Actress Natalie Cassidy, who plays Sonia Fowler in EastEnders, is to take a break from the TV soap next year.
Natalie Cassidy has been in the soap since she was 10
"I love EastEnders very much. It's my second home but it's time to try new things. But it doesn't mean Sonia won't be back," she said in a statement.
Cassidy, 22, has been in the BBC show for nearly 13 years.
"Natalie is a valued member of the EastEnders cast and we wish her all the very best during her break from the show," said a BBC spokesperson.
The BBC said it was not known how long Cassidy would be away for.
Best actress prize
The actress has been at the heart of several difficult storylines including becoming an unexpected teenage mum.
Cassidy trained at the Anna Scher theatre school and won the best actress prize at the 2001 British Soap Awards.
Her current storyline has seen her struggle with her sexuality and leaving husband Martin Fowler for her friend Naomi Julien.
She has also appeared in a documentary on wildlife in Australia and Celebrity Mastermind.