Emmerdale exit: Why is Elizabeth Estensen quitting Emmerdale as Diane Sugden?

Emmerdale: Charity tells Diane she’s not going to run

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Elizabeth has held the role of Diane on Emmerdale for over 20 years, making her first appearance on the ITV soap in 1999. The actress has continued to work on the show in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic and she has featured in some of the show’s most hard-hitting storylines. However, the soap star has decided now is the time to quit but why has she decided to leave the show?

Why is Elizabeth Estensen leaving Emmerdale?

Elizabeth made her debut on the village-based soap as the mother of established character, Bernice Blackstock (played by Samatha Giles) 22 years ago.

With her character’s daughter having returned to the weeknight serial drama in recent months following the news Gabby Thomas (Rosie Bentham) was pregnant, the actress’ departure will coincide with the arrival of her great-grandchild.

The actress has decided to retire from all professional work, hence her reason for wanting to quit the role.

Discussing her reason for wanting to leave, Elizabeth said: “For the past 22 years I have loved playing Diane Sugden – she’s kind, reliable and fiercely loyal.

“However, I now feel the time has come to say goodbye. Emmerdale will always remain special to me. I’ve been treated with respect and kindness.

“And I’ve had the very best friends and colleagues, both past and present. I’ll miss everyone dearly,” she concluded in a statement.

Managing Director of Continuing Drama and Head of ITV in the North, John Whiston, wished Elizabeth well for the future.

John said: “For 22 years, Liz has shone through the screen and into our living rooms as the natural heart and centre of the Sugden family.

“It’s a role she has made so totally her own, bringing compassion, humour and credibility to her portrayal of Diane.

“Whenever she’s on-screen, as a viewer, you just let out a contented sigh and say to yourself ‘The Queen is on her throne and all is well with the world’.

“And off-screen, you don’t get to stay in a soap that long unless you are a truly professional actor and really, really lovely person. Liz is both.”

The time has come to say goodbye

Elizabeth Estensen

How does Diane Sugden leave Emmerdale?

It has been revealed by ITV bosses Diane will still be on-screen for a few weeks to come and she will make her exit later this Autumn.

Although there is a serial killer on the loose in form of Meena Jutla (Paige Sandhu), Diane won’t be killed off.

Instead, writers have decided to give the iconic character more of a peaceful sendoff as she makes plans for her future.

Diane will be heading overseas as she wants to enjoy life in the sun, meaning the door is still open if actress Elizabeth would ever want to return.

The character will be leaving behind her daughter, granddaughter, her great-grandchild and surrogate daughter, Victoria Sugden (Isobel Hodgins).

Before she departs, however, the iconic character will be sharing some scenes with Dr Who alumni, Colin Baker.

The award-winning star of stage and screen has been cast in the role of Michael, a new love interest for the former Woolpack landlady.

Both Diane and Michael will arrive at the iconic pub for a date but it doesn’t go as conventionally as Diane had hoped.

Speaking of working with Elizabeth ahead of her last scenes, Colin said: “[She is] an actress I have long admired, [and the role] certainly appealed to me.

“I enjoyed my COVID compliant time with [Elizabeth] in Leeds inordinately,” the cameo actor concluded.

Will Diane Sugden be killed off in the future?

It is uncertain if Diane will be killed off in the coming years but it is certainly a storyline bosses have at their disposal.

With it unlikely Elizabeth will return to the soap, script-writers could give her character a peaceful send-off like they have done with many villagers before.

Edna Birch (Shirley Stelfox) made her off-screen departure in 2016 when the character passed away from ovarian cancer whilst living with her sister Lily Butterfield (Anne Charleston) in Bournemouth.

Sandy Thomas (Freddie Jones) was also laid to rest on the soap after the character moved to Australia to live with Betty Eagleton (Paula Tilbrook).

There has been no announcement whether ITV will be airing a special tribute episode to the character as Elizabeth quits.

Emmerdale airs weeknights at 7pm on ITV with an extra episode airing at 8pm on Thursdays.

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