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'Emmerdale' Charlie Hardwick talks Val, Amy plot and more: Interview

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Val Pollard from Emmerdale

© ITV

Emmerdale's Val Pollard has been left devastated in recent weeks after her foster daughter Amy decided to give away newborn son Kyle, ignoring her protestations that she was making a massive mistake.

The situation looks likely to get worse before it gets better as Val will be packing her bags for time out from the village in a few weeks' time - allowing actress Charlie Hardwick, who plays her, to tread the boards in new comedy play The Awkward Squad.

Charlie recently chatted to Digital Spy about Val's turmoil over Kyle, the future for the Pollard family and her 12-week break from Emmerdale. Read on to find out what she had to say.

Val's had some tough times recently. How is she feeling at the moment?
"Val is feeling desperate - absolutely desperate. On the surface, there seems to have been an acquiescence over what's happened, but in reality it's rocked her to the very core and it's shattered her heart. A few weeks have passed since Amy made her decision at Christmas, and Val is talking a bit more reasonably - but the hurt is still very deep."

Why has Val struggled so much with Amy's decision?
"Val is aware that a very damaged, inexperienced young lass - who has a very dysfunctional past - is making the biggest mistake of her life. When Amy decided that she wanted to give Kyle away, Val thought that Amy needed guidance - rather than support for what her gut reaction was.

"When it comes down to it, Val fears that Amy's gut reaction was wrong, and there is no going back. So Val knows that the repercussions are absolutely astronomical. She's tried desperately to steer Amy to what she feels is the right direction, but it hasn't worked."

Val and Eric are suprised to hear that Amy might keep the baby after all
We've heard that you've had quite a reaction to the Amy and Val scenes which aired on Christmas Day!
"I have! Normally people come up and they're so lovely, saying things like, 'Watch that Eric!', talking about the relationship between those two, or just saying that they like the programme. But I think people have been very moved by this storyline.

"It's unbelievable how many people have come up and said, 'Oh my God, you made me cry on Christmas Day!' I've had to say, 'I'm very sorry about that!' - as you don't want your raison d'être to be spoiling somebody's Christmas evening!

"I think people were genuinely, genuinely moved by the Christmas episode on all sorts of levels. I've had people telling me that Amy shouldn't have given the baby away, but people have also said that they were upset because Val closed the curtain on Amy when she was standing outside. So I think people have been torn, which is right - because it's a complicated issue and it's not black and white. Plus, you can't get more emotive than a storyline about a baby's future."

Can you see this situation having an impact on the family for some time to come?
"I think it's seismic on the Richter scale! It's complicated, because it's a triangle featuring Val, Eric and Amy. When they've been working well and everything has fitted into place, it's been an equal triangle - which is a very strong structure. But it's not an equal triangle anymore, as two of the angles are in cahoots!

"In my mind's eye, I keep seeing my point in the triangle drifting further and further away, while the other two are still strong together. It's going to take quite a while to sort this one out."

Val and Eric argue over Val's plan to go to Portugal with Amy to visit Paul. Eric tells here if she does go, she won't have his blessing
Would you say Val and Eric's marriage is in quite serious trouble over this?
"If I was looking at this from the outside, I'd say, 'Oh dear - there are repercussions to this and their marriage is being tested very severely'. But in Val's mind, it doesn't even come into the equation. Val thinks that her husband has betrayed her by not supporting her over this, so the consequences will come from that.

"Val isn't keen on Eric at the moment, as he's let her down. But Val isn't seeing into the future - she's got her head down and she's doing what she's doing, without any concern for the consequences."

Amy's arrival in the show has brought about a lot of interesting stories for Val and Eric. Are you enjoying this new era for them?
"Yeah, I've never been happier at work. Dramatically, it's been great to explore a very different side to Val and Eric. But personally, I go to work now, spend most of my time with Chris Chittell and Chelsea Halfpenny - and I couldn't be happier. We're a great family both on-screen and off-screen."

Amy announces to Eric and Val that she is moving into David's
Are you glad to see Chelsea nominated for the 'Best Newcomer' NTA?
"Absolutely. Chelsea is an open book and she will try anything within the drama. And that's very tough sometimes in the speed that we work - there isn't the huge amount of time that you would have in the theatre to explore something. You literally have to take a deep breath and jump off the top board - and Chelsea does it.

"I admire her so much, because a lot of other people would bottle it or take the easy option. But Chelsea has absolutely gone for it. Chelsea is just a young woman, she hasn't got 40-odd years of experience - in art or life. But she just takes a deep breath and plunges in and makes herself vulnerable. So I've only got praise for her.

"She's great on screen and off, and to act with her is just a joy. She has all the qualities that anyone could think of to make a great young actress."

