 and had another daughter, Abi Branning (Lorna Fitzgerald). Tanya became estranged from her widowed mother and older sister Rainie Cross (Tanya Franks), who went on to become a drug-addicted prostitute.
Tanya arrives in Albert Square after Max's car breaks down, not realising in fact Max is visiting his family. She finds out that he has had an affair with Gemma Clewes (Natalie J. Robb) but forgives him. To make it up to her, Max buys 10 Turpin Road for Tanya, which she turns into a beauty salon named Booty. Tanya after much pressure from Max gives birth to Oscar. Unbeknown to Tanya, Max has started an affair with Stacey Slater (Lacey Turner) who is Max's son Bradley's wife. When the affair is revealed on Christmas Day on a video recording recorded by Lauren, Tanya asks for a divorce and starts a relationship with Stacey's brother Sean (Robert Kazinsky). Tanya plots to bury Max alive and with the help of Sean, they drug Max and bury him in the woods. Tanya later feels guilty and digs him up and breaks up with Sean. Tanya then has to face her sister, Rainie turning up as she did the year before, claiming she is clean of drugs, though tests positive, so Tanya orders her to leave. Tanya then starts a relationship with Max's brother Jack (Scott Maslen) and Max tries to split them up. Tanya and Max later share a kiss, after Max is abducted and beaten by Jack. Max is run down in a deliberate hit-and-run. Tanya admits to the police that she tried to kill Max; however, Lauren was the culprit. After the police find out Lauren was the driver, Max and Tanya suffer a bumpy relationship which ends up in Tanya forgiving Max and allowing him to move back in, but when she finds out they are in debt and Max has been hiding it, she leaves with Lauren and Oscar after finding out Booty was to close down, with Abi refusing to go with Tanya and staying with Max.
Tanya returns to Walford with her new fiancé Greg Jessop (Stefan Booth). Rainie and her mother, Cora Cross (Ann Mitchell) arrive in Walford for her wedding, much to Tanya's dismay. Greg and Tanya marry, and Tanya soon starts an affair with Max. Greg later buys the beauty salon from Roxy Mitchell (Rita Simons) and later pushes Tanya to have another baby though Tanya is against the idea. Tanya allows Rainie and Cora to move in. Tanya and Max plan to reveal their affair but Tanya finds out that she may have cervical cancer. After discovering this, she breaks up with Max, but he decides to tell the truth to his fiancé, Vanessa Gold (Zöe Lucker) who reveals all to Greg. Heartbroken, Greg leaves Walford and when Max realises Tanya does not want to be with him either, he leaves too. Tanya is diagnosed with cervical cancer and tells only Lauren and forbids her from telling anyone else. Greg briefly returns but can't handle the news that Tanya has cancer and quickly leaves again. Tanya then decides to stop her therapy, although does not tell Lauren about this. Later, Tanya agrees to allow Cora to move back in, after she has been thrown out by Dot Branning (June Brown). Tanya's doctor, Yusef Khan (Ace Bhatti), later confronts Tanya and asks why she has stopped her treatment. Tanya goes to the hospital where she tells her doctor that wants no more treatment as she does not have the strength to fight, despite the fact she could die.
Max returns to Walford with his brother Derek Branning (Jamie Foreman). Max insults Tanya, and Tanya throws him out. As Tanya starts to throw her mother and sister out, Lauren reveals that Tanya has cancer and confronts her about stopping her therapy. Tanya then tells Cora and Rainie the truth about how her father died—he did not die peacefully as they believed, but was in constant pain and so Tanya helped him to die. Max then reconciles with Tanya and they become a couple again. She learns that she has been given the all-clear from cancer but is worried that it might return. She finds it difficult to be close to Max, but after a frank discussion over their marriage and sex life, Max reassures Tanya that she is all that matters to him. When Derek discovers that Tanya scared his daughter Alice Branning (Jasmyn Banks) away, he threatens to kill Tanya if she does it again. When Tanya discovers that cars at the car lot are being repossessed, she and Max argue, which leads to passion and they have sex for the first time since Tanya's all-clear from cancer. Tanya announces that her divorce from Greg will soon be finalised and proposes to Max. Lauren tells Tanya that Derek stole from Lucy Beale (Hetti Bywater) and she confronts him about it. Derek in response taunts Tanya about what he and Max did in Manchester. She confronts Max, who says he was involved in criminal dealings causing someone to get hurt. He then accepts her proposal from earlier and they get engaged.
