EASTENDERS’ Shiv Jalota joked with fans after they questioned whether he’d been replaced in the soap after returning to our screens looking completely different yesterday.
The 26-year-old star plays Vinny Panesar in the BBC One soap, and last night’s episode was the first time he’d been seen since lockdown.
The character had swapped his usual stand-out fringe and facial hair for a slick quiff and clean-shaven look – leaving fans confused.
In fact, viewers were so convinced that Shiv had secretly been replaced in the cast that a popular EastEnders fan page was forced to tweet a clarification.
They wrote: “We’ve had so many messages about Vinny Panesar over the last 24 hours.
“Just to confirm, Vinny is still played by @jalotashiv, he’s just had a shave and changed his hairstyle! 😉 #EastEnders”.
Thankfully, Shiv appeared to see the funny side, retweeting the message and adding: “Lockdown vibes what can I say 😎”.
The show was forced off air back in June after soap production was halted due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and they ran out of pre-recorded episodes.
Filming picked up again with new health and safety measures in place, making its much-anticipated return to our screens on Monday night.
Yesterday, Vinny was shown suggesting that boss Ruby made a fraudulent insurance claim against her nightclub after business suffered during lockdown – with the character a DJ.
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But viewers at home were more distracted by Vinny’s appearance than his dodgy suggestions – flocking to Twitter to ask if he’d been recast.
One fan wrote: “I honestly thought Vinny was being played by a new actor! He looks COMPLETELY different without the flattened down fringe and beard!”
Another asked: “Oh my god, have they changed Vinny?!”
A third agreed: “Vinny looks like a totally different person. Thought they’d forgotten to announce another recast!”