Why isn’t Pauline Quirke in Birds of a Feather’s Christmas special?

The Emmerdale star, who has played Sharon throughout the show's long run, won't be returning for the Christmas special – here's why.

Birds of a Feather (ITV)

Beloved sitcom Birds of a Feather is making a comeback this Christmas, with Tracey (Linda Robson) and Dorien (Lesley Joseph) returning to our screens after three years away.

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Unfortunately missing from the Birds of a Feather cast this festive season is Pauline Quirke, who plays Tracey’s sister and key trio member Sharon Theodopolopodous – but why is she absent from the upcoming special?

Here’s everything we know so far about why Pauline Quirke is missing the Birds of a Feather Christmas special and how the show will explain Sharon’s absence.

Why isn’t Pauline Quirke in Birds of a Feather’s Christmas special?

Birds of a Feather
ITV

According to ITV, Pauline Quirke won’t be returning to Birds of a Feather for the upcoming Christmas special as “she’s stepping back from acting to focus on her 200 nationwide performing arts academies”.

Speaking to RadioTimes.com, Quirke’s husband and producer Steve Sheen said that with the academies being closed for six months due to COVID, Quirke “felt her focus needed to be on re-building the brand and the business, that gives so many children confidence in life”.

Quirke, who starred as Sharon in Birds of a Feather from 1989 to 1998 and again from 2014 to 2017, opened up the first branches of The Pauline Quirke Academy of Performing Arts across the UK alongside her husband Sheen in 2007.

Since then, the Emmerdale actress has opened academies in over 200 locations, with students being taught in comedy, drama, musical theatre, film and television during weekend lessons.

How does Birds of a Feather explain Sharon’s absence?

Birds of a Feather

In the Christmas episode, viewers will learn that Sharon has “escaped to the other side of the world” and found herself stuck on a COVID-infected cruise – hence why she’s unable to make Tracey and Dorien’s festive celebrations in Essex.

The one-off episode sees Linda Robson and Lesley Joseph reprise their roles as Tracey Stubbs and Dorien Green, the former neighbours and friends who have been getting “right on each others’ thruppennies” since Sharon left for her cruise.

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While Pauline Quirke won’t be appearing in the special, the likes of Les Dennis, Ami Metcalf and Curtis Walker will be guest starring in her absence.

Looking for something else to watch? Check out our TV Guide or check out or guide to this year’s best Christmas TV