The former soap and Doc Martin star, 33, travelled to the wilds of Romania to film Hatfields and McCoys, a TV mini-series about two warring families in 19th-century America.
But he ended up meeting familiar faces from the soap that he left 12 years ago.
“We were four hours north of Bucharest in a hotel in the mountains and there wasn’t much to do apart from sit and have a drink so I went for a few beers,” said the actor, who played wrongly jailed Matthew Rose in EastEnders.
“In walked Ben Cartwright [who played Tony Jamison in 2003] and then Michael Greco [who played Beppe di Marco from 1998 to 2002] appeared. We were like, ‘All right!’ We couldn’t believe it.”
All three have landed roles in the drama, set in the years following the American Civil War.
Joe plays a small, but pivotal role as the naive Selkirk McCoy, who creates all sorts of problems when he votes in favour of the rival Hatfields during a court case.
“It’s not a major part, but it’s a bit different to what I’ve done before and it’s a bit of an experience,” he said. “Essentially you’re being paid to be hairy.”
Hatfields and McCoys begins on Channel 5 on Thursday, October 25.