Dean Gaffney is about to return to EastEnders as Robbie Jackson – and he explains that he couldn’t be happier!

It’s been 14 years since Dean Gaffney had a regular role in EastEnders and while he was upset to be written out of the BBC1 soap way back then, he’s equally delighted to be back, he explains to Soaplife magazine…

Robbie’s back! Has he changed much, Dean?
“EastEnders boss Sean O’Connor told me he wants Robbie to be Robbie. He said: ‘Every show needs a Robbie. I just want you to be Robbie, but older’. He didn’t want me to the hapless, bumbling teenager that I was. He still wanted him to do things wrong, but in a mature way.”

What’s he like as the new market inspector?
“It’s a step up from being a road sweeper. It’s funny… He’s trying to get the stall-holders to chant and do meditation. And they’re looking at him like they don’t know what the hell he’s on about. Robbie is also a jobsworth…He’s just that kind of annoying character.”

Is this why Robbie and Donna clash?
“I think it’s purely because Donna [Lisa Hammond] sees this jobsworth throwing his weight about. But there’s also a discrepancy with her stall and she could lose it. It’s a clash of personalities.”

You have a good rapport with Natalie Cassidy, who plays Sonia, don’t you?
“We were walking up to the Albert Square lot recently and she pinched me and said, ‘Can you believe this?’ She knows, as someone who’s very close to me, that I’ve wanted to come back for years. And she’s also wanted that because she’s wanted her character to have someone she can bounce off.”

Were you upset to be written out in 2003?
“Yeah. Funnily enough, the boss at the time saw me at a party three months later and she said, ‘I’m not necessarily sure it was the right decision’. Then, when I had my meeting with Sean, he said he was surprised that previous bosses haven’t got me back sooner. He said every show needs a Robbie character. That was a nice thing to say.”

A lot of people might have been left bitter at being disposed of and might not want to come back…
“I was very fortunate to do 11 great years on the show. It’s given me an amazing lifestyle so I can’t ever be angry with the show. I’m very lucky – I think there’s a handful of people who would be on the list of people to get back. To be one of them makes me feel immensely honoured.”

How has EastEnders changed since your last stint?
“TV has changed massively and it’s a completely different world. With EastEnders, you can have your sensationalist stories, but then you need to bring it back to family – whether it’s the Carters, the Slaters, the Jacksons, the Mitchells or the Beales. Although I am sure there will be people asking who Robbie is! But it’s always been about family. Peripheral characters last for maybe a year, but they need to bring in a family for them. Take Woody [Lee Ryan], for example, at some point they are going to need a family for him because this is a show all about family.”

Is there anyone you think Robbie could be attracted to?
“That’s a good question, I’m not sure. Obviously this would never happen, but as a character, I would like to work alongside Lacey Turner [who plays Stacey Fowler]. I think she is sensational in what she does on the show. But I’d like them to bring in someone new for Robbie really and see what happens.”

EastEnders, BBC1