FOR the previous 15 years Max Branning has been EastEnders’ resident lothario, luring a complete of 15 ladies into mattress – and gaining hordes of admirers who’re watching at house.
And a few of these smitten followers, female and male, have had weird methods of exhibiting their adoration for actor Jake Wooden, who performs the cleaning soap swordsman.
Grimacing, he says: “One of many strangest issues I acquired was a set of 5 pairs of used Y-fronts which arrived in a transparent plastic bag.
“I’m unsure why I used to be despatched them or what goal was meant, however I shortly binned them and scrubbed my fingers for fairly a while.
“Possibly that’s the facility of Max Branning — a bit just like the tattoo of my face that somebody determined to have on their bottom.
“It’s a ordinary day for me to get 20 bizarre DMs however you need to take all of it with a pinch of salt.
“I feel it’s weird. I don’t know why individuals are doing it — possibly simply having fun with attempting to have interaction with somebody within the public area.
“I attempt to step away from it, and I’m a reasonably grounded man. Being at house is extra essential to me than any of that stuff. I by no means get carried away with any reward.”
Now the 48-year-old dad of two — married to former care employee Alison for 22 years, whom he describes as “the love of his life” — is leaving the soap, little doubt to the misery of his admirers.
Alas, it’s onerous to guage Jake’s attractiveness for myself, provided that his face has frozen on display screen for 27 of the 32 minutes of our Zoom chat.
However he is certainly in great shape, and has taken to repeatedly posting gruelling exercises on his quickly rising Instagram web page.
Dishearteningly, he has additionally been teetotal for years, which matches some solution to explaining the six-pack.
It might additionally clarify why BBC execs noticed match to make him one in all Walford’s most prolific lovers, amongst many different adventures within the present.
Or, as Jake explains: “I’ve slept with 15 ladies in 15 years. I’ve had 4 marriages, ten affairs, shared a scorching tub with Ian Beale, gone to jail, been throttled by my brother and been buried alive. It’s time for Max to go.”
Regardless of having a military of followers, over time Jake has additionally acquired incessant abuse about his distinctive ginger hair and stubble, which he believes is akin to racism, sexism and homophobia, and he’s calling for an finish to the discrimination.
He tells The Solar: “I’ve had completely horrific abuse over time, the entire gamut of abuse.
“Each swear phrase you may think about, phrases that must be asterisked out.
“It’s a topic that’s laughed about and dismissed, however I’ve had folks attain out to me and clarify how badly bullied they’ve been and the way they’ve been suicidal, folks dyeing their hair to attempt to slot in. It’s heartbreaking.
“Once you break it down, bullying and discrimination is a really actual factor.
“This can be a topic I’m captivated with, and need to begin talking publicly about.
“I could also be bald now, however I grew up ginger. I’ve two ginger kids, and I encourage them to be fiercely pleased with their crimson hair.
“It looks as if being ginger is the final bastion of an appropriate type of prejudice and discrimination.
It’s much like mocking somebody due to their sexuality or gender or pores and skin color — for me, it’s in that class.
“I used to be teased continuously rising up, and there’s a really nice line between teasing and bullying.”
Jake’s ideas mirror feedback made final yr by former supermodel Lily Cole, who claimed that being bullied for having crimson hair is “not dissimilar to racial abuse”.
And Merely Pink star Mick Hucknall has additionally beforehand lashed out concerning the “prejudice” he has confronted about his hair color over time.
Round 4 per cent of the UK inhabitants has crimson hair in line with analysis — round 2.1 million folks.
In 2013 a petition to the Authorities was launched to make discriminating in opposition to folks as a result of they’ve ginger hair unlawful. Nevertheless it failed to realize the ten,000 signatures required for a Authorities response.
There are a number of boards and web sites geared toward giving recommendation to folks with red-haired kids — however as but, no official charity organisation.
Jake provides: “It (bullying) has a profound impact on some folks into maturity and now I’m blissful to symbolize the ginger military. I hope that one thing adjustments due to it.”
In the meantime, although formally the choice for Max to depart EastEnders was “mutual”, it’s clear Jake is gloomy to have needed to say goodbye to his castmates.
In spite of everything, certainly no one in all sound thoughts would actively select to stop one of many UK’s most profitable exhibits throughout a worldwide pandemic, one which has struck the leisure business notoriously badly.
However Jake — extraordinarily likeable, regardless of being an Arsenal fan — has already had two job affords.
He’s additionally eager to do extra directing following a profitable one-off stint final yr.
He provides: “It’s at all times going to be unusual leaving any job after 15 years, and I’ve at all times had a routine, in order that’s bizarre now.
“Nevertheless it’s been nice spending extra time with the youngsters, doing a little home-schooling, and I’m trying ahead to having a greater work-life stability.
