Deena Payne set to leave Emmerdale
Emmerdale's longest-serving female star Deena Payne is leaving the soap after 18 years.
Deena, who plays postmistress and village gossip Viv Hope, will bow out in a top-secret plot that show chiefs promise will be part of a "huge winter storyline".
The actress, 56, said in a statement: "Emmerdale has been such a gift to me for the past 18 years and I've taken every challenge with both hands and enjoyed the ride.
"I'm very proud of Viv and the impact she has had over the years. I will miss pulling on her shoulder pads and high heels every morning but I am very excited about what the future holds."
However, in an interview with Hello! magazine, she admitted she found the last 16 months "frustrating" as she had been given increasingly less to do at the soap.
"Things were changing and I think I knew I wasn't going to be part of that change. To come in now and then to clear a table or throw a line over my shoulder was horrible.
"In the past I had two or three major storyline challenges each year. I relished them and grasped them.
"I felt bewildered and thought about not accepting another contract because I was so unhappy. If there's no future for the longest-serving female cast member, it's time to go. Which is sad in itself."
Deena took a year's break from the rural soap in 2008 while her character was serving time in jail.
Emmerdale's series producer Gavin Blyth said: "Deena created one of Emmerdale's most iconic characters in Viv. She's been a fundamental part of the show over the years and a valued member of the cast for which we are very grateful.