'EastEnders' actress Gillian Wright is to wave goodbye to Albert Square after playing troubled Jean Slater for the last eight years.
Gillian has told show bosses that she wants to focus on theatre work.
But the door is being left open for a possible return in the future as Jean Slater will not be killed off when she leaves the soap in October.
According to The Sun, Jean's departure will be linked to her romance with newcomer Ollie and will see her agonising over whether she should tell him about her bipolar disorder.
A source told the paper: “Show bosses have been preparing the groundwork for her departure by developing the storyline with Ollie.
“The pair become close but Jean has been hiding her bipolar disorder as she is worried about the impact it will have on their relationship.
“She’s really fallen for him but is paranoid that he won’t want anything to do with her if she tells him the truth.”
Gillian first appeared on 'EastEnders' in 2004 as a guest actress before joining the cast full-time three years later.
Speaking about her decision to leave, Gillian said: “It has been a huge privilege to play Jean Slater these last eight years.
“I treasure the viewers’ care and love for the character — not only through her hard times but through all the laughter too.
“I will miss EastEnders enormously but it is time for me to step back and enjoy other acting challenges.
“I would love Jean to return to The Square one day, so let’s hope this is not goodbye but au revoir!”
This week the BBC announced that show boss Lorraine Newman is to leave the show after just 16 months in charge. Her departure comes as the BBC soap's viewing figures fell below 5 million.
<strong>Played: Nick Cotton (1985–91, 1993, 1998, 2000–01, 2008–09) </strong> One of the show's original cast members, Nasty Nick began his time on the Square in 1985 and appeared most recently during 2009. In 2010, he became the new frontman of the band Heavy Metal Kids following the death of former frontman Gary Holton in 1985. But in early 2011, he announced he was leaving the band to focus on his other commitments. In January 2012, he appeared as one of the first five couples in the third series of Celebrity Coach Trip partnering fellow actor Derek Martin.
<strong>Played: Melanie Owen (1998–2002)</strong> After leaving EastEnders in 2002, shortly after the departure of her on-screen hubby Martin Kemp, Tamzin Outhwaite has gone on to star in a number of leading roles, including Red Cap, Hustle, Final Demand, Walk Away and I Stumble and Frances Tuesday. This year it was announced she will replace Amanda Redman in New Tricks.
<strong>Played: Zoe Slater (2000–05)</strong> "You ain't my mother!" Michelle Ryan managed to move from Walford to Hollywood in 2005. Ryan bagged the role in US TV show 'Bionic Woman' but the show didn’t get beyond pilot. At the end of 2012 you could catch her with Will Young in a production of Cabaret on stage and she is now back in the States appearing in TV drama Covert Affairs.
<strong>Played: Sean Slater (2006–09)</strong> Robert Kazinsky had a good few years out of the limelight after quitting the Square in 2009. However, in 2012 it was announced he would star in the sixth season of hit US show 'True Blood'. He's landed a key role in Idris Elba film 'Pacific Rim', here he is (left) at the film's red carpet premiere. It seems the once 'Sexiest Male' soap star is finally hitting the big time.
<strong>Played: Stacey Slater (2004–10)</strong> Lacey Turner definitely made her mark on EastEnders and she was one actress whose acting ability was actually praised. Big things were predicted for her when she left the soap in 2010 with 33 awards under her belt. She has gone on to star in television film Our Girl, as well as parts in Bedlam, Being Human and Switch.
<strong>Played: Ricky Butcher (1988–2000, 2002–04, 2008–12)</strong> He's been snapped at Cannes Film Festival, photo-bombing Chris Brown and hanging out with Adele since leaving Walford. Yes, Ricky Butcher has gone up in the world. Sid Owen, who left the soap in 2012, has also taken part in Strictly Come Dancing but was eliminated from the competition in Week 3.
<strong>Played: Tiffany Mitchell (1995–98)</strong> Martine McCutcheon left her role as Tiffany Mitchell in EastEnders in 1998 when her character was killed. Soon after, she started a solo pop career and her debut single 'Perfect Moment' had international success and was number one in five countries. On stage as Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady she won a Laurence Olivier Award and she appeared as tea-lady Natalie in the Richard Curtis romantic comedy Love Actually, where the British Prime Minister (played by Hugh Grant) fell in love with her. However, in 2013 she was declared bankrupt.
<strong>Played: Kathy Beale (1985–2000)</strong> After playing Kathy Beale until 2000, Gillian Taylforth went on to star in Footballers’ Wives, The Bill and Strictly Come Dancing. In January 2013 we got to know her better after she appeared as a contestant in Celebrity Big Brother. She currently stars as Sandy Roscoe on Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks.
