EastEnders cast: Who is joining, leaving and returning to the soap?

All the changes to life in Albert Square you need to keep up with.

A smoky image of Scott Maslen as Jack Branning standing beside Lacey Turner as Stacey Slater, Navin Chowdhry as Nish Panesar beside Balvinder Sopal as Suki Kaur Panesar, Matt Di Angelo as Dean Wicks beside Kellie Bright as Linda Carter, Steve McFadden as Phil Mitchell standing to the left of Letitia Dean as Sharon Watts with Danny Walters as Keanu Taylor on her right, Diane Parish as Denise Fox with Aaron Thiara on her right, and Gillian Taylforth as Kathy Cotton with Brian Conley as Rocky Cotton beside her for EastEnders.

As we come to the end of 2023 and enter 2024, there will be a host of new arrivals, returns and departures on EastEnders.

After a year that included the return of Cindy Beale and others, the new episodes will also bring fresh faces as well as see us wave goodbye to old ones.

RadioTimes.com is here with a handy update on which characters are leaving, joining and returning to EastEnders in the coming months.

So who’s in? Who’s out? And which rumours are true? Read on for all the latest details on cast changes for EastEnders.

EastEnders cast 2023

The full present regular cast for EastEnders can be found below in order of the character’s first appearance.

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  • Gillian Taylforth as Kathy Cotton
  • Letitia Dean as Sharon Watts
  • Adam Woodyatt as Ian Beale
  • James Bye as Martin Fowler
  • Michelle Collins as Cindy Beale
  • Steve McFadden as Phil Mitchell
  • Kim Medcalf as Sam Mitchell
  • Natalie Cassidy as Sonia Fowler
  • Thomas Law as Peter Beale
  • Max Bowden as Ben Mitchell
  • Perry Fenwick as Billy Mitchell
  • Jessie Wallace as Kat Mitchell
  • Rudolph Walker as Patrick Trueman
  • Shane Ritchie as Alfie Moon
  • Clay Milner Russell as Bobby Beale
  • Angela Wynter as Yolande Trueman
  • Bobby Brazier as Freddie Slater
  • Lacey Turner as Stacey Slater
  • Gillian Wright as Jean Slater
  • Emma Barton as Honey Mitchell
  • Matt Di Angelo as Dean Wicks
  • Zaraah Abrahams as Chelsea Fox
  • Diane Parish as Denise Fox
  • Grace as Janet Mitchell
  • Linda Henry as Shirley Carter
  • Jamie Borthwick as Jay Brown
  • Scott Maslen as Jack Branning
  • Freddie Phillips as Will Mitchell
  • Shona McGarty as Whitney Dean
  • Ellie Dadd as Amy Mitchell
  • Tameka Empson as Kim Fox
  • Lillia Turner as Lily Slater
  • Frankie Day as Ricky Branning
  • Sonny Kendall as Tommy Moon
  • Isabella Brown as Lexi Pearce
  • Kellie Bright as Linda Carter
  • Harriet Thorpe as Elaine Peacock
  • Elliot Briffett as Bert Moon
  • Cody Briffett as Ernie Moon
  • Arayah Harris-Buckles as Pearl Fox
  • Harry Farr as Ollie Carter
  • Rocco Brenner as Arthur Fowler
  • Michael Jose Pomares Calixte as Raymond Fox
  • Clair Norris as Bernadette Taylor
  • Isabelle Smith as Hope Fowler
  • Tony Clay as Callum Highway
  • Shiv Jalota as Vinny Panesar
  • Balvinder Sopal as Suki Panesar
  • James Farrar as Zack Hudson
  • Ross Boatman as Harvey Monroe
  • Delroy Atkinson as Howie Danes
  • Heather Peace as Eve Unwin
  • Aaron Thiara as Ravi Gulati
  • Matthew Morrison as Felix Baker/Tara Misu
  • Jaden Ladega as Denzel Danes
  • Juhaim Rasul Choudhury as Davinder “Nugget” Gulati
  • Navin Chowdhry as Nish Panesar
  • Jonny Freeman as Reiss Colwell
  • Colin Salmon as George Knight
  • Francesca Henry as Gina Knight
  • Molly Rainford as Anna Knight
  • Sophie Khan Levy as Priya Nandra-Hart
  • Aaliyah James as Avani Nandra-Hart

And here are the changes to the cast coming soon…


Eddie Knight (Christopher Fairbank) and Gloria Knight (Elizabeth Counsell)

Christopher Fairbank as Eddie Knight, Colin Salmon as George Knight, and Elizabeth Counsell as Gloria Knight in EastEnders.
Christopher Fairbank as Eddie Knight, Colin Salmon as George Knight, and Elizabeth Counsell as Gloria Knight in EastEnders. BBC/Jack Barnes/Kieron McCarron

When are Eddie and Gloria Knight arriving? 1st January 2024 (New Year’s Day).

