Jake Wood leaving EastEnders after 15 years as Max Branning

EastEnders' Jake Wood teases 'best ever episode' to air tonight

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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(left to right) Charlie Clements, Kym Ryder and Jake Wood, backstage during the National Television Awards 2007, Royal Albert Hall, London. (Photo by Steve Parsons - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)
Eastenders' Jake Wood And Lacey Turner With The Best Storyline Award At The British Soap Awards 2008 At Bbc Television Centre, Wood Lane, London, W12. Publication Of This Image And Winner Results, In Whatever Medium, Whether Print, Broadcast Or Online Is Under Strict Embargo Til 00:01 Gmt Sunday 4Th May 2008. (Photo by Mark Cuthbert/UK Press via Getty Images)
(left to right) Charlie Clements, Lacey Turner and Jake Wood arrive for the TV Quick and TV Choice awards 2008, at The Dorchester, Park Lane, London. (Photo by Yui Mok - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)
Jo Joyner and Jake Wood arriving for the 2011 National Television Awards at the O2 Arena, London. (Photo by Yui Mok/PA Images via Getty Images)
From EastEnders Jessie Wallace, Shane Richie, Tony Discipline and Jake Wood during the 2012 NTA Awards at the O2, Greenwich, London (Photo by Ian West/PA Images via Getty Images)
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - MAY 20: Jake Wood takes part in the annual celebrity six-a-side tournament on May 20, 2012 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Stuart Wilson/WireImage)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 14: (EMBARGOED FOR PUBLICATION IN UK TABLOID NEWSPAPERS UNTIL 48 HOURS AFTER CREATE DATE AND TIME. MANDATORY CREDIT PHOTO BY DAVE M. BENETT/WIREIMAGE REQUIRED) Jake Wood (L) attends a special screening of Disney's 'Planes' at Odeon Leicester Square on July 14, 2013 in London, England. (Photo by Dave M. Benett/WireImage)
LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 17: Jake Wood (R) arrives for the Screening of 'Free Birds' held at the May Fair Hotel on November 17, 2013 in London, England. (Photo by Karwai Tang/WireImage)
BOREHAMWOOD, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 02: Jake Wood attends the red carpet launch for Strictly Come Dancing 2014 at Elstree Studios on September 2, 2014 in Borehamwood, England. (Photo by Karwai Tang/WireImage)
LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 02: Jake Wood and family attends the UK Premiere of "Nativity 3: Dude Where's My Donkey?" at Vue West End on November 2, 2014 in London, England. (Photo by Danny Martindale/WireImage)
WATFORD, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 12: Kacey Ainsworth and Jake Wood attend the Launch Of Hogwarts In The Snow at Warner Bros. Studio Tour London on November 12, 2015 in Watford, England. (Photo by Mike Marsland/WireImage)
BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - JANUARY 21: (T L-R) Jay McGuiness, Ainsley Harriott, Jake Wood, Kevin Clifton, Aljaz Skorjanec, Gleb Savchenko and Giovanni Pernice pose for a photo 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)
BIRMINGHAM, ENGLand - JANUARY 21: jake Wood and Janette Manrara pose during Photocall for the Strictly Come Dancing Live Tour 2016 at Barclaycard Arena on January 21, 2016 in Birmingham, England. (Photo by Richard Stonehouse/Getty Images)
BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - JANUARY 21: (Front L-R) Joanne Clifton, Frankie Bridge, Kevin Clifton, Helen George, Aljaz Skorjanec, Anita Rani, Gleb Savchenko, Georgia May Foote, Giovanni Pernice and Karen Clifton, host Mel Giedroyc (C) and (Back L-R) Aliona Vilani, Jay McGuiness, Natalie Lowe, Ainsley Harriott, Janette Manrara and Jake Wood pose during a photocall for the Strictly Come Dancing Live Tour 2016 at Barclaycard Arena on January 21, 2016 in Birmingham, England. (Photo by Richard Stonehouse/Getty Images)
BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - JANUARY 21: Jake Wood (R) 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)
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)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 25: (L) Richard Blackwood, Jake Wood and Scott Maslen attend the National Television Awards at Cineworld 02 Arena on January 25, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Dave J Hogan/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 26: Jake Wood (L) and Spencer Oliver attend the BT Sport Industry Awards 2018 at Battersea Evolution on April 26, 2018 in London, England. The BT Sport Industry Awards is the largest commercial sports awards in the world. Bringing together sports stars, celebrities, senior decision makers, influencers and global media, the industry's most anticipated night of the year celebrates the very best work from across the sector. (Photo by Jeff Spicer/Getty Images for BT Sport Industry Awards)
Fundraiser award winner Tony Carlisle with Shelley King and Jake Wood at the Mirror Animal Hero Awards 2019, in partnership with People's Postcode Lottery and Webbox. (Photo by David Parry/PA Images via Getty Images)
Jake Wood, Luisa Bradshaw-White, Kellie Bright and James Bye attending the TRIC Awards 2020 held at the Grosvenor Hotel, London. (Photo by Ian West/PA Images via Getty Images)
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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.

"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 staryed 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).

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)

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.

- This article first appeared on Yahoo

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