By Natalie Abrams
May 12, 2017 at 02:44 AM EDT
  • TV Show

Another familiar face will be leaving Once Upon a Time after season 6.

Rebecca Mader will exit the series at the end of this season, the actress announced on social media Thursday night.

Mader, who joined Once Upon a Time in season 3 as Zelena, a.k.a the Wicked Witch, has been a series regular since season 5. The character turned out to be Regina’s (Lana Parrilla) half sister. It’s, therefore, surprising that Mader will be exiting considering Parrilla is among the cast members staying on next season, with the show set to be centered on Regina, Hook (Colin O’Donoghue), and Rumple (Robert Carlyle). However, Mader explains in her statement that it was not her decision to leave.

Mader leaving comes on the heels of the news that Jennifer Morrison will not be returning as a series regular next season, though she is expected to appear in at least one episode during season 7. Earlier Thursday, the show was officially renewed for a seventh season.

Here’s Mader’s full statement:

To my Darling Pretties,

First of all I would like to start by congratulating Adam, Eddie, Lana, Bobby and Colin on the pick up of Once Upon A Time! I am truly happy for you all and most importantly for the fans that will get to keep tuning in each week to see where they will take us.

A lot of you have been asking if I will be joining everyone in Season 7, so I wanted to let you know personally that unfortunately I am not. This wasn’t my choice but a creative decision of the show’s that I totally respect and Understand.

The most important thing is that you all know how much you mean to me. I am told frequently both online and in person that by being a part of such a special show I have in some way changed someone’s life. This is hugely meaningful to me. I am here to let you know that I am the one who has been changed. Not just by playing such a well written multi-dimensional character but by the fandom itself. I have heard your stories, your pain, your struggles, your achievements and I have truly felt you. I have learned. I have grown. I am a better person because of you, the fans and everyone that blessed me with this opportunity to play such an iconic role.

Congrats all and thank you! I look forward to the next. I invite you to come with me on this journey. I am forever changed. And I’m wicked. And Wicked Always Wins.

Forever yours,

During a recent episode, Zelena sacrificed her magic to temporarily thwart the Black Fairy ahead of the Final Battle. EW was on set for the episode, where we asked Mader whether she felt like there was more Zelena story to tell in season 7. “Yeah, definitely,” Mader said, noting she would just hope Zelena would get her powers back. “I would think season 7 would be me trying to get my powers back without trying to kill anyone or whatever, blah, blah. Come on. Hashtag redemption.”

RELATED: Once Upon a Time‘s Jennifer Morrison to Exit Ahead of Season 7

Earlier this year, ABC chief Channing Dungey seemed to indicate there could be possible exits should the show be renewed, noting that OUAT bosses Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis were looking at the potential seventh season as a springboard in a new direction, “which doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re not bringing cast back. It’s just: How do you kind of hit the reset button in a way that gives you an opportunity to expand the stories that we’re telling?” Dungey said.

OUAT’s season finale, which will air Sunday, is slated to provide a sense of closure, while also launching a new chapter for season 7. That new phase will include the introduction of characters played by The Walking Dead alum Andrew J. West and Jane the Virgin star Alison Fernandez, who will both appear in the season 6 finale, with the potential for more. Check out our theory on that here.

However, executive producers Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis have previously noted that season 7 will not go through a complete overhaul. “We’re not designing this in a way where you say goodbye to everyone and never see them again,” Horowitz said. “We’ve been telling a story for six years now for these characters and now we’re trying to complete that story, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have other stories.”

Once Upon a Time‘s two-hour finale airs Sunday at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.

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Everything you’ve ever read about fairy tales is true—the residents of Storybrooke are living proof.
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  • 10/23/11
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