Legendary actress Bonnie Langford is quitting EastEnders.
After three-and-a-half years of playing Carmel Kazemi, Langford, 53, is set to leave the BBC One soap at the end of the year, after being at the centre of an intense storyline where she plays a bereaved mother to Shakil who died after being stabbed.
After praise for her portrayal in the programme, Langford will be swapping the small screen for the stage, as she appears as Dorothy Brock for 42nd Street at London’s Theatre Royal, Drury Lane.
In a statement, she described her time on the ‘iconic’ soap: ‘I’ve had a wonderful three-and-a-half years at EastEnders and it’s been a privilege to be part of such an iconic show.
‘My storyline has been such an incredible experience and I’m honoured to be part of something so powerful and poignant.
‘However, I’ve known since the beginning of this storyline it would always lead to Carmel having to take a break from Walford.’
It’s been suggested that the door will be left open for Langford’s character to return to the show if she wants to. Radio Times also say that her on-screen son, Kush (played by Davood Ghadami), will remain an active character in the Walford-based programme.
EastEnders recently did a special episode that included real-life families of knife crime victims, and the actress previously said it was a risk that needed to be taken to raise awareness: ‘It was a jump into the unknown. When they told me I found it intriguing and exciting, but it was a strange dividing line and I wondered how we would separate art from real life.
‘Soaps try and follow reality as much as possible, and as actors we’re not trying to pretend that we’re preaching in any way,’ she shared.
‘But to put in these special true-life contributors adds gravitas – we’re not sensationalising something that is so difficult. Let this speak for itself. There is nothing more truthful, honest and heartbreaking. And it’s done with integrity and authenticity.’
Langford joined the soap in April of 2015 in a guest role capacity but later became a regular and permanent character in Albert Square.
Catch EastEnders weeknights from 7.30pm, on BBC One.