Tanya discovers a birth certificate for a sister called Ava Anderton (Clare Perkins). She confronts Cora, who refuses to talk about it, but eventually tells Tanya that Ava died not long after her birth and it hurt so much she never told anyone, not even the father. Tanya then tells Cora that she can talk to her any time. When Ian Beale (Adam Woodyatt) goes missing, Tanya helps to bring him back to Walford, which makes her decide she wants Rainie at her wedding, but Cora lies to her that Rainie does not want to attend, when in fact Rainie does not want to see Cora. Patrick tells Tanya the truth about Ava—that she is alive and Cora gave her up for adoption, so Tanya secretly tracks down Ava to her place of work, a school in Dalston. Tanya is shocked that Ava is black, and decides not to see her again. Tanya leaves her purse behind and Ava returns in, meeting Cora. Cora is shocked when Ava says her name, and is angry at Tanya, disowning her. Lauren is involved in a car crash and tells Tanya that she is in love with her cousin, Joey Branning (David Witts). Derek blackmails Tanya to keep Lauren and Joey's relationship secret from the rest of the family, and Joey is forced by Derek to end his relationship with Lauren. On Christmas Day, Tanya is stunned when Max's secret wife Kirsty Branning (Kierston Wareing) arrives moments before she is due to re-marry Max. Max insists he thought they were divorced (Derek had lied to him) and Tanya and Max continue their relationship, but when Tanya finds Kirsty's keys in Max's pocket (given to Lauren by Kirsty), Tanya assumes Kirsty and Max are still involved. She tells Kirsty to sign divorce papers, but Kirsty refuses. Lauren also discovers that Tanya has not attended a hospital appointment, when Tanya said she was given the all-clear from cancer. Kirsty agrees to the divorce, realising she is hurting Max, and Max shows Tanya saying Kirsty is leaving. Tanya realises Max still loves Kirsty because he refuses to have sex with her and is sad about Kirsty leaving. Max confirms this so Tanya ejects Max from the house saying their relationship is over for good, and she celebrates the breakup. She does not cope though, and is nearly drawn back to Max. She decides that to resist temptation she must leave Walford, and Max is deeply disappointed.
She returns a few weeks later to find Max, Kirsty, Abi and Lauren having a meal together and laughing. Lauren continues to drink but Tanya refuses to believe she is addicted until she keeps Lauren in the house and she reveals that she has been sipping vodka from a water bottle. Tanya locks Lauren in her bedroom but she escapes through her window. Later, Lauren gets drunk on a night out and leaves with a stranger; she does not return the next morning. Eventually, when she does come back, her skin and eyes are yellow and she collapses in pain. She is taken to hospital where Tanya and Max are told she is an alcoholic, has alcoholic hepatitis, and one more drink could kill her. The doctor suggests that the best treatment for Lauren is residential care. Later, Lauren tells her family that she cannot stand her parents' constant arguing, so Tanya decides to take take Lauren, Abi and Oscar to Exeter, where Lauren can get help for her alcoholism. Abi refuses to leave so Tanya leaves Walford with Lauren and Oscar in a taxi. Lauren soon returns to Albert Square, but Tanya and Oscar remain in Exeter.
In early reports of the character's arrival, her name was spelt Tania. This was later changed on the official BBC website. Joyner originally turned down the role as she had doubts over whether she could work in a soap opera. She said "It was a massive decision. I said no originally. Playing someone in a soap is a big responsibility. People are very protective of the soap and if you are rubbish you can't get away from it." Also, having worked quietly and successfully in the industry for eight years, Joyner was unsure if she would be comfortable with the level of fame being on EastEnders would bring her. During the affair storyline between Stacey Slater (Lacey Turner) and Tanya's husband Max (Jake Wood), Joyner did not read any parts of the EastEnders scripts other than her own, as she felt her acting was improved by not knowing what Max did behind Tanya's back, and because she felt that she could better justify to herself why Tanya would not suspect Max of cheating if she in reality did not know what he was getting up to.
