Ricky Whittle has revealed his thoughts on the string of forthcoming departures from Hollyoaks, insisting the soap is going through “exciting times”.

The actor, who last year decided to quit his role as Calvin Valentine in the Channel 4 soap, played down talk of a “mass cull” and said many cast members are leaving out of choice.

Speaking at the Tric awards, where he picked up the gong for TV Soap Personality, he said: “It’s not this mass cull that everyone thinks it is – it’s just people are coming to the ends of their contracts.”

He went on: “People are choosing to do different things. It just so happens that everyone’s contracts are coinciding – they’re all ending at the same time.”

Ricky, who came runner up on the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing last year, added: “The Valentines are going, I was going anyway, Nathalie Emmanuel (Sasha Valentine) was leaving at the end of her contract anyway. Dominique (Jackson, who plays Lauren) as well, Brian (Bovell, who plays Leo). So it’s not a big mass exodus.

“It’s that things need to be freshened up and a lot of people are doing it for their own careers. And then the boss has come in and he thinks he wants some new families in as well, so some people’s contracts aren’t being renewed.

“So it’s exciting times for the show and I’ll keep watching it when I’ve gone.”

Earlier this week, 11 characters were named as being on their way out of the soap since Paul Marquess took over the reins as series producer.