Jake Wood is to leave EastEnders after 15 years of playing Max Branning, it has been confirmed.
The 48-year-old will exit Walford in a "huge" upcoming storyline but will not be killed off, leaving the door open for him to return in future.
"I've had 15 wonderful years at EastEnders and have made some truly great friends," said Wood.
"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 added: "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."
Max has been an integral character on the Square since his debut in 2006, with storylines including his wrongful imprisonment for murder, his affair with Stacey Slater and the shock burial in the woods plot.
"Sometimes in soap land big characters have to leave," an insider revealed.
"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 fifteen 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."
Max is currently involved in a financial dispute with Ian Beale, who has secretly used his business partner's money to buy the Queen Vic.