EASTENDERS EXIT: NITIN GANATRA QUITS AS MASOOD AHMED 114

EastEnders star Nitin Ganatra is the latest member of the soap’s cast to bow out, after nearly a full decade on the show.

The 49-year-old actor, who plays Masood, will leave the soap before the year is out – although the door will be left open for him to return.

“When I trained as an actor, I set out to play many different characters and never did I know that I would be so fortunate to have found a character that I have loved playing for nine years,” he told Radio Times.

“However, after thinking long and hard, I have decided that it is time to get back out there and take on some other roles.

“I will of course miss everyone at EastEnders – I have had a brilliant time there, and who knows, one day Masood may be back.”

An EastEnders spokesperson added: “We can confirm that Nitin will be leaving EastEnders. Nitin has been a wonderful addition to the cast for the past nine years and we wish him all the best for the future.”

The news comes hot on the heels of the bombshells that Samantha Womack (Ronnie), Rita Simons (Roxie), Danny-Boy Hatchard (Lee), Roger Sloman (Les) and Linn Blakely (Pam) are also exit-bound.

Masood’s huge story lines over the years have included his fiery marriage to Zainab, and their struggle to come to terms with son Syed’s homosexuality.

More recently, he’s had a blossoming romance with Carmel Kazemi (Bonnie Langford) – which will presumably have to come to an end when he leaves Albert Square.

Nitin won Best Onscreen Partnership with Nina Wadia, who played Zainab, at the 2009 British Soap Awards, and was nominated for Best Actor at the same ceremony in 2010.

His previous credits included Prince Pondicherry in Tim Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and the films Bride And Prejudice and Mumbai Calling.

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HOLLYOAKS CONFIRMS SCHIZOAFFECTIVE DISORDER STORYLINE 30

Hollyoaks are set to launch a powerful new mental health storyline for Alfie Nightingale as he starts hearing a voice and is diagnosed with Schizoaffective Disorder.

The teenager has been struggling to cope with life since the loss of his soulmate Jade Albright and his loved ones started to fear that he was exhibiting odd behaviour when he worked on a robot to replace Jade.

But in coming weeks, when a voice in Alfie’s head starts communicating with him and ordering him to do things, it becomes clear that things are extremely serious. And Hollyoaks has been working with the charity Mind to ensure that it represents the condition with sensitivity and accuracy.

The storyline, which will form part of the soap’s award-winning #DontFilterFeelings campaign

In episodes due to air at the beginning of April, Alfie will freak out when a voice in his head tells him not to trust his family and when he tries to ignore it and goes stargazing with Ellie, he is continuously plagued by the voice which is warning him off.

It is just the beginning of a difficult journey for Alfie who will be given the diagnosis, which involves patients experiencing psychotic symptoms not dissimilar to schizophrenia and the mood symptoms of bipolar disorder.

Richard Linnell who plays Alfie said: ‘I feel deeply honoured to have been trusted with such a strong and complex story for Alfie. We’ve been working closely with both Mind, and talking to people who have been kind enough to share their personal experiences of the condition.

‘It’s going to be a tumultuous road ahead for Alfie and in telling a deeply truthful, powerful story we hope to continue to break down the stigmas surrounding mental health as a whole.’

A spokesperson for Mind added: ‘We are so pleased that Hollyoaks are tackling the mental health condition Schizoaffective Disorder and have enjoyed working with them over many months. We know that when done well soap storylines can have a really positive affect on a huge audience, changing attitudes and encouraging people to seek help.’

As part of the #DontFilterFeelings campaign, which has included other storylines such as Scott’s depression and Lily’s self harm, Hollyoaks also sought the help and advice of mental health campaigner Jonny Benjamin, who helped to create the acclaimed Channel 4 documentary Stranger On A Bridge.

He said: ‘It was a real privilege to work with Hollyoaks on this storyline. The soap has done fantastic work in increasing understanding and reducing stigma attached to mental health issues in the past. The team I worked with were wonderful.

‘I really hope this storyline will make an impact on public perception of Schizophrenia and Schizoaffective Disorder, which has for too long been misconceived and feared. I’m so pleased Hollyoaks have been brave and bold enough to tackle this sensitive subject.’

The storyline kicks off on Wednesday 4th April at 7pm on E4.

HOLLYOAKS ANNOUNCES SHOCK NEW SEX ABUSE STORYLINE 32

Hollyoaks bosses are planning a sexual abuse storyline for show newcomers Ollie Morgan and Buster Smith.

A dark new plot will see football coach Buster abuse his position of power to groom Ollie, who was introduced as Luke Morgan’s teenage son two months ago.

Brody reacted with hostility when Damon’s dad Buster showed up in the village after Maggie’s death which implies that he may have been a previous victim of the manipulative football coach.

Up until now, Buster has settled into the village well, setting up sporting opportunities for youngsters and embarking on a romance with Marnie Nightingale. But his true colours will be revealed when he takes advantage of his position of power.

When he starts opening up to Buster about problems at home, Buster will start to groom him in secret and Hollyoaks are working with Survivors Manchester to ensure that the difficult story is tackled in the correct and appropriate way.

The Hollyoaks team have been working closely with the Survivors Manchester charity while creating this storyline. The charity previously consulted on John Paul McQueen’s male rape story in 2014.

Duncan Craig from Survivors Manchester said: ‘It is once again an absolute pleasure to be working with Hollyoaks on another hugely important storyline that is so topical and relevant. Working with producers, researchers, script writers and the cast, we have been able to develop a story that is rooted firmly in the present day and will show the intricacies of grooming and the difficulty in speaking out as a young male.

‘The team at Hollyoaks has again 100% committed to working with us to ensuring the male survivor sat at home watching the story will feel he is understood, as a survivor led organisation, this is important part of this work.’

Aedan Duckworth who plays Ollie, added: ‘It’s a privilege to have been given this challenging storyline for Ollie. To ensure I accurately depict Ollie’s situation I have had guidance from Survivor’s Manchester and support and advice from Gary Lucy during the filming process.

‘I hope to continue to raise awareness around this subject and encourage those who may have found themselves in a similar situation, to reach out and seek the support they deserve.’

Meanwhile, show boss Bryan Kirkwood commented: ‘While the backdrop of this story is football, the issue itself is far broader and we hope it will encourage all children and young adults to speak out if they ever find themselves in Ollie’s situation.

‘As with all our issue stories we want to encourage parents to open a dialogue within the home about subjects that are difficult to talk about. We are in a unique position of being able to talk to a bright and engaged audience about important issues without lecturing them.’

Hollyoaks will launch the story on April 16 on E4, as Buster starts to get close to Ollie and Brody confides in Luke’s ex-wife Scarlett about his own past.