Actor Michael Leader, who played EastEnders' milkman since soap's very first episode, dies
Michael Leader, the actor who played EastEnders' milkman since the soap's very first episode, has died.
The long-serving extra also made his name in one of the film world's most-famous out-takes, banging his head while playing a Stormtrooper in Star Wars: A New Hope in 1977.
Viewers recently saw Leader drive Peggy Mitchell (Dame Barbara Windsor) around in his milk float in her final week on the BBC1 soap.
He was on the Square for 16 years before he said his first line, asking Charlie Slater (Derek Martin) "Is this yours, Squire?" as he dropped off his drunken daughter Kat (Jessie Wallace) after she hitched a lift home among the milk bottles.
"We were terribly saddened to hear that our dear friend and colleague Michael Leader passed away on Monday," EastEnders said in a statement.
"Michael has been on the show since the very first episode and will be sorely missed by the EastEnders family, past and present."
The cast of the soap paid tribute to its long-serving extra.
Bonnie Langford, the Square's Carmel Kazemi, said: "Our lovely Michael. A true gentleman & 'old pro'. I'll miss you xx."
Ted Reilly, who plays Johnny Carter, said: "Michael Leader was a man who made @bbceastenders more than a T.V. show. RIP to an Albert Square legend."
Danielle Harold, the soap's Lola Pearce, wrote: "R.I.P Michael Such a lovely man and a true gentlemen."
Jonny Labey, who played Paul Coker, wrote: "Such sad news! RIP to the kindest, most supportive man I've met!"
Leader spoke previously about getting his first line after 16 years, saying: "I'm happy I've got my little break and I'm very very pleased to still be in the show after all these years.
"I just work at EastEnders and have done for 16 years - it was very exciting to twinkle for a few seconds among an array of stars."
Leader is also said to have appeared briefly in Doctor Who and as a croupier in several James Bond movies.