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Rokhsaneh Ghawam-Shahidi (Leyla Harding, 'Emmerdale')

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Leyla Harding from Emmerdale

© ITV

Tension between warring sisters Leyla Harding and Alicia Gallagher comes to a head on Emmerdale next week when Alicia discovers that her husband Justin has been in secret contact with Leyla. Furious over the matter, Alicia immediately dumps Justin and it's not long before she pays a visit to Leyla's shop on the warpath, accusing her sibling of wrecking her marriage. As the sisters have their biggest row yet, the real reasons for the bad blood between the pair become clear as old wounds are reopened, and viewers finally discover Leyla's secret. DS recently had a chat with Leyla's portrayer Rokhsaneh Ghawam-Shahidi to find out more.

What have you made of the storyline with Leyla and Alicia so far?
"I've really been enjoying it. Natalie Anderson is just so lovely to work with and it's so nice when someone new joins the show, as it just keeps it really fresh. Also, the way they've written it has been great and it's just a really good storyline. It's been so enjoyable."

Would you say this has been your favourite storyline from your time at Emmerdale?
"Definitely, yes! Out of all the storylines I've had, I've definitely enjoyed this one best, without a doubt."

When did you first hear that the producers wanted to bring in Leyla's sister?
"I heard a couple of months before Natalie came in. At that point, I didn't know much more than that - I had a very vague idea of what we were going to do storyline-wise, but that was it! But yes, I did know a couple of months before Natalie started work."

Has getting on well with Natalie made this storyline all the more enjoyable?
"It has - but it's actually a great cast full-stop at Emmerdale. Everyone is always really lovely and I've always enjoyed working with everyone. The whole team is great."

Leyla slaps Alicia and their hatred comes spilling out
Leyla's big secret will be revealed to viewers next week. The exact storyline details are being kept under wraps, but can you give us any teasers about why she's been keeping it so quiet?
"I think that Leyla has been keeping this secret just because she wants to get on with her life. The situation that she's keeping quiet was so hard for her to deal with, so if she went around talking to everyone about it, it would bring it all back. The easiest way for her to move on in her life was just to try and ignore it. But it's always been there at the back of her mind..."

Alicia's arrival in the village seems to have brought it all back for Leyla - do you think this could ultimately be for the best?
"Well, now that Leyla's secret is going to come out, it'll be really hard for her to deal with. In the long run, though, it'll be best for her to get it all out in the open and deal with it. It's her life, it's the truth and she'll have to live with it…"

Alicia confronts Layla
Has it been difficult keeping a lid on the secret when Emmerdale fans have been asking you about it?
"It has been difficult, actually! But I just keep telling people that they'll have to watch!"

Leyla hasn't really stood up for herself much in her arguments with Alicia - why is that?
"I think it's because, due to the secret she has and all of the family history, she feels guilty about everything. But give it a bit of time and you'll see her come back at Alicia - and she explains everything to her. For now, though, she just feels quite a lot of guilt."

Would you say there's a sense that Leyla is slightly scared of Alicia?
"I don't think that she's scared of Alicia - the main thing is that she's just scared of everything coming out! I think that, in the scenes we've seen, her main fear is that she just can't hide from the truth anymore - as Alicia is standing right in front of her! She's not actually scared of her sister, as they grew up together and they were really close at one point. What's scary for Leyla is being confronted by her past."

Leyla tells Alicia what happened to her after she left
Next week, just before the secret is revealed, we see Alicia blaming Leyla for the breakdown of her marriage - how does Leyla react to that?
"Well, Leyla knows that it's not her fault and that she's not the cause of it really, so the viewers will see her being quite matter-of-fact about that. She didn't break up their marriage - they did that themselves! Leyla knows that's just Alicia overreacting and wanting to blame someone."

As the argument continues, though, Leyla loses her temper and slaps Alicia - what was that like to film?
"It was good fun, that one, actually! It took a few takes, but it was good fun!"

What do you think of the state of Emmerdale as a whole at the moment?
"I think Gavin Blyth has got a really clear vision. He knows exactly what he wants and I think that the show is progressing in a brilliant direction. I think that it's just going to keep going from strength to strength, as Gavin is making really good decisions."

We've heard recently that the Wylde family will all be leaving Emmerdale - will you be sad to see them go?
"I'll definitely be sad to see them go. Alice Coulthard is a really good friend of mine and she's just an absolutely lovely girl. In terms of doing scenes, I didn't really see that much of her because a lot of her storylines didn't have much to do with Leyla. But I'll continue to see her off set and I'm looking forward to that. I think that everything is going to go really well for Alice - she'll have a really good career and I'm quite excited for her! Amanda Donohoe is also brilliant and I'm sure she's going to go on and do some great things, and I think the same about Lyndon Ogbourne as well. They'll all do some good stuff."

Check back at 8.30pm on Thursday, September 16 to read a reaction chat with Rokhsaneh after Leyla's secret is revealed on screen. Get the Inside Soap magazine on your iPhone or iPad

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