Jacqueline Jossa as Lauren Branning (2013)
|Portrayed by||Madeline Duggan (2006–10)
Jacqueline Jossa (2010–)
|First appearance||Episode 3179
3 July 2006
|Created by||Kate Harwood|
|Introduced by||Kate Harwood (2006)|
|Lauren's Diaries (2010–11)|
Lauren Branning is a fictional character from the BBC soap opera EastEnders. She first appeared on 3 July 2006 played by Madeline Duggan, was absent from 23 June to 27 September 2010, and returned as played by Jacqueline Jossa. Her storylines have included alcoholism, supporting her mother Tanya Branning (Jo Joyner) through cervical cancer, her friendships with Lucy Beale (Melissa Suffield/Hetti Bywater) and Whitney Dean (Shona McGarty), a relationship with her cousin Joey Branning (David Witts), an affair with a married alcoholic Jake Stone (Jamie Lomas), engagement to Peter Beale (Ben Hardy), struggling to deal with Lucy's murder and giving birth to Louie.
In August 2014, Jossa announced that she was expecting her first child. In December 2014, Jossa filmed her final scenes prior to taking maternity leave, which aired on 24 February 2015, following the show's 30th anniversary celebrations. She returned temporarily on 14 September 2015 for her father's murder trial departing again on 2 October. Lauren returned on 27 May 2016.
The eldest child and daughter of Max Branning (Jake Wood) and Tanya Cross (Jo Joyner), Lauren moves to Walford with her parents and younger sister, Abi (Lorna Fitzgerald) in July 2006. In 2007, Lauren uncovers an affair between her father and half-brother Bradley Branning's (Charlie Clements) fiancée, Stacey Slater (Lacey Turner), after accidentally filming them kissing on her video camera. Lauren burns the footage onto a DVD, which is played on Christmas Day, exposing Max and Stacey's affair to the Brannings, and resulting in the breakdown of Lauren's parents' marriage. Originally romantically involved with Peter Beale (Thomas Law), her best friend Lucy Beale's (Melissa Suffield) twin brother, Max disapproves of their relationship, and after ordering Peter to end the romance, throttles him after he retaliates when they have a secret meeting in the cafe. Shortly after, Max is left comatose following a planned hit-and-run. It is ultimately revealed that Lauren is the culprit, but Tanya decides to confess to the crime, and is imprisoned, pleading guilty to attempted murder. This distresses Lauren, who reveals her intentions to spare her mother facing a jail sentence. Lauren is later found guilty of GBH with intent, and is sentenced to two years under supervision.
In 2008, Lauren finds herself being groomed by paedophile Tony King (Chris Coghill), stepfather to her best friend, Whitney Dean (Shona McGarty), with whom he is having a sexual relationship. When Tony's paedophilia is revealed, Lauren is shocked after learning that she was about to become Tony's next victim. Lauren dumps Peter after he lies to his friends, claiming that he and Lauren had a sexual experience in the allottments. However, the couple plan a reunion and Lauren tells him she is ready to have sex, but Max bans Peter from seeing Lauren, uncovering their main intentions. Lauren later moves away from Walford when her father gets into debt, leading to the family's possessions being taken by bailiffs. She returns to Walford briefly at Christmas, and dumps Peter again before seeing him kissing Zsa Zsa Carter (Emer Kenny), resulting in a catfight between her, Zsa Zsa and Whitney. She later attends Bradley's funeral after he falls from the roof of The Queen Victoria public house, after he attempts to flee Walford when the police accuse him of murdering Archie Mitchell (Larry Lamb). She also celebrates her sixteenth birthday at a party in R&R nightclub, where her uncle Jack (Scott Maslen) is shot by Kylie (Elarica Gallacher) After attending Abi's birthday dinner, Lauren informs her father that she is leaving Walford to spend the summer at a summer camp in the United States, departing Walford in June.
