EastEnders star Jake Wood has quit the soap after 15 years playing the villain Max Branning.
The actor, 48, confirmed he would be leaving Albert Square at the end of the year, but added that bosses will be leaving the door open for his return.
Jake first joined the EastEnders cast in 2006, and has faced his fair share of drama, including womanising, a secret marriage and even being framed for murder.
He’s off! EastEnders star Jake Wood has quit the soap after 15 years playing the womanising villain Max Branning
Jake said: ‘I’ve had 15 wonderful years at EastEnders and have made some truly great friends.
‘I’ll of course miss everyone there but I’m grateful they have left the door open for Max and I’m excited to see what the next chapter holds.’
Executive producer Jon Sen also praised Jake’s contribution to the soap, saying: ‘Jake is a truly wonderful actor and EastEnders have been extremely lucky to have him for so long.
‘We have a big storyline for Max that starts in the coming weeks and we are all very excited to see that play out.’
Leaving: The actor confirmed he would be leaving Albert Square later this year, but bosses will be leaving the door open for his return (pictured with Lacey Turner as Stacey in 2007)
Jake’s final scenes are expected to air later this year, as EastEnders fans gear up for the soap’s much-anticipated Christmas storylines.
On his exit an insider told Digital Spy: ‘Sometimes in Soapland big characters have to leave.
‘Bosses are staying tight-lipped about what they have planned for Max, but considering he has played a major part in the show for over 15 years, they are clearly planning something big and he will not be departing Walford quietly.
‘Everyone will be sad to see Jake go as he is not only a great person to have on set but he’s also a fantastic actor.’
Legendary: Jake first joined the EastEnders cast in 2006, and has faced his fair share of drama, including womanising, a secret marriage and even being framed for murder
His departure comes after Jake took a year-long break from the soap in 2015 to spend more time with his family, with his exit coinciding with Max being wrongfully jailed for Lucy Beale’s murder.
Max then returned to Walford set on revenge, but his plot for payback went a step too far, leading to the death of his daughter Abi on Christmas Day 2017 after falling off the roof of the Queen Vic pub.
Since EastEnders returned to screens last week, fans have been Max embroiled in a nasty feud with Ian Beale, after he cheated him out of his share of the proceeds from selling half of Walford East.
At odds: Since EastEnders returned to screens last week, fans have been Max embroiled in a nasty feud with Ian Beale
He also took centre stage in EastEnders’ iconic 2007 Christmas Special, when his affair with daughter-in-law Stacey was revealed, leaving his wife Tanya devastated.
In 2010 he was left distraught when his son Bradley was tragically killed during the soap’s 25th Anniversary special, before learning seconds later that Stacey had murdered Archie Mitchell after weeks of theories among fans.
Max faced a turbulent relationship with wife Tanya, and despite attempting to rekindle their relationship after she was diagnosed with cancer, she was furious to learn he’d secretly married another woman.
He’s also long been known for his womanising ways, and along with his secret liaisons with now-dead Lucy, he also had an on-off affair with Stacey, and most recently her best friend Ruby Allen.
Hiatus: His departure comes after Jake previously took a year-long break from the soap in 2015 to spend more time with his family