Its special episodes have featured everything from gangland shootings and murder to rape and sordid love affairs.
But for some of the cast of EastEnders, whose characters have kept millions of Brits entertained over the past 38 years, their lives off screen have been just as dramatic.
From run-ins with the law and alleged ties to the criminal underworld, to raunchy romps on set and trips to rehab after binging on drink and drugs.
Now, MailOnline looks back at some of the biggest scandals to rock the off-screen lives of the star on one of Britain’s most beloved soaps.
Kat Moon (Jessie Wallace)
Her onscreen life as Kat Moon has been filled with drama, betrayal and clashes with the criminal underworld.
She has been raped by a family member, forced to pretend her daughter is her sister and almost went to prison while pregnant with twins because she admitted lying about her cousin Stacey Slater and was charged with perjury.
The embattled character also nearly died after her doting estranged husband burned their house down in a bid to claim insurance money for their expanding family.
Off-screen, the life of Jessie Wallace has been equally as turbulent.
Jessie Wallace at Kat Moon appearing in the dock in EastEnders (left). She was this week spotted in the same VIP box as notorious road rage killer Kenneth Noye (Wallace is pictured, right, in June)
In 2011, she dramatically called off her wedding to Vince Morse with just hours to spare after discovering her fiancé-to-be had been sending explicit pictures of her to his ex-girlfriend.
This week pictures emerged of Wallace hanging out in the same VIP box as notorious road rage killer Kenneth Noye during a Elvis tribute concert at London‘s O2 Arena this week.
The EastEnders actress, 52, enjoyed lavish £200-per-person hospitality alongside a number of other guests, including the gangster, 76, who received 25-year sentence for murdering Stephen Cameron, 21, on a slip road on the M25, in May 1996 – before fleeing to Spain.
Noye also fatally stabbed uncover policeman John Fordman in 1985 only to be acquitted on the grounds of self-defence.
Jessie was herself arrested in 2022 after kneeing a policeman in the groin following a boozy night out, with the copper later quitting his job after feeling ‘unsupported and exposed’ when she was let off with a caution.
In new snaps obtained by The Sun she can be seen dressed all in black and sat apart from Kenneth as they enjoyed the show with their respective parties.
The EastEnders actress enjoyed lavish £200-per-person hospitality alongside a number of other guests, including the gangster, 76 (pictured in February) who received 25-year sentence for murdering Stephen Cameron, 21, on a slip road on the M25, in May 1996
A retired policeman told the publication: ‘You’ve got the police killer and the police batterer together in one box’.
While an onlooker said: ‘They were both in the corporate box living it up. (It) was surreal to say the least — not to mention incredibly uncomfortable.’
Adding: ‘Boxes at the O2 have to be signed off in advance, and names and contact details given. People were aware who else was in attendance and Kenneth was gossiped about in advance — everyone was pretty stunned he was going.’
MailOnline have contacted Jessie’s reps and box owners OSTC for comment.
Footage emerged last year showing the moment that Jessie was arrested following a night out, with some witnesses claiming she was kicked out of a nightclub for being ‘gobby’.
As well as kneeing an officer, it was alleged that the actress also said ‘f*** off you fat c***’, before being placed into a police van.
At the time, a witness said Wallace was ‘out of control’ with ‘truly shocking behaviour’.
Another said: ‘She was acting very drunken disorderly, assaulting police officers and swearing constantly.
Shock: Jessie herself was arrested in 2022 after kneeing a policeman in the groin following a boozy night out (pictured)
Dirty Den (Leslie Grantham)
His character was the original villain of Albert Square, the most hated man on television who beat his wife, got a schoolgirl pregnant and even managed to return from the dead.
Off screen, actor Leslie Grantham – who played Dirty Den – also has a chequered past.
Then and now: Controversial character Dirty Den Watts (played by Leslie Grantham) with on-screen wife Angie (Anita Dobson) (left) and a brooding Den in 2004 (right). Grantham, who died in 2018 aged 71, was caught in a sex scandal involving a web-cam in the BBC dressing room in 2004
He murdered a taxi driver in a 1966 robbery, and during his 10-year prison sentence, he took up acting.
This led to him landing a role on the soap as Den Watts. He was abusive to his wife and got his 16-year-old daughter’s best friend pregnant – aptly earning the name ‘Dirty Den’.
The EastEnder’s character was seemingly killed in 1989, before miraculously returning from the dead in 2003.
Den’s revival was short-lived, however, when Grantham, who died in June 2018, aged 71, was caught in a sex scandal involving a web-cam in a BBC dressing room in 2004 — and Dirty Den was killed off for a second time shortly afterwards.
