EastEnders star Gillian Wright is quitting the soap after eight years as Jean Slater, but has refused to rule out a comeback some day.

The actress, whose character has struggled with mental illness, said it had been ‘a huge privilege’ to appear on the BBC One show.

She said: “I treasure the viewers’ care and love for the character, not only through her hard times but through all the laughter too. I will miss EastEnders enormously, but it is time for me to step back and enjoy other acting challenges.

“I would love Jean to return to the Square one day, so let’s hope this is not goodbye, but au revoir.”

The announcement of her departure comes days after EastEnders executive producer, Lorraine Newman, said she was leaving.

Newman, who has worked on EastEnders in various roles for more than 20 years, is being replaced by Dominic Treadwell-Collins, who is returning after three years away.

He said: “You never really leave EastEnders – and, for the past three years, the characters have all stubbornly stayed in my head.”