EastEnders star Rakhee Thakrar leaves Shabnam Masood role

"It feels like the right time for both myself and the character to move on," says the actress

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Shabnam Masood has bid farewell to Albert Square, leaving in the company of screen daughter Jade for a new life in Ealing after tearfully calling time on her marriage to Kush Kazemi.

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Shabnam’s departure marks the end of actress Rakhee Thakrar’s two-year stint on the BBC1 soap. Her period on EastEnders has seen the character of Shabnam at the centre of much drama, most notably the stillbirth of her son Zaair in emotional scenes last year and her wedding to Kush.

Of her departure, Thakrar said tonight: “Every now and again a job and a group of people change your life. I can definitely say that about EastEnders.

“I’m so grateful for having the chance to play Shabnam Masood and particularly her story. It feels like the right time for both myself and the character to move on. I’m very thankful for my time on the show – it’s been brilliant.”

Citing a desire to play fresh parts in different projects, the actress added that the Shabnam’s birth scenes will remain the highlight of her time in the show.

Talking about the impact of the plotline, Thakrar said: “I’m so proud to have been part of that. I’ve seen how much it’s meant to so many parents and families. Stillbirth needs to be talked about and I hope our story in some way helps people to do that. It’s truly been one of the best experiences of my life.”

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Asked if she had a message for fans who’d followed Shabnam’s journey, she commented: “Thank you for watching! Particularly to anyone who’s written to me by hand or on twitter – you have no idea how much it’s meant to me. And especially a big thank you to all the mothers who’ve shared their stories and got involved with #SayTheirName. Your reaction was profound.”

In the wake of those pivotal episodes being shown, viewers took to social media to share images of the stillborn babies, which Thakrar then retweeted using the hashtag #SayTheirName. Recalling that fan reaction, she noted:  

“My experience on this show has been really special and I’m so grateful for having the chance to have played Shabs – she’s a real gift. A complicated character, who I’ve loved getting to know.

“It was a hard decision to leave as I really love this character and this show. I can’t thank our executive producer Dominic Treadwell-Collins enough for trusting me with Shabnam and particularly her story.”

As to whether the character could ever make a return, Thakrar added: “We’ll she’s only in Ealing, so you never know!”

You can watch a 60-second rundown of next week’s episodes of EastEnders below.

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And visit our dedicated EastEnders page for all the latest news, interviews and spoilers.