In real life, you're taking some time off from Emmerdale to star in a new play called The Awkward Squad. How did it all come about?
"The whole idea for the play came from a midnight walk that myself and Karin Young - one of the writers at Emmerdale - were involved in. We've been friends since we were 19 as we went to a youth theatre together. We were on this midnight walk to raise money for St Oswald's Hospice in Newcastle, and we were doing it with our friend Fiona MacPherson, who we've known for 30 years and is a lecturer and director at Northumbria University.

"When we were on this walk, we were all talking about what's happened to young women and what's happened to the feminist movement - which we were all very involved in. We were laughing saying things like, 'What's all this about lasses getting married and changing their names? I didn't chain myself to railings for that!'

"Karin said that she'd love to write a play about all this, I said that I'd love to be in it, and Fiona said that she'd love to direct it! It stemmed from there, really."

Amy is delighted when Val tells her she can stay
What happened next?
"It's taken a couple of years to find somebody who'll put up the money for it, for Karin to write three or four drafts, and we've had a couple of rehearsed readings. And now it's cast, it's funded, the posters are out and it's going to happen! It's brilliant, really. From a conversation in the middle of the night, it's come to fruition. I'm so looking forward to it."

What can you tell us about your character Sandy in the play?
"There are some similarities to Val. She's a livewire, she's funny, and she's quite wild and irreverent! But she's in very different circumstances to Val and there are also quite fundamental differences in their personalities.

"The play is set in a family, so Sandy has a grown-up daughter who's about to get married, and she also has a sister who works as a documentary film-maker. And Sandy's mam is a community activist who's very political, who's still in the same family home in Newcastle.

"The two sisters and the granddaughter come back for a big event that's happening in the mam's life, and everything unfolds from there. So it's a family reunion. But it's funny and hopefully a bit shocking. It's what you'd expect when four women from the north get together for an evening!"

Amy begs for forgiveness from Eric and Val
You're taking 12 weeks off from Emmerdale, so have the bosses been quite accommodating in terms of the break?
"They've been brilliant. Emmerdale is such a big ship and the repercussions are huge when somebody turns around and says, 'Would it be alright if I went off and did a play?!' When I first mentioned it, it was a couple of years ago.

"I went up to the producer, and then it was Gavin Blyth, our lovely producer who we sadly lost. And he was so supportive over it. I think he understood that actors like me, who love the theatre, sometimes get itchy feet and just want to do a play.

"And since then, Gavin's successor Stuart Blackburn said that he would support it too. They've been fantastic, because they've written it into the storyline with such good grace, and they've encouraged it as well. I'm very fortunate to have such good employers."

Emmerdale fans often see Val as the comic relief in the show. Has it been nice to show a different side to her in the past year?
"It has. It's been difficult in some ways, because I've got a little list of commandments at the back of my file, which I wrote when I first started Emmerdale. The list starts with 'Val is…', and what's underneath is immovable. On there, I've got, 'Her skin is breeze-block thick', 'She is sex and glamour and believes this', 'She tells the truth all the time - even when she's lying', and 'She never apologises and she cannot empathise'.

"But suddenly, I've found myself in a position where Val has to be maternal. Val was chronic with her own kids, so the first thing for me was figuring out just what she saw in this Amy. The only thing that could crack it for me, and keep to the commandments, was that Val saw a bit of a 'mini-me'.

"That squared it for me that Val could be passionate about Amy, so in many ways vanity is still at the heart of it. But I think also at the heart of it is love. All the great and the good and the strongest people can be flawed, shattered and act bizarrely when love is involved. Val loves Amy, and then when another little part of Amy comes into the world, it's fantastic for Val. But when that all went wrong, she went into war mode."

Val and Eric have to make excuses for Amy to the social worker
Looking to the future, what would be a dream storyline for you to play as Val?
"I like the idea of representing older women in a very positive way, so perhaps Val could start working as a dominatrix to bring in some extra cash! (Laughs) However, it's a 7pm show, so maybe that's not going to happen! But I'd like to see Val achieve a new dimension in a career and be quite powerful in it."

Finally, why do you think soap fans should be backing Emmerdale for the 'Serial Drama' prize at the NTAs this year?
"I think the storylines have been absolutely cracking. For me, particularly the Cain Dingle storyline and how it affected the lives of my on-screen family, with Amy's pregnancy and the seismic repercussions that it's had for us. I've absolutely loved that. And I think it's been plotted in so far back.

"There's a huge commitment from the cast here and a huge passion for Emmerdale. It's often treated as the 'country cousin' and not taken as seriously as the others, but I think we've proved our worth this year."

> Read all the latest Emmerdale spoilers and news

Emmerdale airs weeknights on ITV1. The Awkward Squad begins a UK tour next month. Get the Inside Soap magazine on your iPhone or iPad

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