Danny Dyer has led a stream of tributes after one of his EastEnders co-stars died after 31 years on the BBC soap.milmMichael Leader was a familiar face on the soap, having been there since it began in 1985, and played Walford’s milkman. He passed away on Monday, the BBC confirmed, and his co-stars have rushed to pay tribute to the much-loved actor.

The BBC’s EastEnders team said in a statement: “We were terribly saddened to hear that our dear friend and colleague Michael Leader passed away on Monday. Michael has been on the show since the very first episode and will be sorely missed by the EastEnders family, past and present. Our thoughts and deepest sympathies are extended to his nearest and dearest.”

Meanwhile Danny, who plays Mick Carter in the soap, wrote on Twitter: “R.I.P Michael my old son. R.I.P.” with a series of heart emojis. Bonnie Langford, who played Carmel Kazemi, added: “Our lovely Michael. A true gentleman & ‘old pro’. I’ll miss you xx.” And Sean Slater actor Robert Kazinsky wrote: “Sorry to see you go Michael, you were always a class act.”

Michael had a successful career outside of Albert Square too, and previously starred as an extra in Star Wars: A New Hope, where he played the Stormtrooper who famously hit his head. Elsewhere, he also appeared in Doctor Who and Keeping Up Appearances.