Long-serving Coronation Street star Julie Hesmondhalgh is leaving the soap after 15 years as TV favourite Hayley Cropper.
The 42-year-old actress admitted she has had "the most wonderful time" playing the Street's first transsexual on the ITV1 show, but wanted to pursue new projects after starring in the play, Black Roses: The Killing Of Sophie Lancaster in Manchester last year.
"The decision to hang up Hayley's red anorak was a tough one, but doing the play at the Royal Exchange last year made me realise that there's life in the old dog yet and that there are other things I want to try," she said. "I'll always be the show's biggest fan."
Julie, who joined the soap in 1998, will fulfil the rest of her contract until the end of 2013.
TV bosses are now working on storylines to ensure a "dramatic exit" for such a beloved character.
Executive producer Kieran Roberts said: "Who doesn't love Hayley Cropper? The character's warmth and decency, spiced with a great sense of fun and adventure, have put her at the heart of Coronation Street."
"We'll be sorry to say farewell to Hayley -- and to Julie -- but we're planning a screen exit worthy of one of Coronation Street's best-loved characters."
Julie, who is married to actor and writer Ian Kershaw in real life, took time off in 2001 to give birth to her daughter Martha Mo, and had a year's break in 2007 to spend more time with her family.