In a July 2008 interview with the Sunday People, Joyner revealed that she was disappointed that Tanya's wild child past had not been explored more in the aftermath of her character burying Max alive, saying "I didn't think Tanya would be as mumsy at first. She was quite hard in her past and it would have been fun to have that side come out. Tanya has a really naughty side. When she was young she was a lot like Stacey Slater. That hasn't really come out yet but she definitely has it in her." Joyner temporarily left the show in December 2009 for maternity leave. Her departure was facilitated through a storyline in which Max hid financial problems from the family and Tanya left him. The show's executive producer Diederick Santer revealed that some planned storyline material for Max and Tanya was put on hold until Joyner's return from maternity leave. On 6 May 2010, Joyner filmed a single episode that was broadcast on 23 June, and she made her full-time return on 27 September 2010.
|“||Family is paramount to Tanya. Max was the love of her life, but his affair with Stacey destroyed their marriage, and nearly destroyed her. Though she's had dalliances with Sean Slater, Jack Branning and even went up the aisle with Greg Jessop, it's Max she always goes back to. Tanya may be one of Walford’s most loving mums, but she also has a wild side. So she's wise to any and all of the tricks pulled by her rebellious daughter, Lauren - she pulled them herself when she was the same age.||”|
—Description of Tanya on the BBC Website (2012)
In an interview with Digital Spy, Joyner admitted that she prefers playing a "feisty" character and would like to explore that side of Tanya. Joyner confirmed that she wants sparks to fly between her character and estranged husband Max. She added: "I hope it comes out. I think she's been a little bit calm and a little bit mumsy lately and I think if she's been away from Max for a while, she needs to come back with a bit more fight about her and have him on his knees a bit." Of her experiences as a mother, she added: "It's fantastic. It's full on but it's just been a whirlwind. I've just been so lucky."
On 21 March 2008, Joyner revealed a script in which Tanya would bury Max alive. Speaking of when she first heard about the burial idea, the actress admitted: "I actually was really upset! I heard about the theory and I thought 'how are you going to get me there? She's not a killer!" "I did always say to Diederick [Santer] when this happened that as far as I was concerned, the only way she can kill Max is when she finds out on Christmas Eve in a blind fit of rage – that's the only time when she could be a murderer." In February 2011, it was announced that filming had started on location for Greg and Tanya's wedding in April 2011. However, at the time it was unconfirmed whether they would actually marry, meaning that the couple's future would hang in the balance until the time of broadcast. The Daily Mail reported that Tanya would flee the wedding to help Max and Abi when they are hurt in a serious accident, though they said that Tanya and Greg may have already exchanged vows.
Joyner revealed to What's on TV that she thinks that happy storylines are boring and that EastEnders needs depressing storylines to be dramatic. She added that Walford is a miserable place which part of the fun.
On 26 June 2011, it was announced by EastEnders that Tanya will feature in a cervical cancer storyline. Executive producer Bryan Kirkwood said that viewers will see Tanya receive the devastating news that she has cervical cancer. EastEnders has worked closely with experts in the field to ensure that the issue is accurately portrayed. Viewers will see how Tanya, a mother of three, will use her inner determination to deal with what will be one of the toughest challenges of her life. The director of Jo's Cervical Cancer trust Robert Music said that EastEnders must depict the disease accurately and responsibly saying "It's about educating the general public who perhaps aren't aware of the disease, but also with cervical cancer, there are thousands of women out there who have been diagnosed or are living with this." Music of added: "As the UK's only charity solely dedicated to informing and supporting women affected by cervical abnormalities and cervical cancer, we think it is fantastic that EastEnders has decided to highlight the issue of cervical cancer." "This is a disease that affects thousands of women and their loved ones in the UK every year, and for many can be preventable by taking proactive steps, such as attending cervical screening when invited." Music added: "EastEnders have gone to great lengths to research this story with us and we hope that by showing this storyline to its millions of viewers, it will not only raise awareness of cervical cancer but also help the public to be more informed about this issue." Ellen Lang of Macmillan Cancer Support said that cervical cancer is diagnosed in thousands of women every year in the UK, so EastEnders is congratulated for tackling this difficult subject that affects many people.
Jo Joyner said that she will make sure that the storyline will be "honest and true to life" as possible. Talking to All About Soap about how she has researched the plot, Joyner said that she has talked to many survivors of cervical cancer through a charity named Jo's Trust and added that they have a great website, which is very informative and has helped her a lot. Joyner said that it is a privilege to be given any sort of serious storyline and a real responsibility. Asked whether it makes Tanya think twice who she wants to be with, Joyner replied: "Definitely. She remembers her mum looking at her dad with pity [when he was ill] and she'd hate that happening to her. She has some serious thinking to do about her future now." Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust has praised EastEnders for helping spread the awareness of cervical cancer. The trust received extra calls following Tanya's diagnosis. Kirkwood said in a news release that EastEnders worked closely with experts to ensure that the issue is accurately portrayed and that viewers will see how Tanya will use her inner determination to deal with what will be one of the toughest challenges of her life.