British sitcom legends Christopher Fairbank and Elizabeth Counsell are joining EastEnders as the adoptive parents of George Knight, Eddie and Gloria Knight.

The pair will make their debut on New Year’s Day and will be in the soap for a short guest stint.

Speaking about Eddie and Gloria, executive producer Chris Clenshaw said: “We’re absolutely delighted to welcome the legendary and immensely talented actors, Christopher and Elizabeth, to the EastEnders family as they bring to life the characters of Gloria and Eddie.

“Although currently set to join for a short stint, Gloria and Eddie are thrust into the heart of the drama as they try to reconnect with their son but it soon becomes apparent why George has kept his distance.”

In a statement, Elizabeth Counsell said: “I can honestly say it has been an absolute joy. The cast and all of the team behind the scenes at EastEnders are brilliant and have been so welcoming.

“Colin and I actually worked together before, and who would have thought that I’d be playing his mum almost thirty years later!”

Meanwhile, Christopher Fairbank added: “I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to join the cast of EastEnders. Everyone has been so welcoming, and it’s been fantastic to meet and work with the brilliant actors involved in the show.”

Stevie Mitchell (Alan Ford)

Alan Ford as Stevie Mitchell in EastEnders standing in a black suit and coat in a churchyard.
Alan Ford joins the cast as Stevie Mitchell in EastEnders. BBC/Jack Barnes/Kieron McCarron

When is Stevie Mitchell arriving? 15th January 2024.

Hollywood star Alan Ford has been cast as Billy Mitchell’s estranged father Stevie Mitchell in EastEnders.

The actor had been spotted filming for Aunt Sal Martin’s funeral in November 2023 but his character had been undisclosed at the time.

Now we know that Ford is portraying the father who left Billy to be raised in care, taking on the responsibility of raising his brother Charlie, the father of Jamie Mitchell.

Speaking of his casting in the soap, Alan Ford commented: “I feel highly delighted to be playing a character close to my own age in this extremely popular television drama series.”


Whitney Dean (Shona McGarty)

Shona McGarty as Whitney Dean for EastEnders.
Shona McGarty as Whitney Dean for EastEnders. BBC/Jack Barnes/Kieron McCarron

When is Whitney Dean leaving? Early 2024.

Actress Shona McGarty has quit her role as Whitney Dean in EastEnders after 15 years.

The BBC One soap will lose the long-running character early next year as Whitney waves goodbye to Walford – but how will she go?

Speaking exclusively to The Sun on Sunday, McGarty commented: “I have decided to spread my wings and will be leaving EastEnders. I have loved my years in the show.

“I have been trusted with some incredible storylines and have made amazing friendships — and family — which will endure.”

A source told the paper that Shona “is hoping the door will be left open for her character to return one day, but nothing is guaranteed and it is all in the hands of the scriptwriters.”

RadioTimes.com understands that it was McGarty’s decision to leave at the end of her contract and she will depart our screens early next year, meaning fans have months left of Whitney being on-screen.

The character debuted in EastEnders in 2008 as she joined the show as the step-daughter of returning fan-favourite Bianca Jackson (Patsy Palmer) alongside the latter’s children, Liam, Tiffany, and Morgan.

Whitney’s biggest storylines have included being the victim of child sexual abuse at the hands of Tony King, being sexually exploited by boyfriend Rob Grayson, being stalked by Tony’s son Leo, her being placed on trial for Leo’s death, the loss of boyfriend Kush Kazemi to serial killer Gray Atkins, and her various doomed romances including to husband Lee Carter.

Most recently Whitney entered into a romance with Zack Hudson after the pair terminated the pregnancy of their unborn baby Peach who was diagnosed with Edward’s Syndrome.

Speaking to Inside Soap magazine in August 2023, McGarty said: “As a viewer, and after playing her for so long, Whitney deserves a happy ending. The majority of comments online and when I speak to people in the street are along the lines of, ‘When is Whitney going to have her happy ending?’ and I think it’s time.”

