The 43-year-old actress Nina Wadia has quit 'EastEnders' and will film exit scenes as Zainab Masood - who she has played since 2007 - in the coming weeks, but her character is not expected to be killed off.
Nina said: "Playing Zainab has been a gift and a privilege.
"I'll always be hugely proud of the talented friends I've worked with and I'm so grateful for the special bond with our audience who watch, care and talk to us every day. We're a family of millions. Letting go of something you love is never easy but the time has come to move on and every ending brings a new beginning. Here's to future loves."
The actress' on-screen family - husband Masood, son Tamwar and brother-in-law A.J. - will remain with the show so insiders expect Zainab's exit to be "emotional".
A source told the Daily Star Sunday newspaper: "Her leaving will mean the end of Zainab and Mas. It's going to be very emotional."
'EastEnders' boss Lorraine Newman has paid tribute to Nina's "exceptional" work on the show.
She said: "For the past five years Nina has brought to life the wonderful Zainab - the formidable, fun-loving, opinionated, fiercely competitive matriarch.
"Nina's range as an actor is quite exceptional, from her comedic double acts right through to her ability to pull on our heart strings with incredibly moving drama.
"We are very sad to be losing Nina and wish her well in ventures new. She will be missed by the production as much as the audience."