EastEnders star reveals real reason why he quit show

EastEnders actor Brian Conley has revealed the real reason he quit the soap and will not be returning.

The 62-year-old joined the popular drama in May 2021 and played the role of Tom “Rocky” Cotton (formerly Terry Cant). He made his last appearance on Albert Square in December 2023, amid reports of a fierce clash with the show’s executives.

Both the BBC and Conley denied the rumours at the time, but the actor has since confirmed that there was some truth to speculation about a disagreement.

Promoting his appearance as host of the forthcoming Radio Times Soap Awards, the musical theatre performer responded to Susanna Reid’s probing about a possible return.

“You haven’t been in EastEnders for six months, but because you’re in prison there is a release date at some point,” she asked.

“You could go back, but you’ve said actually it’s probably too much?”

Conley responded, “I left because you’re not allowed to do anything else.”

The actor reportedly earns a six-figure sum from his role as Buttons in the pantomime Cinderella, and was told at the time that it clashed with contractual obligations to his work on the soap.

Conley said he had been told he was ‘not allowed to do anything else’ (ITV/Good Morning Britain)
Conley said he had been told he was ‘not allowed to do anything else’ (ITV/Good Morning Britain)

“Although I’ve now found out you can,” the actor continued, slightly frustrated. “But at the time, they said you can’t do anything.”

The TV personality, who has also hosted a number of prominent awards shows including the Royal Variety Performance, is preparing to star in a forthcoming production of Goldilocks and the Three Bears on the panto circuit from December.

“I’m a live performer, I love being live, I love getting out there - musicals and my own show which I’m currently doing,” he continued.

“So for me I felt very restricted with those sorts of ties.”

Actor played Tom ‘Rocky’ Cotton on the popular show (BBC/Jack Barnes)
Actor played Tom ‘Rocky’ Cotton on the popular show (BBC/Jack Barnes)

However, he added his character “might” return, saying “Never say never, I could always wander in or I could make an escape...”

In September, the star shared a video to his Instagram page in an attempt to quell any rumours of a fight.

“You might have heard reports that I’m leaving EastEnders and it was a tough decision, but it is true. I am going,” he addressed the show’s fans.

“I made it for many reasons, that decision, and 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.

“That’s the truth in the reports. There’s other parts of the reports saying I clashed with TV bosses and crew. I didn’t clash with anyone, I didn’t have a rant.”

A spokesperson for the BBC, told The Independent at the time: “We can confirm that Brian Conley will be leaving EastEnders. There is absolutely no truth in any claims of a feud with bosses and the show fully supports Brian in his decision to leave, which was made some time ago.

“We wish him the best of luck for the future as we continue to work towards his exit storyline which has been in the works for some time.”

The actor previously described joining the show’s cast as“such an incredible moment for me”, adding that EastEnders was his father’s favourite show.