Lauren (now played by Jacqueline Jossa) returns from America earlier than expected, after being expelled from school for smoking cannabis. She reveals that she is seeing a new boyfriend, Edward Brooks (Luke Striffler), but he splits up with her as a result of the long-distance. Lauren attends her cousin Billie's (Devon Anderson) birthday party and as a present, she gives him alcohol, which he quickly drinks, and he is found dead of alcohol poisoning on the settee the following morning. Billie's mother, Carol (Lindsey Coulson) later attacks Lauren, stating that she encouraged Billie to get more and more drunk. Lauren later believes that her father was responsible for Archie's murder, after he tells her that Bradley was not the culprit and she notes his violent tendencies when he angrily confronts Jay Brown (Jamie Borthwick) after he makes crude sexual remarks to Lauren after she rejects his attempts at propositioning her. Lauren confronts her father, who tells her that he is not the killer but knows who is; after witnessing her father and Stacey together, Lauren realises that Stacey is the killer, and tricks a confession out of her, which she tapes on her mobile phone. Lauren threatens to go the police, but agrees to keep quiet after discovering that Archie raped Stacey. However, on Christmas Day, Lauren hands Janine Butcher (Charlie Brooks) the recording, leading to Stacey fleeing Walford after Janine exposes her as the killer. Lauren develops a crush on Whitney's half-brother Ryan Malloy (Neil McDermott) and he later succumbs, having a passionate encounter with Lauren. The pair begin an affair however the relationship become under threat when Tanya uncovers the romance. Her relationship with Ryan later ends when he flees Walford after killing Rob Grayson (Jody Latham), who had been sexually exploiting Whitney for financial gain.
Upon discovering Max and Tanya are having an affair, despite Tanya now being married to Greg Jessop (Stefan Booth), Lauren threatens to kill Max unless the affair ends, but it secretly continues. The affair is soon exposed, causing Max to leave Walford. Lauren is angered by her mother's actions originally, but is devastated that Tanya has been diagnosed with cervical cancer. Lauren promises to support Tanya, but struggles to cope with her mother's illness. She starts consuming alcohol to excess and almost ends Darren Miller (Charlie G. Hawkins) and Jodie Gold's (Kylie Babbington) engagement by having sex with Darren in the car lot - hours before their wedding. She also casually dates Tyler Moon (Tony Discipline) until realising Whitney is still in love with him. Max later returns to Walford, and when Lauren uncovers that Tanya has stopped her treatment, begs Max to stay, eventually revealing her illness to him, prompting Max to remain in Walford. Lauren's rebellion continues, and after she becomes increasingly drunk at Pat Evans's (Pam St. Clement) funeral, she is berated by her parents, and given a private consultation with a GP. Lauren withdraws from school, and is employed by her father at the car lot. She resumes consuming alcohol and attempts to conceal this from her parents. Her drinking is so heavy that Lucy tells her to return home but Lauren ignores her and insists that she is fine. Lucy loses her and she is found passed out in the street. Lauren tells her parents her drink was spiked before stating she is mature enough to make decisions. She then decides to move out. On her 18th birthday, a drunken Lauren belatedly arrives at a family party, organised by Tanya. After being sick, Lauren admits to her parents that she is uncontrollable and promises not to drink excessively anymore. She later moves back home after not being able to cope with laziness of her housemates. Lauren and Lucy (now played by Hetti Bywater) go on a night out where a drunken Lauren shares a kiss with a stranger, Dan, who drags her into his car. After Lucy manages to drag her out of the car, the pair argue and Lauren storms off. Lucy finds her unconscious and takes her to hospital, however, they become separated again when Lauren discharges herself from hospital. Lauren returns home to find Lucy has already confessed everything to Max, Tanya and Ian. Angry, Lauren argues with her family and leaves, meeting up with Dan. After she rejects his advances, Lauren goes to Lucy's home and Lucy tells her that she does not want anything more to do with her.