The actor apologised after the incident was revealed and said he was ‘wholeheartedly ashamed.’
Sam Mitchell (Danniella Westbrook)
As the sister of Walford’s resident hard men, Grant and Phil, Sam Mitchell was never far from trouble.
She eloped with Ricky and was forced to flee to Brazil after being implicated in Dirty Den’s murder.
And actress Danniella Westbrook has been no stranger to controversy, having previously fought a very public battle with drugs.
In the throes of her addition, Westbrook was doing ’11 bags’ of cocaine a day leading up to her stint on Celebrity Big Brother in 2016, spending a staggering £250,000 on drugs during the time.
So heavy was her drug abuse, her nasal septum completely rotted away and she had to have a pioneering operation which involved an implant of shark cells to repair her nose. She lost three teeth, while others crumbled due to the chemicals she snorted.
Speaking on the Anything Goes with James English podcast back in August, Daniella told how ‘no one’ knew of the extent of her addiction at the time.
Daniella’s character Sam Mitchell (left) ended up in prison over Dirty Den’s murder and in real life the actress was left without a nasal septum after it rotted away because of her excessive cocaine use 10 years ago
She said: ‘I do feel for my kids. When I went on Big Brother my kids were thinking ‘oh my God how’s she going to be?’
‘Because I went on there doing 11 grams of gear [cocaine] a day. I ain’t going to lie, no one knows that.
‘I was doing 11 bags of gear a day then they walked me through that f***ing door and I went…’
‘And my son and everyone went “oh God”.’
A year after Celebrity Big Brother, the soap star relapsed on cocaine, telling Now magazine: ‘I’m an addict and the wheels fell off.
‘I was dabbing cocaine in my mouth and rubbing it around my gums to numb the pain.
‘People think I was hoovering cocaine up my nose again but I wasn’t. I was wiping it around my gums.’
Daniella told how ‘no one’ knew of the extent of her addiction at the time (pictured in April 2022)
In 1994, during her days battling drugs Westbrook was kidnapped and raped by a gang of dealers after she failed to repay a £5,000 cocaine debt. She was held in a grimy flat for three days and subjected to awful abuse. They told her they were punishing her for not keeping to the agreement to repay the cash.
The character of Sam Mitchell has been brought back to the soap several times, played by different actresses while Westbrook dealt with her drug addiction. But recently Westbrook returned to play the Mitchell sister in 2009 and 2010.
Hayley Slater (Katie Jarvis)
Her character was explosive and reckless, downing booze while she was pregnant and leaving Alfie Moon for dead after dramatically shoving him down the stairs.
And for Katie Jarvis, who played Hayley Slater in the BBC soap from 2018 to 2019, her life off-screen has been equally as explosive.
In April 2022 she was sentenced to a two-year community order, with 200 hours of unpaid work, after screaming ‘black lives don’t matter’ during a racially-charged, seaside bust-up.
Jarvis joined the EastEnders cast in 2018 as Hayley Slater (left) the cousin of Kat Slater (left). In 2022, the actress found herself in court following a seaside bust-up in Essex where she yelled ‘black lives don’t matter’
The former Albert Square resident – who off screen lives in Rainham, East London – yelled the shocking insult during a clash in Southend-on-Sea, Essex, in July 2020.
She had been set to go on trial at Basildon Crown Court but instead pleaded guilty to using racially aggravated harassment against Michelle Antonio after a morning of legal discussions.
The mother-of-two also admitted a charge of common assault today after a court heard she spat towards a pub worker.
Wearing silver hoop earrings and a black and white rose patterned jacket, Jarvis stood behind reinforced glass in the dock and took deep breaths before she pleaded guilty. As well as her community order and unpaid work, Jarvis was also ordered to complete 60 days of specified activities.
Ricky Butcher (Sid Owen)
Fast-talking Ricky Butcher’s life on Albert Square has been far from uneventful; he’s been involved in a drugs deal and his sister has wound up as a prostitute.
And for Sid Owen, who has played the character on and off since 1988, his life off-screen has been just as dramatic.
The star, 51, used to go on cocaine and booze binges and even romped with groupies during his time on the hit BBC soap.
He even needed rehab to beat a £200-a-night cocaine habit, following a tough childhood. Opening up about his battle against addiction, Sid told the Sun in July 2021: ‘My job meant more than going out and getting off my face,’ adding: ‘I’m proud to be alive.’
He’s back! Ricky Butcher makes his long-awaited return to EastEnders on Thursday, 10 years after saying goodbye to Walford
The four-part documentary series, which hit screens on October 31, follows a group of celebrities as they swap their normal lives for a stint at the decommissioned Shrewsbury Prison.
