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Natalie Anderson (Alicia Gallagher, 'Emmerdale')

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Natalie Anderson

© Rex Features

Former Wicked actress Natalie Anderson makes her debut in Emmerdale next week, appearing in the role of Leyla Harding's fiery sister Alicia Gallagher. The siblings have not seen eye-to-eye for some time, and following the death of their mother, Alicia wastes no time in telling Leyla that she's not welcome at the funeral. When Leyla ignores the warning and turns up at the service, the pair's spat gets even worse. What's the reason for their feud and will they ever make it up? Here, DS chats to West End star Natalie to find out.

How did the part in Emmerdale come about?
"Well, I've known the producer for quite a long time and I'd previously auditioned in front of him for Coronation Street. I'd also worked with the executive producer, Steve November, on The Royal. I think that when the character of Alicia came up, because I'd been up for a sister in Coronation Street, they thought of me and asked me to come in and meet with them. It all went from there really, and it's been lovely."

Did you watch Emmerdale before you joined the show?
"Oh yeah, I'm a huge Emmerdale fan! I'm a bit of an Emmerdale geek. Being a Yorkshire girl, it's always been my soap of choice because it's the one that I can relate to more than anything else. My very first primary school was just down the road from a farm - at the bottom of the farm was our school. So for me, the role just made sense because I really related to it. I've always been a fan."

How would you describe Alicia?
"Definitely bold as brass! She doesn't mince her words and she's quite hot-headed as well. She's got quite a tough exterior. The easiest way for me to describe her is that she's a bit like a hurricane - she arrives, she spins things up and then she goes, leaving all this chaos behind her! She's a great character to play as I'm thinking that I'm hopefully not really like that!"

How is she first introduced?
"To be honest it's not very nice how she comes into the village. Leyla and Alicia's mum has sadly passed away, and Alicia comes to the village to warn Leyla that she doesn't want her at the funeral and she shouldn't come. It's quite negative from the audience's perspective - they'll be thinking, 'Oh gosh, what's gone on here?' They probably won't like my character straight away because she's not very nice to her sister."

Leyla and Alicia at the crematorium
Leyla ignores Alicia's wishes and goes to the funeral anyway. How does Alicia react?
"Not very well! They kind of have a bit of a screaming match at each other and it doesn't go down very well with Alicia - she's really annoyed that she's turned up. But she obviously respects the fact that it is her mum too, and she does have a right to be there. So for the sake of their mother, she tolerates it."

What's caused the bad blood between Alicia and Leyla?
"All I can really say is that something has definitely gone on between them! What it is will be revealed in the next few weeks. The biggest clue I can give is that Alicia is fiercely protective of her family unit and she doesn't want anything to come between that. So you can read into that what you want! (Laughs)"

Does Alicia just want Leyla to stay out of her life, or will we see her trying to cause trouble for her sister?
"She doesn't really want to cause trouble - she just doesn't want her around. She doesn't wish anything bad on her sister, she just doesn't want her in her life at the moment. She'd prefer it if she just disappeared."

Is there any chance that they can put their differences aside and move on?
"Hopefully we'll see that despite all the bad blood, hate and love are very close and that these sisters really do love each other. Fingers crossed we'll see that there's a softer side and have some sort of reconciliation. But we'll just have to wait and see…"

Alicia has a husband, Justin, and a son called Jacob. What's her relationship like with them?
"She absolutely dotes on her son - she really, really loves him to pieces. With her husband, things are a little bit strained between them when we first see them. But she's a strong family woman with morals. She's very much for being a good wife and a good mum."

What's it like playing someone who's so outspoken?
"Do you know what, it's really good fun! It's my way of venting! I hope that I'm a bit more polite, but she says stuff that I would never dream of saying! I think it's a bit like therapy - if you've had a rough day, go in and be Alicia for a day and you just get to say what you want!"

And we've heard that Alicia has a bit of a trashy dress sense - has that been fun?
"Yeah, it's brilliant. I've been so lucky because I've had a lot of input into how she looks, how she dresses and everything she wears. It's been great fun because, again, her dress sense is completely different to mine. She's glamorous and wears really low-cut tops and short skirts. But there's definite reasons for the way she dresses and I'm hoping that viewers will start to understand Alicia and see that underneath this tough exterior, she's quite insecure. I think some of that is perhaps reflected in the way she dresses. But she's definitely quite brassy - there's a lot of jewellery and a lot of fake hair and fake nails!"

Where can you see Alicia going in the long-term?
"Oh gosh, who knows? Terrorising the village! We'll have to just wait and see. I'm interested myself to see what the writers are going to do with the character. I think I'd definitely like to see her ruffle a few more feathers in the village…"

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