EastEnders have confirmed Steven Beale is to leave Walford at the end of his current storyline.
Actor Aaron Sidwell, who returned to the role last year after an earlier stint between 2007 and 2008, will make his final appearance towards the end of the summer according to a BBC spokesperson: “Aaron Sidwell is involved in one of the big upcoming storylines and we can confirm, following dramatic scenes to be aired later this summer, he will be leaving the show.”
Steven is currently at the centre of a dramatic plot where he is lying to girlfriend Lauren Branning that he has a brain tumour to trap her into an engagement, spurred on by revenge for her secretly aborting his baby and falling for her former boss, Josh Hemmings.
Lauren’s sister Abi knows the brain tumour is a lie and is sleeping with her future brother-in-law, with the Steven promising they’ll be together once he reveals his master plan to his fiancée and dumps her for betraying him.
Max is also in on Steven’s deceit about his health, and is conspiring with him to force Lauren into marriage – although the Branning dad’s motives are unclear as they appear to be tied up in his murky dealings with the Weyland company’s takeover of Albert Square.
With so many elements to the plot in place, speculation is rife as to how Steven will make his exit – and whether he’ll leave dead or alive.
Steven is clearly leading Abi on for his own ends, but what does that entail? Or could he genuinely have feelings for her? Can he really go through with humiliating Lauren? Will he get in too deep with Max’s plan and end up in danger? Having battled psychological demons in the past, could Steven lash out and try and kill Lauren, or Josh – or himself?
The announcement comes after several cast members including Sidwell, as well as Harry Reid, Tilly Keeper and Jasmine Armfield, posted pictures and messages on social media at the weekend from a mysterious leaving party, sparking gossip among fans as to which actor was waving goodbye to Walford.