Steve John Shepherd has announced that he will be leaving EastEnders later this year. The actor, who has played menacing Michael Moon since October 2010, said in a statement:
“After two years of playing Michael, I feel now is the time to move on. I have relished every minute of exploring his character. The good and the bad! I feel extremely privileged to have had this amazing experience and I want to thank everybody at EastEnders for their extraordinary support. Most importantly I would like to thank the fans for taking him and his numerous flaws into their hearts. I wish them all the very best.”
Lorraine Newman, executive producer, added: "Steve John Shepherd's wonderful, enigmatic portrayal of Michael Moon has captivated the audience for the past two-and-a half years. Michael will remain on our screens until much later this year and I am sure the audience will enjoy the suitably dramatic end we have planned for the character. With Janine's return on screen this month, there's sure to be plenty of fireworks to come."
Since his arrival in Albert Square, Michael has shown himself to be a smooth operator with a keen eye for the ladies, being quick to romance both Roxy Mitchell (Rita Simons) and Janine Butcher (Charlie Brooks), who he eventually married. He also recently had a one-night-stand with Kat Moon (Jessie Wallace) following her split from Alfie (Shane Richie).
Steve John Shepherd is the second high-profile cast member to announce their departure in recent weeks. In February, Scott Maslen revealed that he would be leaving the role of Jack Branning at the end of his current contract.