EastEnders veteran Adam Woodyatt has revealed that he does not plan to return to the soap until next year.
The 52-year-old, who has played Ian Beale since the show started in 1985, is currently on a sabbatical as he prepares to embark on a theatre tour of the crime stage show Looking Good Dead.
Ian was last seen leaving Walford in late January, having survived an attempt on his life by former best friend Sharon (Letitia Dean), and was expected to make a dramatic return later this year.
"I am off to do a theatre tour," Woodyatt told The One Show. "I was supposed to start it in January, then it was April, then it was June, finally we are starting in July, in Leicester, before going all around the country, all the way up until the end of October.
"The tour at the moment runs until the end October and my daughter's then getting married in America so I'm off there to do that.
"There's a possibility – and I really hope that does happen – the tour carries on will run until the early part of next year to pick up the dates we've had to postpone because of the lockdown.
"So, if the tour carries on, I'm not going to be back on EastEnders until some time 2022 at the earliest! Sorry!"
The news means that by the time Woodyatt returns, he will have been out of the soap for at least a year - his longest break in 36 years of playing Ian.