Lauren meets her estranged cousin Joey Branning (David Witts) and becomes attracted to him. Her friendship with Lucy begins to improve after Lucy's father disappears and Lauren helps to find him. Joey and Lucy start seeing one another but Lauren discovers that Joey had cheated on her with Whitney, and urges her to tell Lucy. Lucy ends the relationship and the three girls take revenge by handcuffing him to playground equipment. Lauren decides to free him so he does not lose his job, and he tells her she is jealous that she did not get a kiss, so she slaps him. Joey is working at R&R when he sees Lauren flirting with a group of men causing him to throw them out and take Lauren home. Lauren drunkenly kisses Joey but he rejects her. The following day, Joey explains that the only reason he rejected her was as she was intoxicated and they briefly kiss again. Lauren realises she cannot be with her cousin, so resists. Eventually, sexual tension mounts between them and they start a secret relationship. Joey's father Derek Branning (Jamie Foreman) finds out when he sees Joey and Lauren passionately kissing in the car lot office. Derek later threatens Lauren, and she pleas with Joey to leave Walford with her. As they drive away in Derek's car, a drunk Lauren loses control of the car and crashes into a shop. Derek helps rescue them from the burning building, and forces Joey to take the blame for the crash. At the hospital, Lauren reveals her relationship with Joey to Tanya, and Derek blackmails Joey into ending his relationship with Lauren. Heartbroken and distraught, Lauren continues consuming alcohol. Tanya later comes to realise that Joey is still in love with Lauren. Lauren later drunkenly reveals her relationship with Joey to the rest of her family. Joey leaves Walford after Derek dies, but returns and reunites with Lauren, where Lucy witnesses them kissing. When trying to justify her relationship, Lauren is shocked when Lucy calls her selfish and undeserving of Joey's love, so Lauren considers telling the police the truth about the car crash, until Joey convinces her not to. Lauren and Joey's relationship is publicly revealed, though people start to accept it. Lauren discovers that Tanya has lied about missing a hospital appointment, and as Tanya refuses to talk, Lauren starts drinking again and bonds with Max's secret wife, Kirsty Branning (Kierston Wareing), upsetting Tanya.
Lauren finds out that Kirsty is pregnant, although she is unaware that Kirsty is lying. At a party, Lucy spikes Lauren's drink with alcohol, and Lauren gets drunk and reveals that Kirsty is pregnant. Lauren falls out with Joey, who breaks up with her over her drunken behaviour. She applies for a job as a waitress with Whitney at Ian Beale's (Adam Woodyatt) new restaurant, where Lucy calls Joey to be Lauren's test customer to ensure that Lauren will fail the task. Whitney gets the job but purposely withdraws so that Lauren gets the job instead. Lauren tries to make Joey jealous by kissing Tyler, who is now engaged to Whitney, but it fails and Whitney ends their friendship and Lucy offers the job back to Whitney. Lauren's drinking gets worse, though she believes she is not dependent on alcohol, and she tricks her step-grandmother Dot Branning (June Brown) into giving her money, which she uses to buy alcohol. Tanya is angry when she discovers this. Lauren then steals £20 from Cora's purse to buy more alcohol and when Tanya discovers this she compares her to her aunt, Rainie Cross (Tanya Franks). Disgusted, Lauren attempts to buy more alcohol but Kirsty refuses to serve her following Tanya's wishes. Lauren walks outside and confides in Joey, but Lucy sees this and starts to intimidate Lauren, causing Lauren to violently punch Lucy in the face and smash the café window. Lauren is later arrested but Lucy decides not to press charges. Ian gives Lauren her waitress job back, but on the opening night of the restaurant, Lauren gets drunk and spills drink on one of the guests, so she is sacked again. Tanya and Max discover a lot of bottles in Lauren's bedroom, so Tanya decides to keep Lauren locked in the house. She believes Lauren is showing no signs of withdrawal, but Lauren reveals she has been drinking vodka from a water bottle, so Tanya realises she is addicted to alcohol. Tanya keeps Lauren locked in her room, where her withdrawal leads her to escape through the window. Lauren tells her parents that nobody can stop her from drinking if she wants to. The next day, Tanya tells Lauren to leave after she destroys Abi's revision notes, and stays with Max and Kirsty. Tanya asks a recently returned Peter (now played by Ben Hardy) to spend time with Lauren, but their date is sabotaged by Lucy, so Lauren gets drunk again leaves with a group of strangers. When she returns the following morning, her skin and eyes are yellow and she collapses in pain, so she is taken to hospital, where she is diagnosed with alcoholic hepatitis and is warned that she could die if she consumes any more alcohol. Lauren returns home and sees Joey outside so tries to find him. She confronts Lucy over her relationship with Joey, but Lucy refuses to give a straightforward answer, so Lauren concludes that they are together and she tries to get another drink but is refused service. Tanya takes her home, where she admits that she cannot cope with her parents arguing all the time. Ultimately, Tanya blames herself for Lauren's plight and takes Lauren to a clinic to get her help and get her away from her problems in Walford.
