Actor Derek Martin, who is set to return for a number of EastEnders episodes this Christmas, says he "can't help hoping" that his time on the show will be extended.

Martin's character, Charlie Slater, was originally set to be killed off in 2011, but in the end the soap's bosses decided he would go to live with his daughter in the north of England.

Martin told The Mirror of his return: "It was wonderful to go back after all this time. I got a call saying they wanted me to do an episode for Christmas and it turned out to be three. I walked into the Queen Vic on my first day and it was like I'd never left."

Martin said he was "absolutely gutted" when Charlie was written out of the soap.

"You know it's part and parcel of the profession to be in and out of work but after thinking Charlie was part of the future of the show, I was shocked," he said. "I simply didn't see it coming."

As to the future, he said: "Who knows, if Charlie goes down well this Christmas, maybe it will all become more permanent. Nothing's been said but I can't help hoping."