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Daily Mirror
Daily Mirror
Natasha Wynarczyk

Jacqueline Jossa teases EastEnders return after Dot's emotional funeral scenes

For eight years she was one of Albert Square’s most-loved stars, with hard-hitting storylines that gripped millions of viewers.

And following a brief return to EastEnders for Dot Cotton’s funeral, Lauren Branning actress Jacqueline Jossa has said she would come back to the show, but only when the time is right.

EastEnders was the best job ever and a huge part of my life - it was the making of me,” says Jacqueline.

“Lauren was a massive part of my life and I’m not ready to let go. I’ve always said to never say never, but it would have to be the right time for me and the show.”

Jacqueline (right) pictured with her on-screen dad Jake Wood and on-screen sister Lorna Fitzgerald who portrayed Max and Abi Branning (BBC/Nicky Johnston)
Jacqueline was crowned Queen of the Jungle in I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here! in 2019 (ITV/REX)

And Jacqueline, 30, says the on-screen funeral for EastEnders stalwart Dot, following the death of June Brown last year aged 95, was the perfect send-off for her old pal.

She adds: “I loved being back on set, although it was bittersweet because we were filming such sad scenes and June was such an amazing part of EastEnders.

“At the same time, it was beautiful and special. June would have loved it. She was hilarious and she would no doubt have said something funny about it, but she’d have been really proud and happy.”

Jacqueline adds: “I was really grateful that I was asked to come back for it. I went back in a heartbeat, there was no question of whether or not I would.

“I hadn’t realised just how much I missed all the people. It quickly felt like home being back at the set and it had a real family feel. That place just has such a big place in my heart.”

Jacqueline is pictured as Lauren Branning in the TV drama (BBC)

Jacqueline grew up in Bexley, South London. She always harboured dreams of being an actress, training at D&B Theatre School in Bromley, then the Royal Academy of Music in London.

A lifelong fan of EastEnders - so much so that she wrote in her primary school end-of-year book that she wanted to be on the programme - in 2010 Jacqueline was delighted when she joined the soap as wayward teenager Lauren.

She quickly became a fan favourite, with major storylines including suffering from alcoholic addiction, having an abortion and helping her mum Tanya (played by Jo Joyner) through cervical cancer.

Jacqueline left EastEnders in February 2018. At the time, she was three months pregnant with Mia, her second daughter with her reality TV star husband Dan Osborne, 31, and decided she wanted to focus more on her children.

“I love the show so much, and I probably would have still been there otherwise, but I was happy to be with the kids more,” says Jacqueline.

“Being on the soap is tough if you’re a parent and I never really got it because I was a kid when I started and was always on set.

“I remember Jo Joyner had her twins as I joined and I remember her struggling to balance that. I spoke to her quite recently and she said, ‘you have to go with your heart because the kids always come first’ - and they do.”

The actress and husband Dan Osborne have two daughters (DAILY MIRROR)

Jacqueline says she relishes every moment of being a parent to Ella, eight, and Mia, who is now four.

“I always wanted to be a mum, and always wanted to be a young mum,” she says. “The best thing about it is that I have these two little best friends.

“I never really feel lonely anymore. If I want to do something or go somewhere I already have my little friends to go with.

“Watching life through their eyes just makes everything more beautiful. Especially in the world we are in now, the naivety of kids is so special and as an adult it’s hard to see life like that.”

Jacqueline says her two girls couldn’t be more different. “Ella is not that girly, doesn’t do pink and is quite arty and not really a stealing the limelight kind of a girl - she’s a lot cooler than me,” she adds, laughing.

“Mia is all about makeup, high heels. She is so girly and sassy. Mia has what it takes to go into acting but she wouldn’t be forced to do anything.”

Close to her Belfast-born mum Selina, Jacqueline says the way she was raised is a major inspiration when it comes to her own parenting style.

She says: “Not just from when they were babies, but I think you continuously learn things from your parents, even now I do.

“It’s not just from my parents, but Dan’s mum as well. My kids are the way they are because of them too and how special they are, they’re a massive part of their lives.

“I was in my early 20s when I had Ella and I didn’t know anything. I’ve learned everything about being a parent from them.”

The character briefly returned to Albert Square in December last year for Dot Cotton's funeral (BBC/Jack Barnes/Kieron McCarron)

As a busy mum, Jacqueline is now on a mission to help families save money by reducing the amount of food they throw away, teaming up with cracker brand Jacob’s to launch their Less Waste More Taste Snackademy.

It brings together recipes and tips from chefs and food influencers to help families create easy snacks using items they already have in their fridges and cupboards.

Jacqueline teamed up with chef Martyn Odell to make tasty recipes, which include a garlic and rosemary white bean dip, chargrilled marinated veg and frozen minted peas with fish fingers on crackers.

She says: “I wanted to get involved as it’s giving households the help and knowledge to be able to make quick and easy snacks with things they’ve already got, rather than going out and buying them.

“It is hard to avoid wasting food, especially when you’ve got a family, but this has also kicked me into gear to make me think about ways to stop doing that.”

A study linked to the campaign found 49% of parents throw uneaten food away, with 47% admitting it is often still edible – although 53% of those polled feel guilty about doing this.

Almost half regularly bin leftovers from previous meals, while over a third struggle to eat all the fresh fruit and vegetables they buy.

The research also found Brits are wasting over £409 each year through throwing away edible food, despite the current cost of living crisis.

Jacqueline and sustainable chef Martyn Odell have teamed up to create tasty snack recipes (PinPep)

Jacqueline says taking part in the Jacob’s campaign has also changed the way her own family think about shopping.

“When we’re doing the food shop, we now stick to a list and make sure nothing else extra goes into the basket because it is just going to waste,” she says.

“I’m also checking the cupboards for products such as tinned fruit and beans before we go to the shops to make sure I don’t already have them, because they often get forgotten about.

“It’s not just about reducing food waste, but also being able to save money as well. It’s been great learning to be resourceful as well as helping other people out there.”

It’s also key to get the little ones involved in making their dinner. Jacqueline adds: “My kids love cooking and it helps with them eating the foods because they’ve prepared it.

“With anything, even a simple tuna pasta, Mia especially loves to help me from the start to finish - and these recipes we’ve done for the Snackademy are so easy you can make them with your children.”

But while Jacqueline loves getting crafty in the kitchen, she jokes that she’d struggle with her own cookery show as she’s not a chef.

She adds: “I wouldn’t be opposed doing a show where I did learn how to do it, as I feel like I am a beginner like a lot of people are which is relatable.”

The winner of I’m a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here! in 2019, Jacqueline says she isn’t averse to doing more reality TV - but you’d never see her on Dancing on Ice.

“It’s the hardest show on TV,” she says. “The contestants that go on there are so incredible and so brave.

“I have nothing against it, but I can’t even stand up on the ice, I have to hold on to the sides.”

For now, she’s focusing on her latest fashion launch for In The Style. She adds: “There’s loads I want to do, but it’s all about timing. With a four-year-old it can be quite difficult.”

To find out more about the Snackademy and for the recipes and tips, visit Instagram and search @jacobsofficialuk

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