Lauren, now a recovering alcoholic, returns to Walford and dislikes how people treat her, until Abi reminds her of all the hurt she caused. Lauren reconciles with Lucy, Whitney and Joey and on a night out with the girls, Lauren is heartbroken to discover that Joey slept with Whitney while she was away. Lauren leaves and takes a drink with her, she puts some in her mouth, but spits it out. She attends counselling and meets Jake Stone (Jamie Lomas). She notices he is married but then learns that he has separated from his wife. Lauren falls in love with Jake, but finds out he has lied as he is still married to Sadie Young (Kate Magowan), they split up but then resume their affair, Max catches them on and orders Lauren to end the relationship. Later that day, Joey asks Lauren to leave Walford with him but she decides to stay and resumes her affair with Jake. They are eventually discovered by Bella Young (Isobelle Molloy) who walks in on Lauren getting dressed. Understanding how Bella feels, Lauren ends the affair. When Sadie learns of this, Lauren attempts to apologise to Sadie, however she learns that Sadie has left Walford with Bella, and fails to persuade Jake not to relapse on alcohol. He then angrily throws a bottle of wine at Lauren which causes an injury to her face; however, she forgives him before he leaves Walford. Lauren is stunned to come face to face with Stacey in the Queen Victoria public house, Stacey tells Lauren she will leave, however they meet again at Dot's house. Cora decides to report Stacey to the police, but Lauren stops her and later makes amends with Stacey as they talk about Bradley. She overhears Max and Stacey talking about a recent kiss they had, and is agitated, she confronts Stacey and asks her to stay away from her father, and overlooks what she heard when Stacey reveals she is waiting for the police to arrest her for the murder of Archie because she wants to clear Bradley's name. Lauren later avoids Jake when he returns to Walford, as he has returned to his alcoholism and is staying on Ian Beale's sofa.
Lucy asks Lauren to go into business with her, initially reluctant, Lauren later agrees, and they set up "LB Lettings". Lauren becomes suspicious that Lucy is in a sexual relationship with Jake when he sets up the website for their business and Lucy later begins arranging secret meetings with someone. Lucy manages to soothe her anxieties, but she is really seeing Max. Soon after, Lucy is found dead and Lauren is devastated. She leans on Peter for support in her grief, and is tempted to return to drinking until Cora talks her out of it. Determined to overcome her grief, Lauren starts up the business again, and discovers an email from someone wanting to meet her on the night Lucy died. Believing Lucy went instead of her, Lauren reports this to the police but is not taken seriously, so she arranges to meet them herself. She is shocked when the person is revealed to be Jake, and he chases her through Walford to try and stop her from going to the police. However, she does anyway and he is arrested, although Lauren is clearly doubtful over whether he really did kill Lucy.
When Peter falls out with his girlfriend Lola Pearce (Danielle Harold), Lauren comforts him and they share a passionate kiss. However, Peter feels bad for cheating on Lola, and leaves, although it is evident that Lauren still has feelings for him. Jake is eventually released when evidence clears him of all involvement, and makes his peace with Lauren before leaving Walford. Lauren starts a relationship with Dean Wicks (Matt Di Angelo) after having sex with him, but is shocked when Peter breaks up with Lola and tells Lauren he loves her after kissing her again. Lauren tells him that she still wants to be with Dean, and Peter vows that he will wait for her. When Peter is about to leave to visit New Zealand, Lauren ends her relationship with Dean and tells Peter she loves him. Lauren and Peter later begin to get paranoid when they are followed. When they get a car registration number, DS Summerhayes finds that it is a police car signed out to DS Cameron Bryant (Glen Wallace) but she tells everyone that the registration number belongs to a reporter. On Halloween night, she encounters a mysterious person in a Halloween mask who begins to follow her throughout the evening. This is later revealed to be Abi.