Music said that Joyner was "fantastic" when visiting the charity. He added that she was "really hungry to learn, to understand what the impact was, and she felt a responsibility to get this right" Joyner stated that she "feels grateful" to be in a cervical cancer storyline. She told Soaplife magazine: "It's a privilege to be given any sort of serious storyline and a real responsibility. I'm going to make it as honest and true to life as I possibly can. I will grab every chance I can to show Tanya dropping her guard." Speaking of her past, she added:"Tanya remembers her mum looking at her dad with pity and she'd hate that happening to her. Tanya's dad died of cancer and she nursed him through it. She's seen it first hand and therefore has a deep-seated fear of it."
Joyner said it's important to keep her cervical cancer storyline as realistic as possible. She said that viewers will see Tanya's appearance change as the storyline progresses. Asked whether Tanya will start to look ill, Joyner said to Soaplife: "I'd like her to and I made a point of saying, 'Unless we ever see Tanya looking tired these references are going to be rubbish', because she's keeping up the pretence and putting on lots of make-up. But I've had my extensions out and the false lashes are coming off. It will be a slow decline." Joyner later said that she doesn't become depressed over the cancer plot, saying she can switch off from the emotions instantly. Speaking to the Daily Star, Joyner said that rather than becoming depressed over the scenes, she goes home relieved that it's not her life. She added: "I go home and laugh even more hysterically than I would normally because of what's happening to Tanya. My husband doesn't agree. He thinks I carry it all more than I think I do. He says I come back miserable, but once I've put the kids in the bath and had a laugh, then I feel good again."
On 1 May 2012, it was reported that Joyner would take a prolonged break from the show at the end of her current contract, in order to spend time with her family, and an inside source stated that she "will definitely return". Joyner confirmed this herself, saying that the break would last six months, similar to other actors who took breaks in 2012, such as June Brown (Dot Branning) and Charlie Brooks (Janine Butcher). However, on 1 April 2013, it was announced that Joyner's departure would be indefinite as she wished to try new career paths. Speaking of this, Joyner said, "I love playing Tanya and being part of such a great show, but she has been on quite a rollercoaster over the past seven years and I have come to realise that it's right for her to step away from Walford for a bit longer than originally planned. I have been very fortunate to have been part of some fantastic storylines over the years, and I have worked with some wonderful people during my time on the show which I will always be very grateful for, but I feel that as a mother and an actress it is time for me to explore some other avenues for a while." Executive Producer Lorraine Newman stated that whilst Tanya will be missed, her exit will bring a new era to the Branning family but refused to say how Tanya will leave the show. Joyner filmed her final scenes on 15 May 2013. She departed the show on 28 June 2013.
Joyner won the 'Most Popular Actress' award at the Digital Spy Soap Awards in 2008 for the part of Tanya and also went on to win 'Best Dramatic Performance' at the 2008 British Soap Awards and made the final four in the 'Best Actress' category. Joyner was nominated for the "best actress" award at the All About Soap Awards in 2012 and later won the award. In 2012, Joyner and Wood won the Best On-Screen Partnership category at the British Soap Awards. On Digital Spy's 2012 end of year reader poll, Joyner was nominated for "Best Female Soap Actor" and came fourth with 13.4% of the vote.
The character has been pivotal in the transformation of EastEnders. Christmas Day 2007 saw Tanya discover husband Max and stepdaughter-in-law Stacey's affair and was watched by 14.3 million viewers, making it the highest rated EastEnders episode in three years and the highest rated television broadcast of 2007. In March 2008 viewers watched Tanya bury husband Max alive. This was the most watched EastEnders episode of 2008 and the episode received 116 complaints from viewers.
The UK communications regulator Ofcom later found that the episodes depicting the storyline were in breach of the 2005 Broadcasting Code. They contravened the rules regarding protection of children by appropriate scheduling, appropriate depiction of violence before the 9 p.m. watershed and appropriate depiction of potentially offensive content.
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- Tanya Branning at BBC Online
- The Best of Tanya... at BBC Online
- Tanya's Top 10 Greatest Moments at Radio Times