EastEnders actress Jenna Russell is leaving the soap, it has been confirmed. The 50-year-old's character Michelle Fowler is being written out just 14 months after she joined the BBC show. Jenna took over the role of Michelle from Susan Tully, who originally played the Walford favourite from 1985 until 1995. An EastEnders spokeswoman said: "Jenna is a terrific actress who has loved her time on the show playing Michelle and it was a mutual decision to write the character out. We wish Jenna all the best for the future."
Jenna Russell is leaving EastEnders after one year
Hitting back at reports which suggest she was axed from the soap, Jenna tweeted: "Just for clarity, I wasn't 'axed' just fancied doing something else. Nothing else. Have a great day x #actorslife." During her time on the show, Michelle was involved in storylines which saw her have an affair with her American pupil Preston and then she found herself being stalked by an admirer on the tube. EastEnders viewers have been divided over Jenna's portrayal of Michelle, with many suggesting she was "unlikeable".
Jenna previously won an Olivier Award in 2007 for her turn in Sunday In The Park With George. Prior to joining EastEnders, the star confessed said was concerned about taking on the role of Michelle. "When you step into the shoes of a much-loved character it can be very scary," she told Digital Spy in 2016. "As a young actress, I loved Susan Tully. In some ways it's fortunate for me that the character has been absent for 20 years - that's a long time and life changes people."
She added: "I'm lucky that I know Tish and Adam [Woodyatt] from when we were kids, so the people Michelle is meant to have history with, I actually do have history with. I just have to do my own version of her and hope the audience go with it. Change is always tricky but I respect the character and I feel I will be a good custodian of her. The writers also love the character and they too have respect for her."