• Tue. May 30th, 2023

6 huge stars returning to EastEnders – and those leaving and joining

May 24, 2023

EastEnders has consistently delivered the goods as of late, with compelling storylines, character-driven dilemmas and heartbreaking goodbyes putting the show at the top of its game.

The BBC One soap is on fire right now – and that excellence is showing absolutely no signs of waning, with a number of big changes set to stir up a storm in Albert Square.

Yes, the revolving door of EastEnders will be in full swing this summer and, while we will be bidding farewell to a huge favourite, we’ll also be welcoming back some fan-favourite characters.

But who is leaving? Who is coming back? And who is taking over the Vic and when?

If you’ve found yourself asking any one – if not all – of these questions, then you’re in luck, as Metro.co.uk has all the answers you need.

If you’re keen to find out all there is to know about the comings and goings of Albert Square over the next few months, we’ve got you covered.

Who is returning?

Cindy and Ian Beale

EastEnders fans were absolutely blown away when it was revealed that Cindy Beale would be staging a comeback, with Michelle Collins set to reprise her signature role almost 30 years after the character was killed off.

If that wasn’t exciting enough, it was also confirmed that Ian would be accompanying her, with viewers already speculating that it was Cindy he was speaking to on the phone when we last saw him at Dot’s funeral.

Cindy’s reasons for returning, or how she’s even still alive following her of-screen demise, remain shrouded in mystery, but actress Michelle was spotted filming on a farm house, with her reportedly already having shot scenes with Adam Woodyatt.

How exciting!

Lisa Fowler

If Cindy and Ian’s return weren’t enough to whet your nostalgic appetite, then you’ll be pleased to know that Lisa Fowler, played by Lucy Benjamin, will also be arriving back in the Square this year, albeit for a short stint.

Lisa is not alone, however, as she’s also bringing with her granddaughter Peggy, and will no doubt stir up trouble for Sharon and Keanu’s relationship. Lisa was last seen in the Square back in 2019, after friend Mel was killed following a high-speed car chase.

Mel, at the time, was set to expose Sharon’s affair with Keanu, with Lisa blaming Sharon for her best pal’s death.

‘I can’t wait to make my return as Lisa Fowler again after leaving for Spain with Louise and granddaughter Peggy, back in 2019,’ said star Lucy.

‘No doubt, in true Lisa fashion, she will bring with her plenty of drama for many of the characters on the Square, which is why playing her is such a delight.’

Sam Mitchell

Sam Mitchell made quite the impression on EastEnders audiences when she returned to the Square last year, with actress Kim Medcalf reprising the role for the first time in 17 years, so it’s no surprise that everyone was devastated when she subsequently departed for Spain in a black cab.

There’s no reason to be upset, however, as Sam’s departure is merely a temporary one, with an EastEnders spokesperson having confirmed to Metro.co.uk that Kim will reprise her role once again at a later stage in the year.


Sam left for Spain to take up a job running an hotel in Spain in a bid to make as much money as possible for son Ricky, who is about to become a dad, so fans are hoping she’ll be back in time for the birth.

‘With her son Ricky due to become a father, and the Mitchells soon to be in pieces following the loss of Lola, Sam is needed by her loved ones more than ever,’ a source told Inside Soap.

Shirley Carter

Shirley Carter broke the nation’s heart when she decided to leave Walford following the tragic disappearance and presumed death of son Mick at Christmas time.

The popular character took one final look at the Square, before walking down Bridge Street with Lady Di in tow, signifying what is thought to have been the end of the Carter era following Mick’s ‘death’.

Fans were left devastated at the time, desperately hoping that Shirley would one day return. Metro.co.uk soon confirmed that she would, in fact, be back in the future, though no definitive date has been revealed. ‘Linda Henry will be returning to EastEnders,’ a spokesperson said at the time.

Hurry back, Shirl! The Square just isn’t the same without you.

Patrick Trueman

Patrick recently left the Square in a bid to take a chance on love, hoping to track down former flame Yolande and reunite with her. The icon has made one appearance since, video calling Kim to check in following the car crash which left Denzel Danes in a bad way.

The longtime legend, however, will properly return in the coming weeks, with a picture shared by EastEnders’ official social media accounts having confirmed such a thing, with actor Rudolph Walker posing for a snap with Sharon Watts star Letitia Dean.

The picture is from a scene yet to air, due to the knight statue – which has yet to appear on screen – seen in the background of the Vic.

Who is joining?

George Knight

Newcomer George Knight is set to make quite an entrance, when he rocks up in Albert Square next week to tell Linda Carter that he’s joining her behind the bar, confirming that he’s Elaine’s new lover.

The huge twist leaves Linda speechless, given that she was under the impression that she would be running the pub with her mum and her mum only, but George is adamant that he won’t cause any trouble and is simply there to be build a life for himself and his daughters.

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But will he stay true to his word?

That remains to be seen, but with a new publican in our midst, it’s safe to say that George’s arrival will usher in a new era for EastEnders, as the Knights make their mark on the pub.

Discussing his casting, Arrow star Colin Salmon said: ‘‘I’m thrilled to be joining the cast of EastEnders to take on the role of George Knight.

‘I’m excited to explore the character of George, a true East End gentleman having been born in the East End myself.  

Anna and Gina Knight

George isn’t alone when he arrives in the Square, bringing daughters Anna and Gina with him, with both girls causing chaos as soon as they set foot in the cafe with chihuahua Tyson.

We kind of love them already.

Anna ,the youngest of the family, will be played by Nova Jones star Molly Rainford, who recently competed in Strictly Come Dancing, making it all the way to the final of the latest series. 

‘I’m SUPER excited to be joining the cast of EastEnders,’ said Molly. ‘It’s such an iconic show which myself and my family love, so it’s an honour to bring the character Anna Knight to life who is set to stir up drama upon her arrival. 

‘I’ve already met a few familiar faces from my time on Strictly and I can’t wait to meet and be a part of the EastEnders family.’

The eldest daughter, Gina, will be played by A Discovery of Witches star Francesca Henry. ‘I wish I could tell younger me that one day I would be joining the show that I watched religiously every night with my Grandma,’ said the actress. ‘It’s very surreal and a true privilege to be trusted to bring Gina to the Square, and to be a part of such an exciting, tight-knit new family.’

Who is leaving?

Lola Pearce

Lola Pearce is set to tragically die next week after a battle with a terminal brain tumour, with actress Danielle Harold set to depart the show, having enjoyed two memorable stints as the popular character.

With time running out, emotional scenes next week will Lola’s loved ones gather to say their individual goodbyes while, over the Vic, Linda holds a lock-in, with the residents of the Square reflecting on life, love, loss and the tragedy of Lola’s death.

Unknown Christmas victim

One unfortunate Walford resident will meet their demise at Christmas time, with a historic flashforward episode, which aired in February, having previewed the upcoming festive season, confirming a shock death.

Linda, Sharon, Suki Panesar, Kathy Beale, Stacey Slater and Denise Fox were all seen in the Vic on Christmas Day, staring at a corpse on the floor, with Sharon – who was sporting a wedding dress – confirming that the victim in question had no pulse.

Fans have since gone into full speculation mode, desperately hunting for clues in order to work out who will perish over the holiday season.

Ravi Gulati, Nish Panesar and Keanu Taylor are among those mentioned in discussions, but there is no confirmation as of yet in regards to who the death will be, meaning we’ll just have to keep watching to find out!

EastEnders airs Mondays to Thursdays at 7:30pm on BBC One and BBC iPlayer.

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