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.

Shiv has transformed Vinny's look for the new episodes of EastEnders

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Shiv has transformed Vinny’s look for the new episodes of EastEndersCredit: TV Company

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”.

Fans questioned if the role had been recast

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Fans questioned if the role had been recastCredit: BBC
Thankfully, actor Shiv saw the funny side

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Thankfully, actor Shiv saw the funny side Credit: Instagram

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.

Vinny has swapped his fringe for a quiff and shaved his beard

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Vinny has swapped his fringe for a quiff and shaved his beardCredit: BBC
EastEnders’ Ruby and Martin pretend to hold hands during social distanced filming

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!”

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