Jo Joyner to leave EastEnders
Joyner, who plays Tanya Cross, had originally planned to take an eight-month break from the show, but has now decided to leave Walford indefinitely.
The mum-of-two has said the reason for her departure is to spend more time with her family and to explore new career opportunities.
She said: "I love playing Tanya and being part of such a great show, but she has been on quite a rollercoaster over the past seven years and I have come to realise that it's right for her to step away from Walford for a bit longer than originally planned.
"I have been very fortunate to have been part of some fantastic storylines over the years, and I have worked with some wonderful people during my time on the show which I will always be very grateful for, but I feel that as a mother and an actress it is time for me to explore some other avenues for a while."
EastEnders' executive producer Lorraine Newman added: "As the mother of Lauren, Abi and Oscar and the on/off wife to the ever errant Max, life for Tanya has never been easy.
"However, Jo Joyner's portrayal of Tanya allowed viewers to instantly fall in love with her, creating the cement for a great family.
"From Jo's portrayal of a cancer sufferer's fear to dealing with her daughter's excessive drinking, Jo has delivered high-class drama time and again.
"Later this year we will see the Branning family cope without her. They will of course miss her, as will her colleagues and no doubt the viewers. We wish Jo well on her ventures new."
The soaps head honchos are keeping tight-lipped over how Tanya will depart Albert Square, but they have said it will mark the beginning of a new era for the Branning family.