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Jake Wood returns to Strictly Come Dancing for this year’s Christmas Special

PUBLISHED: 15:37 11 November 2018 | UPDATED: 15:47 12 November 2018

Jake Wood as Max Branning and Rainie Branning (Tanya Franks) are surprised to see Cora in EastEnders. Picture: BBC / Kieron Mccarron.

Jake Wood as Max Branning and Rainie Branning (Tanya Franks) are surprised to see Cora in EastEnders. Picture: BBC / Kieron Mccarron.

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EastEnders star Jake Wood is returning to the Strictly dancefloor for this year’s Christmas Special.

The BBC has announced who will be appearing in the December 25 edition of Strictly Come Dancing, along with the professionals taking part.

Tewin-based soap star and Pound for Pound boxing podcaster Jake Wood has been confirmed as one of the six former Strictly contestants appearing in this year’s glittering Christmas Day line-up.

Jake, who plays Max Branning in Albert Square, will be waltzing from Walford to the Strictly ballroom again after previously appearing in the 12th series of the BBC One show.

He was partnered with Janette Manrara in 2014, reaching the semi-final after earlier in the series stunning judges with his sensational Salsa to Mambo No. 5, and then his Samba to the Macarena.

Jake said: “It’s been a few years since I donned the sequins so I can’t wait to do it all over again for the Christmas Special.

“I loved my experience on Strictly Come Dancing and I jumped at the chance when they asked if I wanted to step back onto the dancefloor.”

This time around Jake will be partnered with Luba Mushtuk.

The all-star Christmas extravaganza will be screened on BBC One on Tuesday, December 25, with the time to be confirmed.

The theme for this year’s festive special is fairytales and making dreams come true.

The leading ladies set to spread Christmas Day joy this year are Anita Rani (series 13), Ann Widdecombe (series 8) and Strictly series 12 champion Caroline Flack, who’s pro partner will be Gorka Márquez.

Countryfile presenter Anita, who is teamed with Neil Jones, said: “I can’t contain my excitement about dancing again and getting sparkly for Strictly, stepping back inside the glitter ball of glam!”

Former politician Ann, who is partnered again by Anton Du Beke, said: “I am very much looking forward to returning to Strictly, where I shall once again be pushed, pulled, cajoled and coaxed around the dancefloor in all manner of ways by my poor dance partner.

“Who knows, they might even fire me out of a canon.”

Love Island TV presenter Caroline said: “I can’t quite believe it’s been four years since I had the best time of my life, dancing with Pasha [Kovalev] on the Strictly dance floor.

“My Glitterball still has pride of place in my living room!

“It always felt like a family at the SCD studios, so how could I say no to performing one last time on this year’s Christmas special?

Jake Wood as Max Branning is left holding baby Abi in EastEnders. Picture: BBC / Kieron Mccarron.Jake Wood as Max Branning is left holding baby Abi in EastEnders. Picture: BBC / Kieron Mccarron.

“It’ll be the best present I could imagine.”

Alongside Jake, the gentlemen set to rock around the Christmas tree are Aston Merrygold (series 15) and Michael Vaughan (series 10).

JLS star Aston Merrygold controversially exited last year’s series early on and has unfinished Strictly business.

He will once again dance with Janette Manrara.

Aston said: “I’m so happy to be able to get back in the Strictly floor.

“I feel like I’ve got some unfinished business with it!”

Ex-England cricket captain Michael Vaughan said: “Having not danced at all since 2012 I can’t be any worse than then as I had no clue then, still have no clue, but can’t wait to have some fun and at least it will help lose a few pounds over the Xmas party season!”

Vaughan has been paired with Nadiya Bychkova.

Each of the six couples will perform a Christmas-inspired routine in a bid to be crowned 2018 Christmas champions.

Hosted by Tess Daly and Claudia Winkleman, the show wouldn’t be complete without the festive foursome on the judging panel, with Craig Revel Horwood, Darcey Bussell, Bruno Tonioli and head judge Shirley Ballas joining the party.

The judges will be on hand to score each couple and spread some cheerful joy, yet it will be down to the studio audience on the day to vote for which dancing duo will win the Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special 2018 and lift the famous Silver Star trophy.

Following this year’s Strictly Christmas Special, Jake Wood will be taking his hugely popular boxing podcast with Spencer Oliver, Pound for Pound, out on the road for a live theatre tour.

• Strictly Christmas 2018 celebrity and pro pairings

Anita Rani & Neil Jones

Ann Widdecombe & Anton Du Beke

Aston Merrygold & Janette Manrara

Caroline Flack & Gorka Márquez

Luba Mushtuk & Jake Wood

Nadiya Bychkova & Michael Vaughan

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