“So I’m proud of the choice. I feel it was the fitting one, however I’m actually happy they’re holding the door open for me to return. By no means say by no means, you by no means know.”
By all accounts, Jake was one of the vital widespread members of the cleaning soap, adored by solid and crew alike.
Off display screen, he’s additionally vastly widespread, and whereas he avoids red-carpet occasions, he has a number of celeb friends.
He was famously near the late Queen Vic legend Barbara Windsor, and stays good mates together with her husband, Scott Mitchell.
In actual fact, a framed picture of the couple alongside Jake and his spouse Alison has pleasure of place in his sitting room.
He says: “Barbara was an excellent buddy, and an excellent supporter of mine. I simply miss her rather a lot.
“I communicate to Scott repeatedly and we’ve organized to satisfy up as soon as lockdown is over. He is aware of we’re there for him, however he’s acquired an excellent assist community.
“The hope is that we are able to have some kind of remembrance memorial for her when issues are regular. It’ll be beautiful.
“Barbara actually supported me once I first began, and gave me nice recommendation.
“She put an arm round me, should you like, and I can be endlessly grateful for every thing she did for me.
“She was very beneficiant. As somebody who had skilled each side of the enterprise she was at all times there for you. I feel the very best bit of recommendation she gave me was once I first joined.
“She warned me concerning the sudden publicity, the pitfalls, as a result of all of a sudden you’re underneath big scrutiny.
“Her recommendation was don’t change something about who you might be or what you do or the place you go.
“I took that to coronary heart, and as a household we continued to stay life as regular, to navigate life as regular, not take all of it too critically.”
Whereas Jake could have his ft firmly on the bottom, he’s additionally good friends with two “correct” celebs — Piers Morgan and Gary Lineker.
After assembly former Solar man Piers in a field at an Arsenal sport (urrrgh) Jake says: “I acquired a beautiful textual content from him after I left (EastEnders), saying how scary it had been when he’d left newspapers, however what number of doorways it opened for him.”
Gary, it seems, is an EastEnders super-fan. Jake says with fun: “Gary’s an excellent man.
“I met his ex Danielle (Bux) at an awards ceremony, and she or he got here as much as me, saying, ‘I’ve acquired a message from my fiancé. He says, ‘In the event you ever go away EastEnders, he’s by no means gonna watch it once more’.’”
“I said, ‘Thanks very much, that’s lovely. Who’s your fiancé?’
“And she said, ‘Oh, Gary Lineker’. I told her I liked Gary, he was a good player, and maybe we could all go out for dinner some time.
“So we started off having dinners, and it went from there. He’s got some great stories, Gary. All his World Cup stories. He’s good fun.”
15 years of plots and planning for ‘Romeo’ Branning
JUNE 2006: Max makes his debut in Walford, searching for his estranged son Bradley, before going on to start an affair with Bradley’s wife-to-be Stacey Slater.
DECEMBER 2007: Max and Stacey’s affair is rumbled in an explosive Christmas Day episode. He splits with his on-off wife Tanya and eventually leaves the Square.
JUNE 2008: Returns to wreak havoc, framing his brother Jack for a robbery and threatening to take his daughters Lauren and Abi from Tanya – before they rekindle their marriage. He goes on to commit insurance fraud and Tanya leaves for good.
FEBRUARY 2010: Bradley dies in a fall from the Queen Vic roof and Max goes on to start an affair with Stacey’s friend Becca.
JUNE 2010: Starts a relationship with Vanessa Gold but gets back with Tanya.
OCTOBER 2015: Max is framed for the murder of Lucy Beale and is sentenced to 21 years behind bars.
JUNE 2016: Released after Bobby Beale confesses and he returns to Walford.
JANUARY 2017: Max joins a plot to demolish Albert Square and replace it with luxury flats. He is secretly dating Sophie “Fi” Willmott-Brown but has an affair with Carmel Kazemi to get insider information. Fi later reveals she has used him and humiliates him.
DECEMBER 2017: Attempts to murder Ian Beale and begins another affair with Stacey. His daughter Abi later dies after falling from the roof of the Queen Vic pub, while his other daughter Lauren survives the plunge.
JANUARY 2018: Max takes part in a sham wedding to Rainie Cross to help him get custody of his dead daughter Abi’s baby girl, who was born before her mum’s life support machine was turned off. Their relationship later develops into a genuine one.
JULY 2019: Starts a relationship with Stacey’s former best pal Ruby Allen but she later dumps him and moves on with Martin Fowler – who is also Stacey’s ex.
NOVEMBER 2020: Max snogs Linda Carter after the pair grow close when he supports her struggle with alcoholism.
FEBRUARY 2021: His relationship with Linda crumbles and Max hits the bottle before leaving Walford and Albert Square for good.
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