“Are you her from Emmerdale?”
“What you up to nowadays?”
“Are you still acting?”
Those are the usual questions I hear at the moment when walking down the high street. When you’ve spent four years on television in a soap opera every night, you become the fourth wall to people’s lives. When you leave, they see the character not the actress. They don’t know about the long train journeys, last minute callbacks, near misses and disappointments and late night script perfecting for the parts which can sometimes be few and far between.
“Yes, I am,” I politely reply to the lady who looks puzzled. “How come I haven’t seen you in anything then?” she asks. “I’ve been mainly working on stage over the last two years,” I assure her. “Ahhh but that doesn’t count does it? Get back on telly,” she says with a smile, not realizing it might offend.
When most people hear the word ‘soap’ they immediately visualize the end of episode cliffhangers, dramatic face slaps, colourful characters and story-lines as explosive as Joan Rivers’ vocabulary. But, the unforgiving 12-hour days on set, the speed at which you film and the last minute scripts test the most experienced actors relying on instinct, where the luxury of rehearsal time isn’t possible. I was lucky enough to learn my craft on the set of Emmerdale and during my time there I absorbed the direction and discipline inspired by the example of such exceptional writers, crew and cast.
But eventually, the time came to leave to further myself and explore what else I could create, or I’d never know. I knew it wouldn’t be easy. There have been months of no work, pressure of those around me wondering what my next project would be and the anxiety of the phone ringing with validation of a successful casting. We ‘live to work’ where others ‘work to live.’
I wanted to gain more experience in theatre, and not necessarily just the kind of commercial theatre that soap stars often get cast in
I wanted to gain more experience in theatre, and not necessarily just the kind of commercial theatre that soap stars often get cast in. I wanted to work with good practitioners on new or quality writing, and was lucky enough to be cast in a two-hander play at the Oldham Coliseum. It was so fulfilling and rewarding, I was determined to do more. Theatre offers a challenge and reward very different from screen. To play from start to end without breaking after each scene and steering the character in that given moment with a choice based on feeling rather than camera angles is a different dimension for us to channel. The adrenalin of the live audience also determines your state of mind and can affect nerves, delivery and decisions made in a moment.
I spent this summer at RADA on a short course, because I think you should never stop learning, and the course was incredible. It gave me a huge insight into things like script preparation and characterisation. Although I’ve mainly been back on screen again recently with guest leads on Waterloo Road and Casualty, and making the British features Devil’s Tower and It’s a Lot, I’m over the moon that I’m getting the chance to be on stage once again, albeit in a show totally different to anything I’ve done before – The Rocky Horror Show – next month. I may not change everyone’s perception of a ‘soap star’ but I just aspire to please each audience as best I can, and to try and enjoy myself along the way!