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Jake Wood QUITS EastEnders after 15 years of playing Max Branning - here's why

Max Branning EastEnders
(Image credit: BBC/Kieron McCarron)

It's the end of an era in Walford as Jake Wood announces his departure...

It has been announced today that EastEnders star Jake Wood is leaving his role as Walford's Max Branning after playing the character for 15 years.

It has been confirmed by EastEnders bosses that Jake will say goodbye to the soap at the end of his current contract.

Max Branning and Stacey Branning in 2007

Max has been at the centre of some huge storylines over the years, including his on/off romance with Stacey (Picture: BBC) (Image credit: BBC/Kieron McCarron/Jack Barnes)

Jake Wood has been playing Max since 2006 and will leave the show in a huge new storyline that will kick off in the coming weeks.

More: Christmas soap spoilers - everything we know so far about the festive season 

But while the Square won't be the same without Max, there is good news for soap fans because it has been revealed that the character won't be killed off.

End of an era

Speaking about his exit from the soap, Jake said: "I've had 15 wonderful years at EastEnders and have made some truly great friends.

Max Branning on Christmas Day 2007

Max was at the centre of the Christmas Day 2007 classic episode that saw Max's affair with Stacey revealed (Picture: BBC) (Image credit: BBC/Kieron McCarron/Jack Barnes)

"I'll of course miss everyone there but I'm grateful they have left the door open for Max and I'm excited to see what the next chapter holds."

Executive producer for EastEnders, Jon Sen, also commented on the shock news...

"Jake is a truly wonderful actor and EastEnders fans have been extremely lucky to have him for so long.

"We have got a big storyline for Max that starts in the coming weeks and we are all very excited to see that play out."

Going out with a bang 

An EastEnders insider added: "Sometimes in Soapland big characters have to leave.

Max thanks Ian for helping him out in EastEnders

Max is at war with Ian at the moment as he tries to get his money back (Picture: BBC)

"Bosses are staying tight-lipped about what the have planned for Max, but considering he has played a major part in the show for over 15 years, they are clearly planning something big and he won't be departing Walford quietly.

"Everyone will be sad to see Jake go as he is not only a great person to have on set, but he is a fantastic actor."

EastEnders airs Mondays at 8.05pm, Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7.35pm and Fridays at 8.30pm on BBC One - see our TV Guide for full listings.