This year saw some of the most dramatic comebacks in EastEnders’ history, including Kat Moon and husband Alfie, Mel Owen, Dr Harold Legg and Dot Cotton, and Ruby Allen – some of whom had been away from the BBC soap for years.
And 2019 promises to be just as dramatic, with several returning characters already confirmed and plenty more rumoured.
Here’s a run-through of the fan favourites who are definitely on their way to Albert Square, as well as a look at those who have hinted they’re not gone for long…
Confirmed: Lola Pearce (Danielle Harold)
Danielle is reprising her role as Lola, three-and-a-half years after she departed Albert Square in July 2015, and she “can’t wait” to walk back into Walford.
She said: “I’m so excited to be returning to EastEnders next year. EastEnders was my first acting job and I have so many happy memories from my time there.”
Kate Oates, senior executive producer of EastEnders, Casualty and Holby City, added: “As a viewer I always admired Lola’s feisty, fiery spirit and viewers will have a lot to look forward to with her return.
“How will Jay respond seeing the love of his life walk back into Walford after all these years and for Billy to have his best girl back in town, I can’t wait.”
Very likely: Ben Mitchell (Harry Reid)
With Lola returning with six-year-old daughter Lexi, absent dad Ben is tipped to follow.
Phil Mitchell’s mechanic son is expected to return to reconnect with his daughter, almost a year after we last saw him in Albert Square.
In January, Ben left Walford after it was revealed he had stolen the heist money from stepmother Sharon and fled without saying goodbye to his family.
Harry Reid recently hinted he’d be back, saying: “I miss the character of Ben. I have my frustrations about him and I wanted him to do well in life.”
He added: “I still see Jamie Borthwick, who plays Jay, and we have fantasies about how Ben and Jay will take over Albert Square.”
Very likely: Vincent Hubbard (Richard Blackwood)
The last time we saw Vincent, it looked like he was about to meet a very sticky end at the hands of Aidan Maguire’s rotten henchmen.
But, mysteriously, viewers never saw Vincent die. And a body was never found. Which, in soapland, means that anything is possible.
In a recent interview, actor Richard Blackwood teased that 2019 will see his story unravel and viewers – and more importantly his wife Kim – will find out exactly what happened to him.
Earlier this month, the Dancing On Ice star revealed that fans’ curiosity about the fate of his character will see him return to Walford one day in the future.
He said: “I’d always go back there. If there was a chance I’d happily go back.
“[The door] is slightly ajar, everyone loves a Vincent so I’m happy about that.”
Rumoured: Janine Butcher (Charlie Brooks)
Charlie’s portrayal of evil murderer Janine Butcher was so popular with EastEnders fans, that they are constantly campaigning for her to return.
Having always said she’d left for good, Charlie showed a hint of interest last year when she told an interviewer: “I do wonder about what the writers and storyliners could do with her. She’s done so much, so where would she go next? What might pull her back to the Square?”
She always uses the infamous words “never say never” when asked… And that’s not a no, right?
Janine is supposed to be living in France with her sister Diane at the moment, but we’re sure new boss Kate Oates could lure her back? Pleeeeeaaaaassssseeeee?
Wishful thinking: Sean Slater (Robert Kazinsky)
It’s been nearly a decade since Sean was seen plunging into a frozen river and leaving Albert Square, seemingly for good.
But could he return? Sean broke Ruby’s heart all those years ago, but could he make amends now she’s back and in desperate need of a man she can trust in her life?
Watch this space!
The big tease: Grant Mitchell, Bianca Jackson, Ricky Butcher (Ross Kemp, Patsy Palmer and Sid Owen)
Boss Kate Oates has revealed that she will be bringing back three iconic Walford characters in 2019.
And Grant, Bianca and Ricky are among those tipped to return.
Explaining that she wanted to inject some nostalgia into the BBC soap, she said: “We’re going to be bringing some people back.
“I haven’t made the calls yet but there will definitely be two, possibly three old faces returning.”
Other notable mentions: Lofty and Mary (Tom Watt and Linda Davidson)
It was confirmed a few weeks ago that original characters Lofty and Mary the punk will be arriving back in Walford after an absence of three decades.
While the reason for their return has been kept under wraps, we’re sad to say it’s believed to be for the funeral of Dr Legg, who viewers know has been diagnosed with cancer.
Executive consultant John Yorke said: “Mary and Lofty are hugely iconic characters, and a central part of the shows’ DNA.
“Though both have moved on to hugely successful careers elsewhere we are both thrilled and touched to have them back for one very special episode.”
Who would you most like to see return to Walford? Leave us a comment on our Facebook page @EntertainmentDailyFix and let us know what you think!