EastEnders responds to cast panto ban claims ahead of 40th anniversary

EastEnders executives have responded to reports that cast members have been banned from taking part in pantomimes next year ahead of the soap's 40th anniversary.

On Friday (September 15), The Sun reported that show bosses "barred the cast from appearing in lucrative pantomime roles next year" as the festive productions clashed with filming scheduled for EastEnders' 40th anniversary.

The publication also claimed that the no pantomime request was the reason behind actor Brian Conley's exit from the show earlier this week.

brain conley as terry in eastenders

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Digital Spy reached out to EastEnders for comment, who clarified existing media reports.

"EastEnders cast take part in panto every year, but as we lead up to our milestone 40th anniversary, all cast members have been asked to be involved for storyline purposes – we’ve received no complaints, in fact everyone has been supportive of the plan," they shared in a statement.

Responding to claims of the panto ban being linked to Conley's exit, an EastEnders spokesperson added: "As previously stated by Brian Conley earlier in the week, EastEnders are fully supportive of Brian's decision to leave at the end of his contract, and we wish him the very best for the future."

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Digital Spy understands that cast are fully aware that panto appearances wouldn't be cleared for 2024 and the same request is always asked ahead of any upcoming anniversaries.

On Monday (September 12), Conley addressed his EastEnders exit in a video shared to Instagram.

The actor said that he made the decision to leave "for many reasons" and shut down reports that he had quit after a row with bosses.

"It was a tough decision but it is true, I am going and I made it for many reasons, that decision," he said. "It is tough because they're such a wonderful crowd, in front of the cameras and behind the cameras and I've loved my three years there.

"So that's the truth in the reports. There's other parts of reports saying that I clashed with TV bosses and the crew. I didn't clash with anyone. I didn't have a rant. But they'll probably report on this now that I'm ranting about ranting! But I'm not ranting!"

Conley added that he had left the soap "with their blessings at the Beeb" and that he was "excited about Rocky's exit" with no doubt that show writers will give his character a good send off.

The comedian will appear in panto this festive season at the Milton Keynes Theatre, reprising his role as Buttons in Cinderella.

EastEnders airs on Mondays - Thursdays at 7.30pm on BBC One. The show also streams on BBC iPlayer.

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