Ben Mitchell (Max Bowden)

Max Bowden as Ben Mitchell for EastEnders.
Max Bowden as Ben Mitchell for EastEnders. BBC/Jack Barnes/Kieron McCarron

When is Ben Mitchell leaving? 2024.

Actor Max Bowden is to leave his role as Ben Mitchell in 2024.

The actor took over the role of Phil Mitchell and Kathy Cotton’s son in 2019 and was met with acclaim and became a favourite with fans of ‘Ballum’ following his pairing with Callum Highway, played by Tony Clay.

Bowden is the fourth actor to portray Ben as a regular character in the soap, following in the footsteps of Charlie Jones, Joshua Pascoe, and Harry Reid.

His major storylines have included Ben’s romance with Callum, Ben’s forays into crime, parenting Lexi Pearce (Isabella Brown), parental issues with dad Phil, being the victim of rape, and his subsequent battle with bulimia.

A spokesperson for EastEnders confirmed on Saturday 30th December 2023: “Max will be leaving EastEnders next year. We wish him all the best for the future.”


Lauren Branning (Jacqueline Jossa)

Jacqueline Jossa as Lauren Branning for EastEnders.
Jacqueline Jossa as Lauren Branning for EastEnders. BBC/Jack Barnes/Kieron McCarron

When is Lauren Branning returning? 1st January 2024 (New Year’s Day)

Jacqueline Jossa is returning to her role as Lauren Branning full-time in EastEnders later this year.

The character was last seen back in June for a guest appearance as Lauren visited the Beales in France and discovered that Cindy was still alive, prompting her to leave again with her and Peter’s son Louie.

In a statement from Jossa shared by the BBC, she said: “I’m really excited! It’s such an amazing time to be back as there is so much buzz around EastEnders at the moment, and I’ve been watching and loving it like a fan. Walford holds such a special place in my heart, so it really does feel like coming home.”

Meanwhile, executive producer Chris Clenshaw commented: “I’m delighted to welcome Jaqueline back to the role of Lauren Branning. Although we only saw Lauren on-screen a few months ago, her return left plenty of unfinished business between her and the Beales.”

Clenshaw added: “The Branning family have a long history of being at the heart of the drama in Walford, and we’re absolutely thrilled to have Jacqueline back in the Square as she continues that family tradition.”

Teasing Lauren’s comeback to RadioTimes.com, Clenshaw revealed: “And you know, what she has no idea about is that she has a sister living in the Vic.

“But, yeah, what can I tease? I suppose what can I say is when we first see Lauren, it won’t be in Walford…and she won’t be returning on her own.”

Jossa begins filming in the Autumn, so we can expect her back on-screen in the Winter.

Penny Branning (Kitty Castledine)

Kitty Castledine as Penny Branning in EastEnders
Kitty Castledine as Penny Branning in EastEnders.

When is Penny Branning returning? 1st January 2024 (New Year’s Day)

EastEnders has confirmed the return of Jack Branning’s eldest daughter Penny Branning, now played by newcomer Kitty Castledine.

The role was previously played by Mia McKenna-Bruce, who is now starring in the acclaimed film How to Have Sex.

Penny is Jack’s only child from his first marriage to Selina Branning (Daisy Beaumont) and was left paralysed from the waist down when one of Jack’s criminal associates ran her down and left her for dead.

After guest appearances in 2008, Selina moved to France with Penny later that year, but Penny visited and caused trouble between Jack and his on-off love interest Ronnie Mitchell (Samantha Womack), with Penny preferring her dad’s other love interest at the time – his sister-in-law, Tanya Branning (Jo Joyner).

In 2013, Jack left Walford for two years and went to live in France near Penny.

So, what brings Penny back to Walford?

Speaking of joining the show, Castledine said: “I didn’t expect to start my EastEnders journey so soon out of drama school – I can’t actually believe it! My whole family are EastEnders fans, and I remember sitting on my Nanny Kay’s lap to tune in, and now they get to watch me in Albert Square.

“The inclusion of disabled talent on screen is so important to me as a wheelchair user, so I’m thrilled to be playing a character as feisty and cool as Penny. She’s thrown into the middle of the drama immediately, and I can’t wait to see what she gets up to.”

EastEnders Executive Producer Chris Clenshaw added: “It’s been a long time since Penny Branning was in Walford, and she’s a very different person from the one our viewers might remember. Kitty is a terrific addition to the show, and we’re looking forward to seeing Penny back in Albert Square.”

