Real reason EastEnders star is quitting Walford explained as Whitney leaves for Wakefield

Whitney officially leaves EastEnders in Thursday's episode
-Credit: (Image: BBC/Jack Barnes/Kieron McCarron)

It's the end of an era for EastEnders viewers as fan favourite Whitney Dean leaves Albert Square in tonight's episode, with star Shona McGarty exiting the soap after 16 years.

The long-time Walford resident has been through a tough time recently, having found out at the altar that her husband-to-be Zack had slept with her best friend Lauren. With little baby Dolly to look after and heart-break to deal with, Whitney revealed in Wednesday's episode that she would be leaving the Square for good.

In tonight's (Thursday's) episode, Whitney reveals exactly why she's decided to leave Walford - explaining that she's going to live with her brother Ryan in Wakefield. Speaking to her adopted daughter Britney, Whitney says: "I spoke to Ryan and he said we could stay with him so he's got you a temporary place in a school.

Whitney is leaving Walford to move in with her brother Ryan
Whitney is leaving Walford to move in with her brother Ryan -Credit:BBC/Jack Barnes/Kieron McCarron

"We don't have to stay in Wakefield forever. Just we can chill out and figure out what it is we want to do."

When her mum Bianca asks why she's leaving Walford when everyone loves her, Whitney says: "If I want to break bad habits like falling into Zack's arms or someone else's arms, I need a completely fresh start."

After Zack finds out, Whitney: "I have to do what is right for me. For me and my girls, Britney and Dolly."

Whitney's brother Ryan Malloy first appeared on the soap back in 2009, with Neil McDermott taking on the role. The character officially left the soap in 2011 after killing Robert Grayson - the man who groomed Whitney - and going on the run.

He later returned as a one-off guest star in 2014, 2016 and more recently 2023, when he returned to Walford to try to bond with his daughter Lily.

Whitney discovered at the altar that Zack had cheated on her with Lauren
Neil McDermott previously played Ryan on the soap

As for why Shona decided to leave the soap after 16 years, the actress said earlier this year that she wants to explore "other opportunities". Speaking to The Sun, Shona said: "There are other opportunities and areas of the industry I want to explore before I get too old!

"All things come to an end and this is the new chapter of my life. I’ve had a really good run and Whitney needs a break. She’s had a pretty tough paper round."

Earlier this year, Bianca Jackson (played by Patsy Palmer) made a reappearance which sparked off Whitney’s fostering storyline. In Thursday's episode, Bianca offers to move with Whitney - but when Zack reveals that Bianca knew about his affair with Lauren, she disinvites her.

EastEnders airs Monday to Thursday at 7:30pm on BBC One and BBC iPlayer.