The Sun reports that EastEnders star Gillian Wright has decided to leave the BBC One soap after eight years portraying the ups and downs of bi polar sufferer Jean Slater.
The actress made her first appearance as Jean in December 2004 with the character initially shown on a recurring basis until November 2007, when producers handed her a full-time contract.
According to the paper, Wright has asked for her quirky alter-ego not to be killed off, as she may be open to reprising the role in the future.
“It has been a huge privilege to play Jean Slater these last eight years. 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!” – Wright
Wright was previously written out of EastEnders in December 2010 following the departure of Jean’s daughter Stacey (Lacey Turner) from Walford. However, bosses gave her a surprise reprieve after the decision proved unpopular with fans, with Jean returning to Walford the following March.
Wright will film her final scenes this week for a storyline that sees Jean depart the square in September. The character’s exit is expected to involve Ollie Walters (Tony O’Callaghan), Jean’s latest love interest; she is currently deliberating whether to tell him that she suffers from bi-polar.
“Jean Slater has had some good storylines but Gillian wants to move on. She told bosses several months ago that she was ready to leave, so they have been preparing the groundwork for her departure by developing the storyline with Ollie.
“The pair become close but Jean has been hiding her bipolar disorder as she is worried about the impact it will have on their relationship. She’s really fallen for him but is paranoid that he won’t want anything to do with her if she tells him the truth.” – EastEnders source
Jean became notable for her at times strained relationships with daughter Stacey, who also suffers from bi polar, and wayward son Sean (Robert Kazinsky).
Wright won a MIND Mental Heath Media Award for her portrayal of Jean’s bi polar in 2006, however a storyline in 2012 that saw Michael Moon (Steve John Shepherd) exploit Jean’s good nature and con her out of a sum of money attracted complaints.
The storyline saw Jean become increasingly irate as she tried to convince the other residents of Albert Square of what Michael had done. This led to some characters believing that she was suffering a breakdown connected to her bi polar disorder.
In response the BBC argued that the character “is not intended to be representative of everybody with bi polar disorder”.
The actress also scooped the Best Actress gong at last year’s Inside Soap Awards.
EastEnders, BBC One