Marc Elliott claims he had to quit 'EastEnders' to avoid being typecast.
The actor has portrayed Syed Masood in the BBC One soap for almost four years but says he had to leave because he was afraid he would only be remembered for playing "the gay muslim".
He said: "I didn't want to be remembered as that lad from 'EastEnders', the gay muslim. That's why you get into the business, to find new characters."
Marc broke down taboos when Syed became soap's first openly gay muslim, following his romance with long-term boyfriend Christian Clarke (John Partridge), and he says he's glad viewers have been able to relate to him.
He told The Sun newspaper: "Playing Syed meant I've had loads of letters from people of all religions coming to terms with their sexuality. That's what I am proud of most, portraying a normal, loving gay relationship.
"That's quite an important thing, it's normalising it, two men being affectionate with each other.
"And when someone tells you they've found the strength to tell their parents, you feel proud."
And despite the BBC receiving complaints about his steamier scenes, Marc insists he's nearly always had a positive response from fans.
He said: "The biggest fans of Syed and Christian's storyline are women who love the love angle.
"The BBC and myself anticipated an adverse reaction. I had only one comment in the street in Manchester. Someone called me a n** jockey in the street, which I thought was hilarious."