EastEnders star Aaron Sidwell has hit out at claims he is quitting the BBC soap “in protest”.
The actor will leave “following dramatic scenes” involving his character Steven Beale, the BBC confirmed on Thursday.
He announced on Twitter he will be going on to star as Fiyero in a forthcoming Wicked tour across the UK and Ireland before hitting out at those claiming he broke a BBC contract to quit.
Sidwell, 28, returned to the BBC One soap last year after previously having played the character in 2008.
In a lengthy statement on Twitter he wrote: “To the fans of EastEnders. Thank you for your on going support these past 18 months.
“I wanted to take this chance to clear up any confusion over my exit.”
“Regardless of what you’ve read or believe I didn’t sign a year long contract back in March. I signed for 6 months. A decision both I and my representation were happy about as it gave us the chance to continue working on other opportunities.
“Whilst my storyline has been incredibly challenging given my personal situation this has not lead to me quitting the show in protest.”
He adds: “I have always been lucky enough to have the support of the BBC and I respect them more than I can explain. I love EastEnders and everyone connected to the show with all my heart.”
A BBC spokesperson said: “Aaron Sidwell is part of one of the big upcoming storylines and we can confirm, following dramatic scenes to be aired later this summer, he will be leaving the show.
“We wish Aaron all the very best for the future.”
Sidwell’s current storyline has seen Steven lying to Lauren Branning (played by Jacqueline Jossa), about having a brain tumour in a bid to make her stay with him.
The couple are also due to get married soon after Steven popped the question to ensure Lauren didn’t leave his side.
Lauren’s sister, Abi Branning and her father Max, are both conspirators in the brain tumour lie and Steven also had a romantic liaison with Abi.
The BBC has not yet confirmed exactly when Sidwell’s last scenes will air.