EastEnders' Max Branning played by Jake Wood
EastEnders actor Jake Wood, who plays Max Branning, will depart the soap towards the end of summer BBC/Kieron McCarron

EastEnders will soon see the departure of one of its most beloved characters with actor Jake Wood temporarily quitting his role as Max Branning.

The 42-year-old has played the love-rat for nine years but will be taking a year-long break from the hit BBC One soap.

Confirming the news in a statement, Wood explained: "I have been at EastEnders for nine years and I feel the time is right to give Max a break but it won't be for too long as I shall be back next year to see Max face another chapter of drama."

The show's executive producer Dominic Treadwell-Collins revealed that the character's brief departure had been in the works for some time as Wood was keen to step away.

Treadwell-Collins said: "When I returned to EastEnders both Jake and I agreed that Max has been through so much over the past nine years that we would give both him and Jake a break when the opportunity arose.

"That opportunity has come and it is the perfect time to send Max Branning out with a bang that will send ripples through the Square for the rest of the year until Jake returns."

EastEnders' Max and Abi Branning
Will Max Branning's daughter Abi, played by Lorna Fitzgerald, remain on the Square without her father? BBC/Kieron McCarron

It is believed the car salesman will be given a send-off this summer, however, Wood will most definitely return as reports claim he has already signed a new contract.

Fans will now be speculating about the circumstances that are set to cause Branning to bow out of the long-running soap and, according to a press release, the character will be "pushed to his limits when he finds himself in a situation that even he can't squirm out of".

Recent storylines have seen Branning locked in a feud with the Square's hardman Phil Mitchell, after the womaniser stole his businesses.

The father-of-four has also had to deal with the sudden death of his girlfriend Emma while his daughters, Lauren and Abi, have fled the nest.

As most expressed their sadness at his temporary departure, the actor showed his sense of humour and retweeted a message from an EastEnders fan who said they "couldn't stand" his character and was happy to see him leave:

Wood is not the only actor taking a temporary break from the series. Shane Ritchie and Jessie Wallace, who play Alfie and Kat Moon, are also on a short hiatus from the show.