AN EastEnders chief has been sacked for a breach of Covid rules that left the cast threatening mutiny.
Joe Nugent, first assistant director, spent two days on set while positive with coronavirus.
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He felt unwell with coronavirus symptoms last weekend and took a test. But he failed to tell colleagues.
Nugent then worked as usual last Monday and Tuesday at the BBC’s Elstree set in Borehamwood, Herts.
It was only late on Tuesday, when his positive result was confirmed, that he admitted to his condition.
Cast members were “apoplectic” and there were fears that a revolt would plunge the soap into crisis.
In the aftermath of Nugent’s behaviour, one cast member has tested positive for the virus.
A show official wrote to staff saying: “You will all have heard we had an active Covid case on site.
“This should serve as a reminder that keeping ourselves and our colleagues safe is an ongoing situation and a shared responsibility.”
Chiefs confirmed two positive cases of coronavirus on set, Nugent and an unnamed cast member.
Others, including star Danny Dyer, had negative tests following the set scare. Some well-loved screen stars live with vulnerable family members.
Others, like Dyer, were worried for loved ones including his pregnant daughter Dani.
Top actors were “incandescent” at first over the way they believed EastEnders had tried to keep the disease outbreak secret.
But it emerged the director, who had worked on the show for up to ten years, had kept it quiet.
He has now been told never to return to Albert Square. It is not known if he faces a police probe.
An EastEnders source said: “The director has let everyone down. The show has worked so hard to get EastEnders back on TV, and he could have undone all that work.
“Senior actors were livid and felt let down. There was talk of a mutiny. He was given the boot, partly to assuage cast members.”
Nugent has bragged of his role working alongside famous stars.
In 2014, he posed in a picture shared on social media with colleagues — including Shane Ritchie, who plays Alfie Moon — beneath the Albert Square road sign.
In the same year, he stripped topless to be filmed at the BBC studios taking part in the ice- bucket challenge, squealing as Dyer tipped cold water over him.
First assistant directors perform the critical roles of planning the filming schedule, and working with the director, director of photography and other heads of department to ensure an efficient shoot.
Dyer was back at 5pm on Friday for tear-jerking scenes filmed on “Arthur’s bench”, where his character Mick Carter revealed a childhood ordeal he had covered up.
Danny has been filming in a bubble with colleagues. Next week he is entering a separate bubble with Kellie Bright, his on-screen wife Linda.
Other scenes threatened by the virus included Letitia Dean, Sharon Watts in the soap, filming a farewell to one character.
After Nugent’s shock actions, BBC executives ordered the set to be deep-cleaned and fully sanitised.
EastEnders bosses confirmed filming will continue but there will be “schedule changes”.
A source said: “The director’s behaviour has infuriated everyone. He should have known better than to behave so stupidly.
“So much work has been done, and precautions taken, to get EastEnders back on TV. But his mindless actions could have scuppered the whole operation. His actions jeopardised the whole show.”
Staff have been tested regularly since filming resumed on June 29.
Production on EastEnders came to a halt in March, when the UK went into lockdown.
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Fans lauded producers for their clever camera trickery after watching Martin Fowler, played by James Bye, and Ruby Allen, actress Louisa Lytton, have EastEnders’ first socially distanced kiss.
A spokeswoman said: “EastEnders adheres to Government guidelines and enforces strict social distancing measures at all times.”
Nugent has been approached for a comment.
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