EastEnders' Jake Wood pays tribute to Barbara Windsor and reveals plans for memorial after lockdown ends

EASTENDERS' Jake Wood has revealed his plans to pay tribute to Dame Barbara Windsor once lockdown is over.

The 48-year-old, who was famously close to the late Queen Vic legend and remains close with her husband Scott Mitchell, said he hoped to have a "remembrance memorial" for the actress.

Jake, who appeared on our screens as Walford's Max Branning for 15 years, admitted he was "forever grateful" for Barbara's support in his career.

He noted that their friendship led him becoming close to husband Scott, 58, and revealed that a framed photo of the couple alongside Jake and his wife sits pride of place in his sitting room.

Jake exclusively told The Sun: "Barbara was a great friend and a great supporter of mine. I just miss her a lot.

"I speak to Scott regularly – we are in touch all the time and we've arranged to meet up once lockdown is over.

"The hope is that we can have some sort of remembrance memorial for her when things are normal. It'll be lovely."

He went on to detail how Carry On legend Barbara, who died aged 83 following a battle with Alzheimer's, gave him "great advice" as he began his soap career.

"Barbara really supported me when I first started and gave me great advice," he continued. "She put an arm around me, if you like.

"I will forever be grateful for what she did for me. She was very generous. As someone who had experienced every aspect of the business, she was always there for you.

"I think the best bit of advice she ever gave me was when I first joined. She warned me about the sudden exposure – the pitfalls.

"Her advice was don't change anything about who you are or what you do or where you go. I took that to heart and as a family we lived life as normal."

Dame Barbara was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 2014 and made the news public in 2018.

The star, who played Peggy Mitchell in EastEnders, died "peacefully" at 8.35pm 10 December 2020 at a London care home with her husband Scott by her side.

Jake confirmed he will be making an exit from the soap in scenes airing this month after a crazy stint in Walford that saw him imprisoned and buried alive.

"I've slept with 15 women in 15 years, had four marriages, ten affairs, shared a hot tub with Ian Beale, gone to prison, been throttled by my brother and buried alive – it's time for Max to go," the star joked.

While the official decision for businessman Max to leave the soap was "mutual", it hasn't been easy for Jake to say goodbye to his castmates.

It may not be easy grounds given the way the entertainment industry has been hit by the coronavirus pandemic, but the star already has two new job offers.

He is also keen to take part in more directing after a successful one-off stint last year.

"It is always going to be strange leaving any job after 15 years, and I've always had a routine so that's weird now," said Jake.

"But it's been great spending more time with the kids, doing some home-schooling, and I'm looking forward to having a better work-life balance now.

"So I am happy with the decision. I think it was the right one, but I am really pleased they're keeping the door open for me to return. Never say never, you never know."

Jake's dedicated fanbase are sure to move with him onto whatever project he sets out with next, with no shortage on female [and male] admirers.

Despite being happily married to former care worker Alison for over 20 years, the star has seen some strange tributes to him in his time.

"One of the strangest things I received was a set of five pairs of used y-fronts which arrived in a clear plastic bag," he grimaced.

"I'm not sure why I was sent them or what the purpose was, but I quickly binned them and scrubbed my hands for quite some time.

"Maybe that's the power of Max Branning? A bit like the tattoo of my face someone decided to get on their backside."

Jake added that it's normal for him to get "20 weird DM's a day", but says he takes all of the messages with "a pinch of salt".

"I think it's bizarre," he added. "I don't know why people are doing it – maybe just enjoying trying to engage with someone in the public domain?

"I try to step away from it, and I'm a pretty grounded guy. Being at home is more important to me than any of that stuff."

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