Peter asks Lauren to marry him. Lauren accepts, however, after finding out that Peter was selling drugs to Lucy, she tells him that she cannot marry him. On New Year's Day 2015, Max's girlfriend Emma Summerhayes (Anna Acton) is killed in a car accident after meeting someone who she thinks killed Lucy. Although Max tears up Emma's case notes, Lauren finds most of the pages and puts them together, suspicious on who killed Lucy. Lauren asks Peter to marry her and he accepts. However, after finding a previously torn off piece of a page from Emma's case files and trying to use Emma's phone, Lauren starts to doubt that she should marry Peter and drinks most of a half-bottle of whisky in Max's office. When Lauren nearly faints, Stacey buys her a pregnancy test and discovers that Lauren is pregnant. Stacey confronts her on the pregnancy, but Lauren reveals that she knows who killed Lucy, but refuses to divulge the identity with the police. When Stacey calls the police on her, she is upset at her inability to keep a secret, but hands in most of Emma's case files, while keeping the torn-off piece for herself. She writes a card addressed to Jane, saying that Lucy was killed at home, and abruptly leaves home to book an abortion. However, during the consultation meeting, Peter interrupts her and offers to support her through all her issues. Lauren says she is confused and that she knows what happened to Lucy, leading him to discover the truth about the murder at home. When Peter decides to move to New Zealand, he asks Lauren to accompany him. She initially rejects this offer in order to move to Devon with Tanya, but after he confesses to her about learning that his brother Bobby Beale (Eliot Carrington) is Lucy's killer at Lucy's grave, she changes her mind and decides to go to New Zealand after all. They dispose of Emma's remaining evidence and SIM card deciding not to tell the police about Bobby being Lucy's killer. She then says goodbye to Max and Abi and leaves the Square with Peter, taking an outfit for their unborn child with them.
A heavily pregnant Lauren returns for Max's murder trial saying she knows who killed Lucy. As she threatens to tell everyone about Bobby, her waters break. She later gives birth to a baby boy who she names Louie, in honour of Peter's deceased great-grandmother, Lou Beale (Anna Wing). Lauren convinces Abi to stop Max from going to prison, as she believes that Max did not kill Lucy. Lauren tells Bobby's adoptive mother Jane Beale (Laurie Brett) she is going to tell the truth but Max is found guilty thanks to Phil bribing the jury foreman. Max receives a sentence of twenty one years imprisonment. Max discovers Lauren knew that he was innocent and disowns her. Lauren makes a statement to the Police claiming that Bobby killed Lucy, however they do not believe her and she returns to New Zealand with Louie, vowing to come back to Walford one day and clear Max's name. In May 2016, Bobby puts Jane in a coma and confesses to killing Lucy, so Ian's mother Kathy Sullivan (Gillian Taylforth) telephones Lauren and then tells Ian that she and Peter are returning. However, when Lauren gets back with Louie, Ian is surprised to see her with his stepson Steven Beale (Aaron Sidwell) instead of Peter. Lauren tries to reconcile with an angry Abi, who is furious with Lauren for not telling her that she knew Bobby killed Lucy. Lauren and Steven try to make Ian understand their relationship and why Peter has not returned. When Max is due to have a court hearing following Bobby's confession, Lauren and Abi write him a letter saying they will wait for him in the pub, asking Stacey to deliver it. Stacey returns, saying she missed the hearing but passed the letter to his solicitor. Max is released but does not meet Lauren, so she goes home. The letter is then returned through her letterbox and she runs outside to see Max leaving in a taxi.
Lauren helps Abi get her job back in the Queen Vic and decides to party with her friends. Lauren catches Abi and Lee and assumes that Abi is making a move on him, however Abi drunkenly reveals that she and Lee previously had sex. Lauren promises not to tell Whitney even though Steven tells her to. That same day, Lauren helps Whitney do a pregnancy test, which is positive.
Casting and characterisation
Lauren is described by the BBC website as an "outsider" and "doesn't care what people think". It continues: "Lauren is very quick on the uptake and picks up on everything going on around her but knows it doesn't pay to have loose lips. She's learnt the hard way that secrets destroy people. And this has made her vulnerable."
Lauren Branning was introduced in 2006 by executive producer Kate Harwood. She and her immediate family—father Max (Jake Wood), mother Tanya (Jo Joyner) and sister Abi (Lorna Fitzgerald)—are an extension of the popular and long-running Jackson/Branning clan, who have appeared in the series since 1993. It was announced in May 2006 that Lauren would be played by actress Madeline Duggan. Duggan was replaced by Jacqueline Jossa, with Duggan's final scenes airing on 23 June 2010.
On 9 May 2010 it was announced that Duggan had been axed from the soap by executive producer Bryan Kirkwood and that she had already filmed her exit scenes. Her final episode was broadcast on 23 June 2010. In August 2010, it was announced that the character would be returning later in the year, now played by Jacqueline Jossa. Of her casting in the show, Jossa said "I was so excited when I got the call to say I'd got the part in EastEnders. I've always been a massive fan of the show and it's a dream come true. The character of Lauren Branning will be really fun to play and there are some exciting things coming up". Kirkwood said "I'm delighted to welcome Jacqueline Jossa to Albert Square. Jacqueline's portrayal of Lauren has all the classic Branning qualities of toughness, cynicism and sensitivity. Jacqueline is set to be at the heart of Walford drama for some time to come". It was reported that Lauren's return would show a more grown-up side to the character, who will cause trouble but also show a softer side as she attempts to find love.
