Jake Wood leaving EastEnders after 15 years as Max Branning

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Jake Wood has played Max Branning in EastEnders since 2006. (BBC)

Jake Wood is leaving Albert Square after 15 years as EastEnders Max Branning.

The 48-year-old actor – who reached the semi-final of Strictly Come Dancing in 2014 – joined the BBC soap in 2006.

Wood said in a statement: “I've had 15 wonderful years at EastEnders and have made some truly great friends.

"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."

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EastEnders' executive producer Jon Sen added: "Jake is a truly wonderful actor and EastEnders have been extremely lucky to have him for so long.

Max Branning has come to blows with Ian Beale recently. (BBC)
Max Branning has come to blows with Ian Beale recently. (BBC)

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

Max Branning arrived in Albert Square as the estranged father of Bradley Branning (Charlie Clements) and stayed to rebuild their relationship.

He was joined by Jo Joyner as his wife Tanya Branning and has had a number of high profile storylines including his affair with with Stacey Slater (Lacey Turner).

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Wood took a brief hiatus from the soap in 2015 when businessman Max was sent to prison after being wrongfully charged for the murder of Lucy Beale.

Max has gradually lost all his family, with his children Bradley and Abi both dying after falling from the roof of the Queen Vic pub, while his daughter Lauren (Jacqueline Jossa) became an alcoholic and ran off to New Zealand.

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - JANUARY 21:  Jake Wood (L) and Janette Manrara perform during the Strictly Come Dancing Live Tour rehearsals, Strictly Come Dancing Live Tour opens tomorrow, 22nd January at the Barclaycard Arena in Birmingham and then tours the UK until 14th February, at Barclaycard Arena on January 21, 2016 in Birmingham, England.  (Photo by Dave J Hogan/Dave J Hogan/Getty Images)
Jake Wood performing with Janette Manrara perform during the Strictly Come Dancing Live Tour in 2015. (Getty Images)

Max recently sold his half share of Walford East restaurant to Ian Beale but was cheated out of the proceeds.

Max is currently raising granddaughter Abi - named after her mother - with his ex-wife and sister-in-law Rainie Cross.

EastEnders bosses are expected to be composing an explosive exit for his character when he officially bows out of Walford.

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