Michelle Keegan has confirmed she is leaving Coronation Street after almost six years.
The 25-year-old actress, who plays barmaid Tina McIntyre, will make her final appearance in Spring 2014, before quitting to pursue other acting opportunities.
She confirmed the news in a statement to ITV on Saturday morning, following reports in the press that she had quit the show.
“I have had the most amazing six years at Coronation Street and it was such a difficult decision to leave,” Michelle said.
“But I felt it was the right time for me to make the next step in my career.
“I will miss Tina and will always be grateful to ITV and Coronation Street for giving me such an amazing role to play for my first ever acting job. Most of all I will miss the amazing people who work on the show, my acting colleagues, cast, crew, producers and writing team. I have met people who I know will be friends for life.
“I am very excited about what the coming months hold for Tina and what the future has in store for me.”
Executive producer Stuart Blackburn said viewers could look forward to ‘more than a year of drama to come’ from Tina’.
He added: “We will be sorry to see Michelle go but wish her every success for the future.”
“This is totally Michelle’s decision and what’s best for her career,” a source told the paper. “It has nothing to do with wanting to spend more time with Mark.”
“This is her first proper acting job,” the insider added. “She is really grateful for that but feels the time’s right to do something new.”
The news comes just days after the actress was signed off sick from the Corrie set with a mystery virus.
A spokesman for the show said that it was ‘nothing too serious’ and added: “We are hopeful she will be back on set next week.”
However her illness has meant that certain major scenes featuring Tina – who is due to give birth to Gary Windass and Izzy Armstrong’s surrogate baby – have had to be rescheduled.
Show bosses have also had to rework scenes in the newly restored Rover’s Return – where her character is a barmaid – to accommodate her absence.