Jossa's first appearance was on 27 September 2010. Following Jossa's first appearance, Lauren started appearing in her own internet spin-off series, Lauren's Diaries, and a second series started in 2011. Jossa said that when she first got the part of Lauren, she "worried unnecessarily". Talking to PA, Jossa said that working with Joyner and Wood was not as scary as she thought. She commented: "There was less pressure than I thought there was going to be. When I first started I got really scared and worked up, thinking everyone's going to hate me. They've been there four years and then I'm coming in to be their daughter - it was a bit surreal. And then two weeks later I felt completely comfortable, everyone was cracking jokes and I thought, 'Oh... I built it up a bit!'"
Jossa explained that upon Lauren finding out about Tanya's cancer, viewers see a different side to Lauren. She told Inside Soap: "Immediately, there's a change in her - with Tanya so sick, Lauren has to grow up. You'd expect her to dive into the drink again or something like that, but she's right there for Tanya from the minute she finds out what's going on." She continues: "Tanya is still convinced she'll be fine, but then she finds out that the cancer has begun to spread. Tanya's really vulnerable at that point and it's Lauren who's saying, 'We're going to fix this and everything will be fine'. She's there for her mum the whole time - shopping, cooking, cleaning, looking after Abi and Oscar. She really wants to help Tanya and actually enjoys the responsibility."
Lauren's primary storylines concerned a school girl romance with Peter Beale (Thomas Law), a friendship with the delinquent Lucy Beale (Melissa Suffield), and being caught in the middle of her warring parents, who separated in the serial in 2007 when Tanya discovered Max was cheating on her with Stacey Slater (Lacey Turner), Lauren's half brother Bradley's wife. In the storyline, Lauren played an integral part in the discovery of the affair; as a result of a practical joke, Lauren unwittingly recorded Max and Stacey kissing on video camera, and sent the recording to Bradley as a Christmas present in December 2007 as means of revenge on her father. Despite a change of heart, the recording was seen by the entire Branning family on Christmas Day, an episode that drew 13.9 million viewers, 55.3% of the total audience share.
The character became involved in one of EastEnders' most controversial storylines in 2008, when she was groomed by a paedophile, Tony King (Chris Coghill). Tony King had been introduced in September 2008 as the fiancé of Lauren's cousin Bianca Jackson (Patsy Palmer). However, in a plot twist, it was revealed that Tony was already in a sexual relationship with Bianca's 15-year-old stepdaughter Whitney Dean (Shona McGarty). After losing interest in Whitney, Tony turns his attentions to 14-year-old Lauren. An insider said: "He has got away with abusing Whitney for years but it seems one young girl isn't enough."
In April 2011, it was announced that Lauren is to have a relationship with already established character, Ryan Malloy. An EastEnders insider commented: "Sparks will fly when Ryan and Lauren begin their relationship. Max is certainly someone not to mess with. He's already very protective of his daughters and Ryan isn't exactly his favourite person after his relationship with Stacey, who Max will always hold a torch for."
In January 2012, Jossa praised her storyline in which Lauren starts binge drinking due to the stress of her mother suffering from cancer. Jossa commented on the storyline saying that teenagers should take binge drinking more seriously. She said: "It's good EastEnders have done the storyline. It highlights that teenagers who people label irresponsible could be doing it to deal with worries they are keeping to themselves. What they actually need is help or someone to talk to. At first to Lauren drinking was a laugh. Then it became a way of forgetting - she has carried the burden of keeping her mum's illness secret." Speaking about Lauren's love life, Jossa added: "I always want Lauren and Fatboy to get together. They would make such a cute couple."
