"I left in 2016 and yeah, it has been a while."
Sunetra Sarker has confirmed she is returning to BBC Casualty seven years after she quit the long-running medical drama.
The actress made the surprise announcement on Loose Women, appearing alongside co-hosts Kaye Adams, Dame Kelly Holmes, and Jane Moore.
Sunetra teased: “This week, I might have gone back to a certain hospital that I used to work at called Holby City hospital.”
She then confirmed: “I’m going back to Casualty.”
The audience erupted into applause.
Following the announcement, Casualty also shared the news on their official Instagram account, writing:
“The secret is out! Dr Zoe Hanna returns to the E.D. next year.”
Sunetra said: “It must be seven years, I left in 2016 and yeah, it has been a while.”
She revealed she will return as Dr Zoe Hanna for just two episodes of the soap to bid farewell to Derek Thompson, who is leaving Casualty after playing senior nurse Charlie Fairhead for 37 years.
The actress continued: “I’m going back for a special double episode because our lovely Charlie who has been there forever is going to leave the show.
“So I’m going back to make sure I get my last little moment with him.”
Sunetra Sarker appeared on Casualty for more than eight years before she exited the show in 2016 because she wanted to “find something very different”.
She landed a role on Channel 4’s Ackley Bridge and confessed she wanted to find a character who was so far removed from Dr Zoe Hanna.
Speaking to Zoe Ball in 2018, Sunetra said playing matriarch Kaneez Paracha on Ackley Bridge was a breath of fresh air.
Sunetra stated: “She looks nothing like me, she sounds nothing like me.
“She’s funny and she has a personality in a way that you don’t usually see a Pakistani woman having.”
The actress spoke fondly of her time on Casualty and said her co-stars were like “family”.
When she returned for a one-off episode in 2018 and reunited with her estranged husband Max, Sunetra said it was an “honour” to see her old castmates.
She said: “It was like going for a school reunion… I have to be honest, there’s always going to be a little part of me in Casualty… It was an honour to go back.”
Sunetra Sarker exited the show after Zoe was offered a job in Michigan, leaving Max behind.
Viewers were left heartbroken and Sunetra thanked her fans for their support.
After her final scenes aired, Sunetra tweeted:
“So that’s it guys. Goodbye from Zoe – it’s been a privilege and a pleasure. Thanks to all the crew, cast and wonderful fans. Over and out.”
Executive producer Oliver Kent replied: “We miss you. We love you.”