<strong>Played: Angie Watts (1985–88)</strong> Best known for playing the emotionally battered and alcoholic landlady, Angie Watts, Anita Dobson now voices a character in kids TV show Annette and Rod. She was Albert Square's leading lady from the show's inception in 1985 until 1988. She's also the longtime companion of Queen guitarist Brian May.
<strong>Played: Sonia Fowler (1993–2007, 2010, 2011)</strong> Since we last saw Natalie Cassidy as Sonia in 2011, she has continued to be snapped in bikinis and is currently working on another fitness video. She also appeared on Celebrity Big Brother in 2012.
<strong>Played: Cindy Beale (1988–90, 1992–98)</strong> Michelle Collins really did a number on Ian Beale as scheming Cindy, eventually having him shot by a hitman. Since leaving the soap in 1998, Michelle has swapped soaps and now plays barmaid Stella Price in Coronation Street. Anything is possible.
<strong>Played: Peggy Mitchell (1994–2013) </strong> Since leaving EastEnders behind, following a blaze at the Queen Vic in 2010, the soap's biggest matriarch has been taking some time out... sort of. She's fronted a TV campaign for online bingo site Jackpotjoy as the Queen of Bingo and appeared in the pantomime Dick Whittington over the Christmas/New Year period of 2010/2011. But you can't keep Babs away from the Square for too long. It has been announced she will return as Peggy later in the year.
<strong>Played: Rainie Cross (2007-2011)</strong> Since getting Phil Mitchell hooked on crack as character Rainie Cross, Tanya Franks has moved on to some quality drama. She plays Richard Burton's wife, Sybil, in the 2012 made-for-television film Liz & Dick, alongside Lindsay Lohan. And she appeared as character Lucy Stevens, the bad egg sister of Detective Miller (Olivia Colman), in hit ITV drama Broadchurch.
<strong>Played: Sam Mitchell (1990–2000, 2009–10)</strong> Danniella Westbrook was reportedly written out of EastEnders as Sam Mitchell when her cocaine addiction affected her commitment. Since her soap days she has released an autobiography about her troubles The Other Side of Nowhere, in 2006. TV appearances have included I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here! in 2003, Dancing On Ice in 2010 and a stint on Hollyoaks in February 2013. She was recently on the This Morning sofa explaining a terrifying ordeal to promote her new autobiography. She revealed she was once drugged and raped whilst being held captive by a group of men for three days after failing to pay drugs money.
<strong>Played: Kevin Wicks (2006–08)</strong> Phil Daniels' character Kevin Wicks met a tragic end when he died in a car crash. Since then, the already well-established actor has competed on Strictly Come Dancing, performed with Blur at Glastonbury 2009 and portrayed Del Boy's grandfather in a prequel to the comedy series Only Fools and Horses in Rock & Chips. Daniels now co-hosts a weekly podcast with Ceri Levy dedicated to Chelsea Football Club, 'The Chels - The Chelsea Podcast'.
<strong>Played: Dawn Swan (2005–09)</strong> Kara Tointon bowed out of Albert Square in 2009 and went on to win the 2010 edition of Strictly Come Dancing with her partner turned boyfriend Artem Chigvintsev. She is currently starring on stage several nights a week in West End play Relatively Speaking.
<strong>Played: Grant Mitchell (1990–99, 2005, 2006)</strong> Ross Kemp went from EastEnders bad boy to chasing bad boys when he left the soap in 2006. Re-branding himself as an investigative journalist, Kemp has reported on gangs, Afghanistan, pirates, the Middle East and more. In 2012 he released a new novel, 'Moving Target' and he is next set to experience what it’s like to be caught up in the middle of Northern Ireland’s most contentious and volatile Twelfth parade for the new series of his Sky1 show Extreme World.
<strong>Played: Little Mo (2000–06)</strong> Kacey Ainsworth played the loveable and the long-suffering Little Mo until 2006. She has gone on to play Auntie Lou in 'Carrie's War' in London's West End and as of 2013, she was starring in Ben Elton's the comedy series The Wright Way. However, the BBC has now cancelled the show.
<strong>Played: Dennis Rickman (2003–05)</strong> Nigel Harman has come a long way from playing EastEnder Sharon's lover Dennis Rickman. Last year he scooped the Best Supporting Actor gong at the Olivier Awards for his role in Shrek the Musical. He will return to TV in the fourth series of Downton Abbey, playing the role of a visiting valet named Mr Green.
<strong>Played: Dirty Den (1985–89, 2003–05)</strong> Leslie Grantham first left the soap in 1989 but was reunited with his daughter Sharon (Letitia Dean) in 2003 until 2005. Since being killed off properly once and for all as Dirty Den, Grantham has appeared in various pantomimes. in 2013 he divorced his wife of 31 years. The 65-year-old actor was involved in a sordid tabloid newspaper “scandal” in 2004, but it was his wife’s “unreasonable behaviour” that was given in court as grounds for the divorce.
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