Strictly Come Dancing champion Rose Ayling-Ellis said she will “treasure” her time on EastEnders after announcing her departure from the BBC show.
The 27-year-old, who plays Frankie Lewis, is the first deaf actor to play a regular character on the soap.
Since joining in 2020, Ayling-Ellis has been involved in a number of big storylines, including Frankie discovering she is the daughter of Danny Dyer’s character Mick Carter, who was abused as a child.
Speaking of her departure, she said: “It’s been incredibly special to be EastEnders’ first regular deaf actor.
“I have loved my time on the show and Frankie has been such an awesome character to play, however now feels like the right time for me to move on and I am excited and ready for new challenges.
“I will always treasure my time on the show and all the incredible people I have worked with, who have supported my growth as an actor these last two years and given me so many amazing memories.
“I am excited for viewers to see Frankie’s exit storyline; I think it’s a really important one that will hit home for lots of people.”
She has already filmed her final scenes and her character will leave this autumn, the BBC said.
Executive producer Chris Clenshaw said the EastEnders team are “incredibly proud” of everything Ayling-Ellis has achieved, describing her as a “trailblazer.”
He added: “I have only had the pleasure to work with Rose for a short time but she has always been an incredible asset to EastEnders; not just as a phenomenal actor, but as an amazing company member too.
“As part of the Carter family, Rose has shone in important narratives such as discovering she’s Mick Carter’s daughter as a result of child abuse; and she will soon tackle the important issue highlighting women’s safety on the streets.”
The actress won Strictly’s glitterball trophy last year alongside professional partner Giovanni Pernice, marking a historic win on the BBC One show as she became the first deaf contestant to take part.
The pair later won the must-see moment award at the Baftas for their silent dance on the show.
Ayling-Ellis will deliver the Alternative MacTaggart lecture at the Edinburgh Television Festival later this month, where she will discuss her experiences as a deaf actress and life in the TV industry as a young person with a disability.
The actress, who has been deaf since birth, has been a pioneer for the deaf community, including campaigning for British Sign Language (BSL) to be recognised as an official language.
She features in the Rose, Barbie & Friends campaign, teaming up with Barbie to unveil their first doll with behind-the-ear hearing aids.
Ayling-Ellis also recently became the first celebrity to sign a CBeebies bedtime story.