Jossa predicted in November 2012 that Lauren will revert to her old ways after her latest relationship break-up. When asked if Lauren would start drinking again, Jossa said that Lauren did not really stop and that alcohol is her "comfort blanket". Executive Producer Lorraine Newman said that Lauren's binge drinking will "come to a head" in Spring 2013. Newman commented "Lauren's obviously very troubled. A huge amount of what we're seeing now is to do with what's been going on with her parents for such a long time. It's a tough one covering the issue of binge drinking because inevitably, in order for it to have sufficient impact, it has to go on for a considerable amount of time. There's a real danger that it will become unpalatable and that you won't have too much empathy for the character." Newman also added that the binge drinking storyline will come to a conclusion in 2013.
In March 2013, it was revealed that Lauren is to have her drink spiked by her friend Lucy Beale. Lauren gave up her binge drinking to save her relationship with Joey but Lucy cannot stand seeing them happy together and decides she wants Joey back after a brief fling. Lucy spikes Lauren's drink and Lauren becomes extremely drunk and makes a fool of herself. Joey dumps Lauren as he thinks she has drinking behind her back and Lauren's life spirals out of control. An insider told the Daily Star "It's going to be emotional to watch Lauren go through it all again as she's already been through so many battles with the bottle." Hetti Bywater said that she will continue her scheming until she gets Joey back.
In September 2012, Alison Rowley of Digital Spy said that Lauren will fall in love with her cousin Joey Branning (David Witts). An EastEnders insider told the Daily Star that it will be a huge storyline across the autumn. The insider said "Lauren hits the booze and shows her vulnerable side to Joey. He's there for her and feels very protective. The more time they spend together the more they start to realise their feelings for each other are not just that of cousins." As the chemistry between the pair intensifies, they try to hide the relationship from their parents. The insider said that it is a powerful force and that the attraction between them is so strong that it will take something huge to "stop them jumping into bed". Daniel Kilkelly later revealed that Lauren and Joey will be in a "horrifying" car crash. Filming for scenes begun on 10 September and is thought that the on-location filming will continue through the week. The details of the storyline are being kept under wraps but the Daily Mail reports that Lauren will joyride her uncle Derek Branning's (Jamie Foreman) car but it goes horribly wrong and their lives are left hanging in the balance when Lauren loses control of the car and goes through a shop window. An insider commented "Everyone is really excited about these scenes. It's going to be a huge storyline for us in a few weeks' time, so it's definitely one for the fans to watch out for." The storyline will reportedly air in November 2012 and is said to be one of the show's biggest moments of the year.
Lauren is later dumped by Joey after Derek blackmails him. Witts said that Joey will find life "really hard" after dumping Lauren. Derek suggests to Joey that if he tells the police that he was driving the car that drunken Lauren crashed, she can avoid a prison sentence. Joey agrees to the deception to help Lauren but is later horrified when Derek threatens to tell the police the truth unless he gets his own way. Speaking to Soaplife, Witts said "Joey must either move in with Derek and be a respectful and loving son, or dump Lauren. If Joey takes either of those options, Derek won't tell the police that Lauren was driving the car. Joey's love for Lauren is massive, but not quite as massive as his hatred for Derek. He decides to become the villain and lie that he never loved her. He'll take the flack because that will make it easier for her to move on without him." Witts also added that it will be "really hard" as he keeps making out to Lauren that he is not interested. Witts also said that Joey would be making a mistake if he told Lauren about Derek's blackmail. He commented "She's very headstrong and she'd say that she doesn't care about getting into trouble with the law. It would all end in tears. Everyone would find out as Lauren's the sort of person who'd blurt everything out, and it would cause even more of a mess. Joey very much thinks he's doing the right thing." Tony Discipline said that he does not mind watching Jossa's, his real-life girlfriend's scenes and that he supports the Joey and Lauren plot commenting "I don't find it strange to watch - it is part of the job. We always support each other and Jacqueline always asks me how it looks. But it is part of our job."
Inside Soap commented on Lauren's recasting describing Lauren played by Duggan was "a pretty lass, but pretty unimpressive" and that played by Jossa she has acquired "an attitude as severe as her fringe". Jane Simon from the Daily Mirror said that Lauren played by Jossa "brings some badly needed oomph to the part". Jossa won Best Newcomer at the National Television Awards 2012. Executive Producer Bryan Kirkwood commented: "I'd like to say a huge congratulations to our girl, Jacqueline Jossa, for her amazing success. It's well-deserved recognition of Jacqueline's beautiful, truthful and moving portrayal of Lauren Branning." A writer for the Daily Mirror said that all of Lauren's problems are caused by her being a Branning.
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