Tamzin Outhwaite on why she’s quitting EastEnders

The actress said she had enjoyed her second stint as Mel Owen but had not originally intended to stay beyond her initial one-year deal

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Tamzin Outhwaite is leaving EastEnders, admitting she is “excited” about the prospect of taking on roles outside the BBC1 soap.

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The 48-year-old star, who plays Mel Owen, returned to Albert Square in 2018, 16 years after the end of her first stint as the character. Her comeback was only intended to last for a year but she later agreed to extend her contract.

“When [former producer] John [Yorke] asked me to return to EastEnders back in 2017, I jumped at the chance to play Mel once more but it was only supposed to be for a year,” said Outhwaite in a statement.

“That year quickly passed and I agreed to stay on for another, but now the time feels right to once again pursue other challenges.

“I will of course miss so many people here at EastEnders, and I will forever have good memories of my time at the show, but I am also excited to experience new roles outside of Walford.”

EastEnders executive producer Jon Sen said: “We are extremely grateful to Tamzin for reviving the character of Mel Owen back in 2017, allowing EastEnders fans the chance to see one of Walford’s most popular characters take centre stage once more.

“Tamzin is an incredible talent who has set our screens on fire with her wonderful performances in some of our most iconic storylines. We wish her the best of luck for the future.”

Outhwaite played Mel from 1998 until 2002, returning to screens in 2018 after being approached by then producer John Yorke in 2017. She will leave EastEnders in the autumn.

In her original stint man-eater Mel married Ian Beale on Millennium Eve, only to famously dump him at the stroke of midnight having learnt he lied about his daughter Lucy being terminally ill so she wouldn’t leave him.

She and killer club owner Steve Owen (Martin Kemp) became something of a power couple in the early 2000s before being written out when both actors quit, with pregnant Mel leaving painful memories behind after Steve’s death in a car crash.

Mel and Ray on EastEnders

Mel’s 2018 return was initially connected to Irish gangster family the Maguires, who despatched her to track down missing money stolen from former sister-in-law Ciara in a heist involving Phil Mitchell. Ex-husband Ray Kelly followed Mel back to Walford and the pair reunited, only for him to be revealed as a bigamist and be murdered on their wedding day by Mel’s sinister son Hunter, who is set to make another appearance before his mum departs even though he’s behind bars.

Details of her character’s departure are being kept under wraps but an insider told RadioTimes.com “Suffice it to say, Mel won’t be going quietly…”

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