Carley Stenson has announced she is quitting Hollyoaks.
Carley, who has played Steph Dean in the Channel 4 soap since 2000, will leave the show at the end of the year to pursue a career in musical theatre.
The actress – who once dated co-star Ricky Whittle – has been at the centre of some of the soap’s biggest storylines as Steph learned she had epilepsy, husband Max died on their wedding and she survived an attack from psycho Niall.
Most recently, viewers have seen Steph deal with the revelation that she has cervical cancer – but details of the character’s departure are being kept secret.
Talking about her decision to leave Hollyoaks after more than a decade, Carley said: “Leaving Hollyoaks is one of the most difficult decisions I have ever made. It has been my dream job for 10 years and I shall miss all of the fantastic friends I have made in the cast and crew.”
She added: “I am very sad to leave but I’m ready for new challenges and I’m looking forward to pursuing a career in musical theatre.”
Paul Marquess, hollyoaks series producer, said: “We are obviously very sad to see Steph go – she has been a much-loved character on the show for a decade, but we wish Carley all the best for a very bright and successful career.”
He added: “We are very proud of the cervical cancer storyline and Hollyoaks’ ability to bring a sweet and humorous tone to such a tragic story.
“Viewers can look forward to the return of ‘Stephanie De La Dean’ as Steph revisits her desire for fame and stardom in a bid to cope with her illness.
“We also hope that the message of early detection for cervical cancer reaches our young audience.”