And the actor, 51, felt he couldn’t refuse the opportunity as he revealed he’s the only member of his family who hasn’t been to jail.
Sid told The Mirror: ‘I feel like the odd one out – everyone in my family had done time. Even my mum was a petty thief. I wanted to see what my brothers and Dad had to deal with.’
He grew up on a council estate in Islington, North London, and while his dad David was in jail, Sid’s mum Joan raised him and his three brothers alone until her death aged 35 from cervical cancer.
Upbringing: He grew up on a council estate in Islington, North London, and while his dad David was in jail, Sid’s mum Joan raised him and his three brothers alone until her death aged 35 from cervical cancer
‘I was two when they came on the plane and took us off and arrested him for armed robbery. Then I vaguely remember being about four years old, going to visit him in prison.
‘After that, all I heard was bad stories of him and he was banged up for a long time. So it was just my choice to cut all that off and do my own thing.’
Sid added: ‘I’m not lying, I would’ve gone down that route, because that’s all I knew. Thank God I took my own little path and I got out of the crime that all my family and friends in the area were doing.’
Ryan Malloy (Neil McDermott)
His character in EastEnders cheated on wife Janine and fathered a baby with Stacey Slater, forcing him to move out of their shared flat.
And for married Neil McDermott, who played Ryan Malloy on the soap, life appeared to very much imitate art when he was forced to apologise after it emerged he had slept with a 16-year-old fan.
Neil McDermott played the moody and long-suffering estranged husband of scheming Janine Butcher (left) and cheated on his wife with Stacey Slater, offscreen he was forced to apologise to his wife Michelle (right) after it was revealed he had slept with a teenage fan shortly after she gave birth to their daughter
McDermott slept with Chloe Peebles – who he met while on a public appearance at a club – in a hotel room as his 29-year-old wife was at home with their newborn daughter Arabella Betsy.
According to reports, the 30-year-old actor slept with the teenage fan just weeks after his wife Michelle had given birth.
He later apologised for letting his family down.
Lynne Hobbs (Elaine Lordan)
Elaine Lordan, who played loudmouth Lynne Slater (Hobbs), was the oldest of the Slater sisters – including Kat Moon – when she arrived at Walford in 2000. She had a turbulent relationship with her husband Gary but adultery on both sides eventually ends their marriage.
Off screen Ms Lordan is thought to have sought professional help in 2003 for her drinking woes and was seen drinking from a bottle of white wine in the street.
The 47-year-old who has battled alcoholism in the past, endured a tragic course of events when her mother, father and son died in close succession, shortly after she was treated for the problem.
In 2001, she received a driving ban for drink-driving and was ordered to pay £750 by magistrates in St Albans and ordered to pay £2,500 costs.
Lordan’s character Lynne Hobbs (left) had a difficult marriage with her husband and off screen (right) has been seeking help for her drinking after being seen sipping a bottle of wine in the street
Breathalysers showed she had 51mg of alcohol in her breath. The legal limit is 35mg.
She left the soap in 2004 – maintaining that she was not sacked for her excessive drinking – with the incentive to give up drink as she and partner Peter Manuel were trying for a baby.
In 2005, Elaine’s mother – who was helping her to rehabilitate – died after throwing herself in front of a London tube. Nine months later her baby was born five weeks premature.
When she miscarried with her second baby it was not long before her 72-year-old father Garrett died in 2008.
Arthur ‘Fatboy’ Chubb (Ricky Norwood)
On screen Ricky Norwood plays the likeable Arthur Chubb, known as ‘Fatboy.’
Unlucky in love, devoted to looking after Walford’s oldest resident Dot Branning and seemingly always providing a shoulder to cry on for fellow characters, Fatboy can do little wrong.
However, Norwood was suspended from the soap for two months after pictures emerged of him apparently smoking a marijuana cigarette on Skype.
The 40-year-old, who played Arthur ‘Fatboy’ Chubb in the BBC show from 2010 to 2015 (before appearing in a flashback for an episode earlier this year), also reportedly performed a sex act while naked during the video conversation.
EastEnders star Ricky Norwood was suspended from the soap for two months after pictures emerged of him apparently smoking a marijuana cigarette on Skype (right). He plays loveable Fatboy (left) in the soap
He was suspended for two months, and the London-born actor has since apologised for his actions.
An EastEnders spokesman said: ‘Ricky Norwood has been suspended from the show for a period of two months with immediate effect.
Dexter Hartman (Khali Best)
Award-winning EastEnders actor Khali Best allegedly punched a taxi driver in the face after refusing to pay a £61 fare on his way home from a red carpet ceremony.