Johnny Carter (Charlie Suff)

Actor Charlie Suff poses for a headshot photo.
EastEnders Charlie Suff poses for a headshot photo. Yellow Belly

When is Johnny Carter returning? 2024.

Actor Charlie Suff is joining the cast of EastEnders as the third actor to portray Linda Carter’s second son, Johnny Carter.

The role was previously portrayed by Sam Strike from 2013 to 2014 and Ted Reilly from 2016 to 2018.

Living in Manchester and studying law since 2018, what type of person will Johnny be since his time away and losing both his father and his aunt Tina?
Speaking about joining the cast of EastEnders, Charlie Suff said: “I’m so delighted to be joining such an iconic programme – EastEnders was always on at my house when I was growing up.

“Johnny is a complex character who has been through so much, which I can’t wait to explore.

“I’ve found EastEnders to be the most kind and loving space to work in, and I already feel like one of the family.”

Meanwhile, executive producer Chris Clenshaw, added: “I’m delighted to welcome Charlie Suff to the role of Johnny Carter.

“Although we haven’t seen Johnny on the Square in almost five years, his character remains linked to the show and its most iconic venue, The Queen Vic.

“Since his short time away, the Carter family dynamics have changed significantly, and it’s safe to say that Johnny will be returning to a very different Walford than the one he left.”

Freddie Slater (Bobby Brazier)

Bobby Brazier as Freddie Slater in tracksuits for EastEnders.
Bobby Brazier as Freddie Slater for EastEnders. BBC

When is Freddie Slater returning? 2024.

Bobby Brazier will be returning to his much-loved role as Freddie Slater after taking a break for a stint on Strictly Come Dancing 2023.

Earlier this year, Freddie was seen heading to visit his mother Little Mo Slater after he was bailed for attempted murder following a violent confrontation with his old teacher Theo Hawthorne (Willliam Ellis), who had been stalking and then attempted to rape Freddie’s cousin Stacey Slater (Lacey Turner).

The Slater family conspired to set up a crime scene that suggested Theo had a weapon and Freddie’s actions were purely in self-defence when he repeatedly hit Theo with an iron.

Due to Brazier taking part in Strictly and signing up to take part in the Strictly Come Dancing tour, Brazier is not expected to make his comeback as Freddie Slater until sometime in 2024.

Teasing Freddie’s return, executive producer Chris Clenshaw teased to RadioTimes.com: “In terms of Freddie, he obviously left after a huge storyline in which we saw a very, very different Freddie – we’ve not seen him kind of act in that way before although I think we understood exactly where that was coming from.”

He added that “when Freddie returns, he’s probably done a little bit of growing up since being away.”

Shirley Carter (Linda Henry)

Linda Henry as Shirley Carter outside at night in Walford with Denise Fox in the background in a scene from EastEnders.
Linda Henry as Shirley Carter in EastEnders. BBC

When is Shirley Carter returning to EastEnders? TBC.

EastEnders fan-favourite Shirley Carter made a surprise departure from Walford just after Christmas in 2022 following the apparent death of her son Mick Carter.

Deciding that there was nothing left for her in Walford, Shirley walked out of the Square with Lady Di the dog to stay with daughter Carly Wicks and her family, having said goodbye to friends Jean Slater and Denise Fox.

We then heard of Shirley in February when we learned that she had also reunited with her previously estranged son Dean Wicks off-screen, the man who had raped Mick’s true love, Linda Carter.

When Dean made his horrific return on Halloween, he claimed that Shirley had experienced a mental breakdown and had been institutionalised and after Linda wasn’t in contact with her, changed her number and wanted nothing to do with her.

Linda was distrustful of Dean’s claims but was unable to get through to Shirley, meaning her fate remains mysterious.

Actress Linda Henry is taking an extended break from the show and has been off our screens for over a year.

However, the BBC confirmed to RadioTimes.com at the time of her exit that Shirley had not left the soap for good and would return.

Chris Clenshaw also told us: “So, Linda Henry is currently taking a break from the show.

“But you know, when she walked off with Lady Di last year, in the wake of Mick’s disappearance, it won’t have been the last you see of her. I can say that for sure.”

What will Shirley make of the new family in the Queen Vic, the Knights?

Which characters departed EastEnders in 2023?

Brian Conley as Tom "Rocky" Cotton in EastEnders.
Brian Conley as Tom “Rocky” Cotton in EastEnders. BBC

The following characters have departed EastEnders in 2023.

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