Michelle Collins, who plays Rovers Return landlady Stella Price, is to leave Coronation Street in April 2014 at the end of her current contract but will remain on screen until June.
The show’s producer Stuart Blackburn commented: “When an actor decides to leave a programme like Corrie, it means the writing team can creatively scale new heights. We promise the tour de force that is Stella Price will leave with a bang. We wish Michelle every happiness as she moves on to pastures new. Her character has made a tremendous impact and has deservedly earned her the status of a classic Coronation Street matriarch.”
The news comes amid speculation that fan favourite Liz McDonald (played by returning star Beverley Callard) will be reinstalled as the pub’s landlady when she arrives back later this year after son Steve (Simon Gregson) decides to buy back the boozer.
Actress Collins, 51 – who previously played Cindy Beale in rival soap EastEnders – took on the role of Stella in June 2011 and has been at the centre of many high-profile storylines during her time in Weatherfield.
Following the revelation that she was the biological mother of Leanne Tilsley (Jane Danson), Stella then went on to have a relationship with Jason Grimshaw (Ryan Thomas) before having her life endangered during the fire at the Rovers in March 2013.
In a statement, Collins said: “Stella Price has been a revelation to play. So much has happened to the character since we discovered she was Leanne’s real mum. From catching Karl with barmaid Sunita to her near death experience in the Rovers fire, I’ve loved playing Stella and will be very sorry to leave her behind. Creatively I need to play other roles and I’ve ambitions as an actress that I’d like to fulfil. I’m also looking forward to spending more time with my daughter Maia.”
However, the actress has come in for criticism for the northern accent she adopted to play the part. Speaking to the Express last year, she said:
“That hurt. It seemed every time I turned on the radio or looked at the paper they were going on about my flipping accent. They’d compare me to Anne Hathaway in that movie One Day and her British accent, so at least I was in good company.
“It seemed so unfair, though, because people in Coronation Street have all kinds of different accents. But I think whatever I did I was going to get flak.”
Collins’s decision to bow out follows on from announcements that Stella’s screen mum Gloria (Sue Johnston) will also depart in spring next year, as will barmaid Tina McIntyre (played by Michelle Keegan).