EastEnders star Brian Conley has reportedly quit the popular BBC show following a row with the executives, plunging the Christmas storyline into crisis.
Conley plays fan-favourite character Tom “Rocky” Cotton (initially Terry Cant), who made his first appearance on the show in May 2021.
The 62-year-old actor has demanded to be written out of the show as quickly as possible following a clash with BBC bosses leaving them “furious” with the actor, according to The Sun.
The Independent has contacted representatives for Conley and BBC for comment.
“It’s all come to a head,” the newspaper quoted an insider as saying. “The truth is, bosses are furious.”
Conley has reportedly “wanted it out for a while” and isn’t “enjoying being on EastEnders any more”, the source added.
His decision to exit the show has reportedly derailed the show’s long-term plans, with its creators now allegedly scrambling to rewrite storylines to accommodate Conley’s departure in time for the show’s crucial Christmas storyline.
“Whatever has wound him up, it feels like he can’t get out of there quick enough – and now they’re going to have to rewrite their storyline plans for his rapid exit,” the insider source reportedly told the publication.
In the flash-forward scene, the women of Walford, Denise (Diane Parish), Kathy (Gillian Taylforth), Linda (Kellie Bright), Sharon (Letitia Dean), Stacey (Lacey Turner) and Suki (Balvinder Sopal) are seen gathered around the body of a man under a Christmas tree at the Old Vic.
It is now being speculated the dead man will be revealed as Brian’s character, who is currently married to Kathy.
In a statement to Digital Spy, the BBC said: “There are many rumours and theories circulating about whose body is under the Christmas tree but, to not spoil the drama for the audience, we will not be commenting on any speculation.”
The BBC announced Conley, who has appeared in several West End musicals as well as TV sitcoms, would be joining the cast of EastEnders in a statement in February 2021.
At the time, the actor described his arrival at Albert Square as “such an incredible moment for me”, adding that EastEnders was his father’s favourite show.
“As you can imagine being a Londoner and now being part of EastEnders is such an incredible moment for me,” Conley said. “I know for sure my dad’s looking down from above and saying ‘Good on yer son!’ It was always his favourite programme.
“So in so many ways it really is an honour to be part of such an iconic show and to be working with an incredibly talented team on camera and off. I cannot wait to order my first pint at The Queen Vic.”
The show’s executive producers Jon Sen said Conley’s “charm, wit, and charisma are exactly the qualities we want for” Rocky,
“We’ve got some wonderful stories in store for him and can’t wait for the audience to see Brian bring him to life”.
Conley’s TV credits also include hosting theThe Brian Conley Show as well as starring as PE teacher Doug “Dyanmo” Digby on the ITV showThe Grimleys.
He has also presented the Royal Variety Performance on eight separate occasions, and appeared on Strictly Come Dancing as well as I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here! in 2012, but was forced to pull out of the show nine days later for medical reasons.