Best, who played mechanic Dexter Harman from 2013 to 2015, allegedly left 63-year-old Peter Callow with a bleeding black eye and £600-worth of damage.
Award-winning EastEnders actor Khali Best plays Dexter in the soap but was suspended after he allegedly punched a taxi driver in the face after refusing to pay a £61 fare on his way home from a red carpet ceremony
Cautioned by police for criminal damage and common assault, the actor was also suspended from his role in EastEnders for three months following the attack.
It came just months after he was named Best Newcomer at the National Television Awards for his portrayal as lovable Bad Boy Dexter.
He had his debut on the show in 2013 and was seen struggling to accept his estranged father Sam coming back into his life again, only to discover all he wanted was his son to donate him a kidney.
Kathy Beale (Gillian Taylforth)
Gillian Taylforth, who played the long suffering Kathy Beale, was banned from driving for two years after being pulled over drunk on the way to a mini-cab office.
The soap star, who also played Sgt Nikki Wright in The Bill, was spotted by police in driving slowly in the car in Hertford town centre back in February 2015.
The actress was arrested on the spot and slapped in handcuffs because she was ‘intoxicated’ and behaving unpredictably. She later told an officer: ‘Aren’t these like the plastic ones we used on The Bill.’
Her fiancée Dave Fairbairn was also arrested for a public order offence as she was breathalysed.
The pair were stopped at 1.25am, five miles from her £900,000 Broxbourne home.
The long suffering Kathy Beale (left) endured an abusive relationship with Phil Mitchell in the soap and off screen (right) was banned from driving after being caught drink-driving
The couple met through friends after the breakdown of the actress’ 23-year relationship with ex-fiancé Geoff Knights in 2009 and have been together since 2012.
The actress started dating Fairbairn, a former stockbroker, just a few years after he served time for importing one of the biggest ecstasy hauls ever seized in the UK.
He was sentenced to 15 years in prison in 2003, after being found guilty of plotting to import and supply Class A drugs at Bristol Crown Court, but served just seven years of his sentence.
At the time of the court case, it was the biggest drugs raid in history after police found 839,500 ecstasy tablets worth an estimated £7.5million.
Taylforth joined the soap in 1980 and was one its original characters – with story lines that included being raped as a 14-year-old and later by bar owner James Willmott-Brown. She later married resident hardman Phil Mitchell and their relationship disintegrated into domestic violence and alcohol abuse.
Sean Slater (Robert Kazinsky)
In 2007, BBC bosses suspended EastEnders star Robert Kazinsky following yet another sex scandal to hit the soap.
Kazinsky, 23, who shot to fame as the show’s womaniser Sean Slater, was temporarily axed for allegedly bombarding a model with obscene text messages and photos.
His arrival on the show as the troubled brother of Stacey Slater saw him reveal his torment because he felt himself responsible for his father’s death and have sex with numerous women.
He left the show the following year and has since appeared in True Blood.
Sean Slater was the moody brooding womaniser in EastEnders (left) but the actor was temporarily axed from the show after it emerged he had bombarded a model with obscene text messages.
Turner appeared in one episode as an extra
And it was not just the big names who got into trouble. Even Rob Turner, who had one fleeting appearance on the soap as an extra, was sacked after pupils recognised their former teacher on the show – who had previously been convicted for sex offences.
In 2009 after he was charged with 10 counts of sexual activity with a girl aged between 13 and 17 and ordered to sign the sex offenders’ register.
Turner, of Leigh-on-Sea, who was sacked as a teacher, is still on the register and each year is seen by authorities
He was removed from the show in 2013 after a complaint was made by a viewer who recognised him.
A spokesman for EastEnders said the teacher was booked through an agency and had they known about his previous conviction he would not have been employed.
And another small-time EastEnders actor also found himself banged up behind bars.
Joshua Malin was jailed for almost four years in November last year for repeatedly punching his elderly mother as she lay in bed.
The 34-year-old thug appeared in Eastenders when he was a teenager in 2003, credited on IMDB as the ‘camcorder lad’.
Former child actor Joshua Malin, 34, was jailed for three years and eight months in November 2022 after he beat up his 71-year-old mother Diana (pictured in EastEnders in 2003)
Malim assaulted 71-year-old Diana Malin in her home in Wood Green, north London, on March 1 while a restraining order was in place to protect her following previous attacks.
Mrs Malin sobbed in the well of London’s Old Bailey as her only child was jailed for three years and eight months and prevented from contacting her for a decade.
Malin has previously been convicted of five offences against his mother, including assault occasioning actual bodily harm in 2010 and 2020, battery in 2018 and 2020 and criminal damage in 2013.
He has also breached a restraining order to see her on two previous occasions.