Rita Simons: I have a huge loyalty to EastEnders
Departing EastEnders actor Rita Simons has said she has a "huge loyalty" to the show, even after her character was killed off.
But after almost a decade playing half of the Mitchell sisters duo, she did not rule out the possibility of joining another soap.
In a dramatic New Year's Day episode, her character Roxy drowned in a swimming pool, shortly followed by her sister Ronnie (played by Samantha Womack) who jumped in to save her.
After her final episode was broadcast, Essex-born Simons, 39, told the Press Association: "I would never say never, but my heart is probably always going to be with EastEnders.
"It's such a massive part of my life and I do love that place.
"Honestly, I have a huge loyalty to EastEnders at the moment."
After becoming best friends with Womack on the set, she described filming the pair's deaths as similar to losing a real sister.
"We are ridiculously close, we are like one person," she said.
"We speak to each other multiple times a day and I know her every movement and she knows mine.
"I am going to miss not having her in my dressing room... she has been with me the whole time... and I do believe we will work together again one day."
But Simons added that the end of her 10-year stint on the show would allow her to pursue other projects, such as a comedy or gritty drama.
Speaking about being cut from EastEnders, she said: "It's always quite difficult in a soap because you're never quite sure when you've outstayed our welcome and when it's time to go, and I do believe it was the right time to go.
"That doesn't make it any easier but, as an actor, 10 years in a soap, I was ready to go out and try other things.
"My passions are TV and film and there are so many things I would love to do - a comedy, maybe something gangster and gritty.
"I would even love to do a few episodes of (dark US drama) Ray Donovan. We've got a few Brits branching out into some of these box sets, which is brilliant."
After a busy pantomime season starring in Snow White in St Albans, Simons is set to return to the stage in August for a year-long touring production of Legally Blonde.
She has also been using her new-found freedom to do more charity work.
This week she will be taking over pop-up swap-shop Zeek in west London's Westfield, taking in people's unwanted Christmas gift cards to raise money for the Children's Trust.
"Everyone's a winner," she said of her latest project. "You can either swap your cards and vouchers for cash, or just donate them and Zeek will match the amount."