Emmerdale legend Elizabeth Estensen has revealed that she’s decided to retire from the soap after playing matriarch Diane Sugden for 22 years.
Diane has been a key character on the show for more than two decades, including a 17-year stint as landlady of the Woolpack, and has been at the centre of several big storylines.
Amongst the most dramatic moments during her time on the show have been being trapped at gunpoint in a siege and being lost in a mirror maze that killed her sister Val, while the character has also twice undergone treatment for cancer.
According to ITV, Diane will now be leaving the village to head off for warmer climes.
Speaking about her reasons for departing, Estensen said, “For the past 22 years I have loved playing Diane Sugden – she’s kind, reliable and fiercely loyal.
“However, I now feel the time has come to say goodbye. Emmerdale will always remain special to me. I’ve been treated with respect and kindness and I’ve had the very best friends and colleagues, both past and present. I’ll miss everyone dearly.”
And John Whiston, the Managing Director of Continuing Drama and Head of ITV in the North paid tribute to the veteran star’s time on the show, saying, “For 22 years, Liz has shone through the screen and into our living rooms as the natural heart and centre of the Sugden family.”
He added, “It’s a role she has made so totally her own, bringing compassion, humour and credibility to her portrayal of Diane. Whenever she’s on screen, as a viewer, you just let out a contented sigh and say to yourself, ‘The Queen is on her throne and all is well with the world.’
“And off screen, you don’t get to stay in a soap that long unless you are a truly professional actor and really, really lovely person. Liz is both.”
Estensen has already filmed her final scenes, but the character will still be on screen for a number of weeks.