The actor who played Jim Branning in Eastenders from 1996-2011 passed away earlier today after suffering from ill health for a number of years.
A statement, released today by soap bosses read: ”Everyone at EastEnders is absolutely heartbroken to learn that John has sadly passed away. His bravery, dignity and courage in battling against the devastating effects of his stroke were admired by all who had the privilege of working with him.”
”Loved by us all, John was an exceptionally talented actor whose humor, mischievousness and brilliant performances made Jim Branning one of Walford’s most lovable, memorable characters and we will miss John forever.”
Following the sad news, tonight’s episode of Eastender’s will be dedicated to the actor as tribute to his incredible work on screen.
The character of Jim Branning is best known for his relationship to Dot, they tied the knot in 2002, but their marriage faced troubles in 2007 when Jim suffered from a stroke, a story line written in after John suffered one himself. He exited screens in 2011 when he was admitted into a nursing home after Dot was unable to provide him with the care he needed, but Jim continues to be mentioned on screen as his loyal wife makes regular off screen visits to see him.
Eastenders show bosses have not yet revealed if the character of Jim will be killed off-screen.
Speaking out following the sad announcement, his co-star June Brown led tributes to the actor, saying: ”I am so sorry that John has passed away but hope that he is now at peace after seven difficult years. I shall miss him very much as I loved him dearly. My thoughts are with his devoted wife, Edna.”
Also paying tribute to the actor was his on-screen granddaughter Natalie Cassidy, who plays Sonia Fowler. She said: ”I never had a real granddad so John was like an actual granddad to me. He was a lovely man and I learnt a lot from him.”
Perry Fenwick, who plays Billy Mitchell commented: ”I’m absolutely gutted. John was a lovely, lovely man to work with. I’ll miss him.”
Our thoughts go out to John’s family and friends at this difficult time.