Holby City star Catherine Russell has spoken exclusively to Digital Spy about her departure from the show, revealing that she isn't ruling out a return.
The popular cast member bowed out from her role as Serena Campbell in the show's latest episode (January 21), marking the end of an era for the hospital.
Serena decided it was time to go following changes at Holby and tensions with the new CEO Max McGerry (Jo Martin).
Speaking to Digital Spy about Serena's final episode, Catherine laughed: "I'm more than delighted and deeply flattered that one of Serena's last lines was that she'd never be so far away that she couldn't come back when she's needed.
"When I saw that, I thought: 'That is an extremely generous and kind thing to write. I shall remind them of it, possibly, in the future, when I go running back with my tail very firmly between my legs!'
"I'd never say never. I'd never want to slam the door behind myself, that would be foolish."
Explaining why she felt it was time to go, Catherine told us: "I'd been mulling it over for a couple of years, to be honest. I'd never been in anything for so long before. The longest thing that I'd done before that was a year in Mamma Mia! in the West End, and even that felt like a long time.
"In 2017, I thought I would probably go, but I ended up taking a nine-month sabbatical. I went into the theatre and travelled around Europe in my campervan with my husband. Once my batteries were recharged, I went back to the show.
"But it had been knocking around in the back of my head that I'm no spring chicken. I'm 55 in April and I thought that if I didn't go now, I probably never would – if I was so lucky to be asked to stay on.
"I just thought it was time to test the waters. I needed to go and scare myself again. I needed to go and be brave again. It's just a basic need to want to play someone else for a while."
Catherine admitted that it's "scary" to leave behind the regular work and income that comes with a permanent role on Holby City.
However, she added: "That was another reason I thought it was probably time to go, because if you're not careful, you can get used to that. It can become quite cosy and comfortable. It can stop being a challenge.
"I thought I was getting a bit too comfy, too cosy and reliant on this income and that wasn't why I became an actor in the first place.
"I wanted to see if anybody else would give me a job. So far, no! I've had a couple of things offered to me but they haven't been quite right. I'm just waiting for the right thing, which hopefully will be quite soon.
"I would love to do some comedy next. Comedy is where my roots are and it's in my DNA. My dad [Nicholas Smith] was an actor and played Mr Rumbold in Are You Being Served? for many years.
"My son's a stand-up comedian, and my husband was in a stand-up double act when I first met him. It runs through the family, really.
"I'd love to do some comedy on the television. Working on Holby has meant I've had a long time to experience being in front of a camera and it'd be nice to put that to good use elsewhere."
Catherine also opened up over her last day of filming, revealing that the Holby team came together for a touching tribute.
She said: "Much to my surprise, I kept bursting into tears, which I wasn't expecting at all! The thing that made me most emotional was that, after my last scene, everyone from the office and all of the producers came down.
"There were ex-cast members who had come onto set and everyone had dressed up in leopard print, which is Serena Campbell's classic shirt!"
Holby City airs on Tuesdays at 8pm on BBC One.
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