Actor Scott Maslen has announced he is quitting EastEnders after nearly six years of playing Jack Branning in the soap.

He broke the news on Sunday, revealing that he would be leaving later this year after his latest contract ended, in order to take on “new challenges”.

“I’ve loved playing Jack and who wouldn’t want to work on one of the most successful British TV series,” he explained, “but I’ve been offered many other roles and have just not been able to explore them in the past, simply because of time and commitments to EastEnders, and so now it feels like the time to tread a new path for a while.

“I’ve played Jack for five-and-a-half years and had some fantastic storylines, but it’s now time to have a break from him and try something different,” the actor added.

“I’m incredibly attached to Jack, his family and EastEnders, but as an actor I’d like to take on some new challenges for a bit. EastEnders is just incredible, it’s phenomenally rewarding and I love working here but now it’s time to move on to pastures new.”

The show’s executive producer Lorraine Newman described the character as “wonderful,” adding: “Scott will remain on your screens until late in the year and there is plenty more drama to be played out before his departure.”

Jack has been involved in a string of dramatic storylines during his time on screen, most notably the controversial ‘baby swap’ plot in which his former wife Ronnie (Samantha Womack) swapped their baby with Kat’s after theirs succumbed to cot death.

He is also set for more trouble this week after he knocks Phil Mitchell unconscious in a fight.